Terrible Choices From Major Parties Leading To High Degree Of Interest In Third Party Candidates In 2016

Independent Candidate

The Democratic establishment, and their supporters, mistakingly blame the protest against Hillary Clinton on Bernie Sanders. There is no question that a tremendous number of Democrats and independents prefer Sanders over Clinton, but this is far more than a battle between personalities. It is over principles. Martin Longman tried to set Democrats straight in writing, It’s Not All About Bernie:

Perhaps it is unfortunate, in a way, that Bernie Sanders has a substantial amount of personal charisma and has won the allegiance of quite a number of people based on them liking him personally rather than for what he has to say about U.S. foreign policy and economic justice. The reason I say this isn’t because I think this number is that large, but more because it has contributed to a sense that there is a Cult of Bernie with ardent and sometimes misbehaving acolytes. Some people call them Bernie Bros., but that insulting catch-all doesn’t capture what’s driving so many Democrats into the arms of an (until recently) independent Socialist who is still a harsh critic of the Democratic Party and its leadership.

From a personal perspective, I’ve been traveling in progressive circles for more than a decade now, and I’ve been part of the liberal blogosphere almost since its inception. By far, most of the people I’ve become acquainted with, many of whom are among the most committed and experienced Democratic organizers and partisans you will find, have been Bernie Sanders supporters from the beginning of this campaign. By and large, they aren’t part of any cult and they haven’t been drinking any Kool-Aid.

The liberal blogosphere snapped into existence at a time when it seemed that the Democratic Party had lost its way. They had lost the election in 2000 (made it close enough to steal, if you will), had failed to stop Bush’s devastating tax cuts, and were showing no backbone against Bush’s post-9/11 national security insanity. In the 2002 midterms, the Democrats performed much worse than expected.

Meanwhile, the media was not questioning the assumptions behind or the factual basis for the march to war in Iraq, and they were painting concerned citizens as unpatriotic.

In the beginning, the progressive backlash against this didn’t much include any retrospective condemnation of the Clinton administration, except to the limited degree that some blamed it for letting things get so out of whack. It wasn’t until we had the 2008 primary that progressives began having an internal argument about the legacy of the Democratic Leadership Council and the triangulating ways of Bill Clinton. This was fueled further when the economy collapsed in September of that year, which eventually led to the Occupy Movement and a further split on the progressive left…

So, what the Sanders campaign really is when you get past the idiosyncrasies of Bernie Sanders, is an expression of dissatisfaction with the status quo and a desire to change the party to meet the needs of the country on a more urgent basis. And the practical way that can be done is by having their voices heard at the convention. To the degree that this ambition is shunted, the progressive conscience of the party is marginalized and frustrated.

The focus shouldn’t be so much on personalities or the worst behavior of the loudest and most annoying people. It should be on the big picture. Young people, in particular, are vastly more attracted to the Sanders message than what is being offered by Clinton. These are potentially Democratic Party members for life, but that isn’t going to happen automatically, and especially not if they feel that their beliefs are unacceptable and have been defeated.

Many of us are seeing our principles betrayed by having the party establishment back Hillary Clinton. Those of us who backed the Democrats in protest against George W. Bush’s foreign policy and neoconservativism are not going to automatically vote Democratic if this year it is the Democrats who are running the neocon as their candidate. Similarly, those of us who protested the violations of civil liberties, hostility towards government transparency, the role of money in government, and the support for an increased role of religion in public policy under Bush are not pleased to see a Democratic candidate who shares these faults. Plus Clinton is to the right of Trump on issues ranging from trade to drug policy. The election of Hillary Clinton looks like a third term for the policies of George W. Bush with the ethics of Richard Nixon.

Clinton certainly has the edge in the election, but it is now looking very close. If Democrats want the support of those who backed them in opposition to Republican policies, and if they want to win, they need to offer a candidate who respects our values–not one who quotes arguments from The Wall Street Journal to attack Medicare for All and other progressive programs. If the Democratic Party doesn’t offer an acceptable candidate, many voters will look elsewhere.

Third party candidates have the potential to disrupt the Democratic/Republican monopoly more than usual this year. A Data Targeting poll from today shows that “55% of respondents favor having an independent presidential ticket in 2016.” This includes “91% of voters under the age of 29.” In addition, “65% of respondents are at least somewhat, pretty or very willing to support a candidate for President who is not Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.” Both Trump and Clinton have historically high negatives. While I am skeptical that this will actually occur, here is their most dramatic finding:

In a ballot test against Clinton and Trump, a truly independent candidate starts off with 21% of the vote.

This number increases to 29% in the “Big Sky” region, 30% in “New England” and 28% in the “West” region.
Among voters with an unfavorable opinion of both Trump and Clinton, the independent actually wins the ballot test

TRUMP: 11%
CLINTON: 7%
INDEPENDENT: 56%

Democrats can greatly reduce the risk of seeing Donald Trump being elected by nominating a candidate who stands up for Democratic principles like Bernie Sanders. Otherwise they risk losing a generation of potential voters, and possibly the beginning of the end of our current two party system if it fails to provide a true choice.

Susan Sarandon Shows The Risk Of Nominating Clinton And Winding Up With Trump As President

SarandonHayesMain

There are many celebrities supporting Bernie Sanders (along with celebrities supporting other candidates). Celebrities might not be experts on public policy, and their recommendations as to who to vote for might not mean very much, but comments from them often result in a tremendous amount of publicity. Susan Sarandon’s comments that Donald Trump might be better than Hillary Clinton would not mean very much if not for the fact that this highlights a problem Clinton will have in the general election. Many on the left will never vote for Hillary Clinton, for a variety of reasons.

While I agree with Sarandon’s criticism of Clinton and the status quo, I don’t agree with her particular argument that electing Trump would be better. Sarandon said:

“…some people feel that Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately if he gets in, things will really explode.” Asked if she thinks that’s “dangerous,” she replied, “It’s dangerous to think that we can continue the way we are with the militarized police force, with privatized prisons, with the death penalty, with the low minimum wage, threats to women’s rights and think you can’t do something huge to turn that around.”

The problem for Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic Party, is that, for several different  reasons, some on the left do question if Clinton would do more harm than Trump, even if they agree that Trump is the greater evil. I’ve seen a handful give arguments like Sarandon’s based upon bringing about the destruction of the current system. Other arguments are less radical. I’m not saying I agree with all of these, but here are other arguments commonly made:

Some actually prefer Trump over Clinton. These are primarily those who stress trade deals, finding Trump preferable here. Plus Trump has been less hawkish than Clinton in supporting military intervention and nation building (not that I’d trust him at all on foreign policy).

Others see Clinton as being more likely to move the country to the right than Trump or a Republican. Policies from Trump would be opposed by Democrats, often being enough to block them from being passed. Clinton has already indicated a willingness to compromise with Republicans on areas from Social Security to access to abortion. We have already seen the downside of compromise with Republicans and triangulation by Bill Clinton. Such compromises by Clinton with Republicans would be more likely to move the country to the right than policies from a Republican president who would not have bipartisan support. We would be more likely to see cuts in Social Security, and restrictions on access to abortion, if Clinton is elected compared to Trump or another Republicans.

There is the question of what happens in 2018 and 2020. There is the fear that the election of Clinton would be highly damaging to the Democratic brand, leading to bigger GOP pick ups in 2018, and further state governments falling under Republican control in 2020, leading to more Congressional districts being redrawn to help Republicans.

Plus there is the effect on the Democratic Party. At what point is supporting the lesser of two evils counterproductive? Will Democrats continue to move to the right if they find that there is no political cost? If Clinton wins in 2016 she will probably be the nominee in 2020, leaving us stuck with eight years of a conservative Democrat. Or there is the danger that she lose in 2000, leaving a damaged Democratic brand, leading to a longer stretch of Republican presidents, and even more Republican court appointees.

Some prefer a loss in 2016, feeling that there is a better chance of having a liberal Democrat in 2020. A Clinton loss might be the final straw to kill off the remains of the DLC. Plus  another candidate as opposed to Clinton might increase the chances of Democratic pick ups in state governments, as opposed to having a party led by Clinton running for reelection in 2020.

The Nader/Gore argument from 2000 does not have much traction with many who do not plan to vote for Clinton because Clinton has many of the same problems which led the left to be so strongly opposed to Bush. Clinton supports the same neoconservative foreign policy. She has a conservative record on civil liberties, falling to the right of Antonin Scalia and even sounding far too much like Donald Trump on suppression of freedom of speech. Her opposition to open-government and government transparency is even worse than what we saw under Bush. She certainly is the last candidate to consider when looking at the role of money in government. If the election of George W. Bush was such a terrible thing in 2000, then voting for a candidate who supports so many of the same policies hardly seems acceptable.

The bottom line is that you may agree or disagree with the arguments above but the thing about democracy is that everyone makes their own decision. You can argue all you want, but you cannot make anyone vote for Clinton, even if she is the lesser of two evils. Some will ultimately vote for her, while others will either not show up to vote for a candidate they disagree with, or will vote for another choice. The polls have been quite clear that there is a significant drop-off in Democratic votes in general election match-ups when Clinton, as compared to Sanders, is the candidate. We already saw what happens to Democratic turnout in 2014 when Democrats run as Republican-lite.

It doesn’t matter if they are wrong and you are right. It doesn’t matter if Susan Sarandon is insane. If Democrats nominate a candidate as flawed as Hillary Clinton, many people will not turn out to vote for her, no matter how logical your arguments are that they should.

Susan Sarandon has just highlighted a point which has already been clear. If you are worried that many liberal and progressive Democrats will stay home or vote third party if Clinton is the nominee, letting Donald Trump become president, you are right. This could happen. Many people will not be able to vote for a corrupt warmonger like Clinton, so to ensure that Donald Trump does not get elected, the safest course would be to nominate Bernie Sanders to be the Democratic candidate. It is the obvious solution as he would not only make the better president, but he would also be the stronger general election candidate.

Why Millennials, And Older Liberals, Support Sanders Over Clinton

Clinton Progressive

The endorsement of Hillary Clinton by Rolling Stone was a surprise considering how this conflicts with the views of millennials, whom I assume make up a substantial portion of its readership. Matt Taibbi responded by writing, Why Young People Are Right About Hillary Clinton. Taibbi made many good points but only provided a broad outline. While this is not the article to give to try to convince them not to vote for Clinton, the points made are worth repeating, and expanding upon.

Taibbi correctly traces the problem with the Democratic Party, and disconnect with the views of millennials to living in the past, not getting past the defeat of George McGovern back in 1972. Never mind how much the country has changed or the unique specifics of 1972, with McGovern running against an incumbent president when there was a reaction against the 1960’s counterculture in this country. (Besides, Richard Nixon had the best campaign slogan ever: Don’t Change Dicks In The Middle Of A Screw, Reelect Nixon in ’72.) The Democratic establishment saw southern politicians like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton win and McGovern lose and they built the nomination process around that. As Taibbi put it, “it would be a shame if we disqualified every honest politician, or forever disavowed the judgment of young people, just because George McGovern lost an election four decades ago.”

Even besides the manner in which the DNC has rigged the nomination process for Hillary Clinton this year, preexisting rules favor a moderate southern candidate, or at least one who can win in southern Democratic primaries. We have a political process, from the nomination process through the general election, makes it difficult to achieve change.

The Democratic nomination system both super delegates, who are in place to keep insurgent candidates like McGovern or Sanders from winning, and front loading the primary process with southern primaries. The party has not taken into account the fact that a current Democratic candidate, no matter how moderate, will not win in the south, but they do risk depressing Democratic turnout in the battleground states with their current choices of candidates. They risk a repeat of 2014 when Democratic voters stayed home with a candidate such as Clinton who performs poorly among independents and in the battleground states.

The results this year could easily be quite different with fairer rules. Imagine if Iowa announced the popular vote, as they did eight years ago, which Bernie Sanders probably won. If he started out with wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, and then we had a mix of other states besides multiple southern states, Sanders and not Clinton would probably be the front runner now.

Taibbi described the transformation of the Democratic Party at the hands of the DLC and the Clintons:

That ’72 loss hovered like a raincloud over the Democrats until Bill Clinton came along. He took the White House using a formula engineered by a think tank, the Democratic Leadership Council, that was created in response to losses by McGovern and Walter Mondale.

The new strategy was a party that was socially liberal but fiscally conservative. It counterattacked Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy, a racially themed appeal to disaffected whites Nixon tabbed the “Silent Majority,” by subtly taking positions against the Democrats’ own left flank.

In 1992 and in 1996, Clinton recaptured some of Nixon’s territory through a mix of populist positions (like a middle-class tax cut) and the “triangulating” technique of pushing back against the Democrats’ own liberal legacy on issues like welfare, crime and trade.

And that was the point. No more McGoverns. The chief moral argument of the Clinton revolution was not about striving for an end to the war or poverty or racism or inequality, but keeping the far worse Republicans out of power.

Taibbi was relatively mild in his criticism of the DLC Democrats. Two weeks ago I cited two more detailed accounts of the era from Thomas Frank and Howard Zinn.

Taibbi tied this into the present with a look at Hillary Clinton and other recent Democratic policies:

For young voters, the foundational issues of our age have been the Iraq invasion, the financial crisis, free trade, mass incarceration, domestic surveillance, police brutality, debt and income inequality, among others.

And to one degree or another, the modern Democratic Party, often including Hillary Clinton personally, has been on the wrong side of virtually all of these issues.

Hillary not only voted for the Iraq War, but offered a succession of ridiculous excuses for her vote. Remember, this was one of the easiest calls ever. A child could see that the Bush administration’s fairy tales about WMDs and Iraqi drones spraying poison over the capital (where were they going to launch from, Martha’s Vineyard?) were just that, fairy tales.

Yet Hillary voted for the invasion for the same reason many other mainstream Democrats did: They didn’t want to be tagged as McGovernite peaceniks. The new Democratic Party refused to be seen as being too antiwar, even at the cost of supporting a wrong one.

It was a classic “we can’t be too pure” moment. Hillary gambled that Democrats would understand that she’d outraged conscience and common sense for the sake of the Democrats’ electoral viability going forward. As a mock-Hillary in a 2007 Saturday Night Live episode put it, “Democrats know me…. They know my support for the Iraq War has always been insincere.”

This pattern, of modern Democrats bending so far back to preserve what they believe is their claim on the middle that they end up plainly in the wrong, has continually repeated itself.

Take the mass incarceration phenomenon. This was pioneered in Mario Cuomo’s New York and furthered under Bill Clinton’s presidency, which authorized more than $16 billion for new prisons and more police in a crime bill.

As The New Jim Crow author Michelle Alexander noted, America when Bill Clinton left office had the world’s highest incarceration rate, with a prison admission rate for black drug inmates that was 23 times 1983 levels. Hillary stumped for that crime bill, adding the Reaganesque observation that inner-city criminals were “super-predators” who needed to be “brought to heel.”

You can go on down the line of all these issues. Trade? From NAFTA to the TPP, Hillary and her party cohorts have consistently supported these anti-union free trade agreements, until it became politically inexpedient. Debt? Hillary infamously voted for regressive bankruptcy reform just a few years after privately meeting with Elizabeth Warren and agreeing that such industry-driven efforts to choke off debt relief needed to be stopped.

Clinton not only voted for the war, she went beyond most supporters in making false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. While she later claimed this was a mistake, she showed no signs of learning from her  mistakes with her hawkish views on Libya and Syria.

Taibbi only managed to mention a portion of the issues where Clinton is out of touch with millennial voters, along with older liberal voters such as myself. While millennial voters tend to be more libertarian on social and civil liberties issues, Clinton is conservative on both. She spent her time in the Senate working with the religious right as a member of The Fellowship, and her social conservatism can be seen in many of her views. She is far right win in her views on civil liberties, falling to the right of Antonin Scalia and not far from Donald Trump in her view of freedom of speech.

Taibbi concluded with matters of corruption, but again was very limited in this discussion of a very large topic. He did write:

Then of course there is the matter of the great gobs of money Hillary has taken to give speeches to Goldman Sachs and God knows whom else. Her answer about that — “That’s what they offered” — gets right to the heart of what young people find so repugnant about this brand of politics.

One can talk about having the strength to get things done, given the political reality of the times. But one also can become too easily convinced of certain political realities, particularly when they’re paying you hundreds of thousands of dollars an hour.

Is Hillary really doing the most good that she can do, fighting for the best deal that’s there to get for ordinary people?

Or is she just doing something that satisfies her own definition of that, while taking tens of millions of dollars from some of the world’s biggest jerks?

Plus he pointed out, “her shifting explanations and flippant attitude about the email scandal” along with the “faulty thinking” of her defenders: “My worry is that Democrats like Hillary have been saying, ‘The Republicans are worse!’ for so long that they’ve begun to believe it excuses everything.”

Her defenders ignore how Clinton’s actions included serious breaches of rules to promote government transparency, including new rules instituted under Obama in 2009 in response to the abuses under George W. Bush. Her claims, such as that what she did was allowed, have been repeatedly debunked by the fact checkers. She acted highly unethically in making decisions regarding parties who were either donating to the Foundation or paying unprecedented speaking fees to Bill. She also failed to abide by an agreement to divulge all donors while she was Secretary of State.

While his article was limited in specifics, he hit the key argument against her:

Young people don’t see the Sanders-Clinton race as a choice between idealism and incremental progress. The choice they see is between an honest politician, and one who is so profoundly a part of the problem that she can’t even see it anymore.

A platform of “the Republicans are worse” might work if the problem was simply that (as her defenders often frame it) Clinton was not progressive enough for her critics on the left. However, that is not the case at all. The problem is that Clinton is not progressive at all. If anything, throughout her career she has been a “progressive” who gets conservative results. She has been on the wrong side of most issues, and not all that terribly far from the Republican viewpoint.

Elizabeth Warren Cheers Bernie Sanders On As He Ties Clinton In Latest Poll

Bernie-Sanders-Jimmy-Kimmel

Elizabeth Warren is not willing to make an endorsement yet in the Democratic primary battle, but she is “cheering Bernie on” as she attacks Donald Trump. AP reports:

On Thursday, when asked if Bernie Sanders should drop out of the race, Warren praised the Democratic senator from Vermont.

Sanders has echoed Warren’s criticism of Wall Street and rising student load debt more than any other candidate.

‘‘He’s out there. He fights from the heart. This is who Bernie is,’’ Warren said. ‘‘He has put the right issues on the table both for the Democratic Party and for the country in general so I’m still cheering Bernie on.’’

Warren declined to say which candidate she voted for in the Massachusetts primary. She said she plans to make an endorsement, but not yet.

Perhaps the cheering is helping. Bloomberg has a new poll out showing Sanders tied with Clinton, and Sanders continues to be the stronger general election candidate in match-ups against Republicans:

Even after more than two dozen primaries and caucuses in which Clinton’s amassed a commanding lead in votes and in delegates needed to win the nomination, a Bloomberg Politics national poll found that Sanders is the first choice of 49 percent of those who have voted or plan to vote in this year’s Democratic contests, while the former secretary of state is preferred by 48 percent…

The survey also signaled some trouble for Clinton in holding on to Sanders supporters in November. In general-election match-ups, Sanders holds a 24-point edge over Donald Trump, a 12-point lead over Ted Cruz, and a 4-point advantage over John Kasich among likely general-election voters. Clinton, by contrast, trails Kasich by 4 percentage points. She would carry a sizable lead into a contest against Cruz, where she holds a 9-point advantage, and Trump, whom she beats by 18 points.

There are additional media reports which question if Sanders supporters will back Clinton. With Sanders campaigning out west, the Times of San Diego has run a story under the headline, San Diegans Rally for Bernie, Warn Hillary: Don’t Count on Us. It is also looking like topless women might be a new feature of Sanders rallies.

Sanders also made an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live. He discussed the terrorist attack in Brussels. He once again distinguished himself from Clinton, Trump, and Cruz in stressing the importance of respecting the  Constitution. He had this to say about Donald Trump:

At the end of the day, we cannot allow the Trumps of the world to use these incidents to attack all of the Muslim people in the world. It is unfair. To imply that because somebody is a Muslim, they are a terrorist, that is an outrageous statement. Equally so when he talks about Mexicans coming over the border as rapists and criminals. That is not what this country is about, and we don’t need, in my view, a candidate for president hurling these types of insults.

Sanders also talked more about Donald Trump, legalization of marijuana, Flint, and campaign finance reform in the segment above. Regarding climate change, Sanders said:

If you’re going to run for president, you need many, many hundreds of millions of dollars. I’m on the Senate environmental committee. I’ve talked to scientists all over the world. Climate change is real; it’s caused by human activity. And yet you don’t have one Republican candidate prepared to say that. The reason for it is that the day they say it, their campaign funding is cut by the Koch brothers and the fossil fuel industry.

White House Denies Claims That Obama Backed Clinton At Private Fundraiser

Trumps and Clintons

A report in The New York Times claiming that Obama Privately Tells Donors That Time Is Coming to Unite Behind Hillary Clinton was not received well by Sanders supporters today. The White House promptly walked back this claim. Multiple media outlets, including Reuters and Bloomberg, report that Obama Didn’t Back Clinton at Private Fundraiser.

Among items which Josh Earnest told reporters:

  • “I was there for the fundraiser, and I was there when the comments occurred”: Earnest
  • Obama said “that as Democrats move through this competitive primary process, we need to be mindful that our success in November in electing a Democratic president will depend on the commitment and ability of the Democratic Party to come together behind our nominee”: Earnest
  • Earnest declined to say whom Obama voted for in the Ill. primary

(As an aside, if anyone gets a chance to pose questions to Obama or Earnest, ask whether Obama would pardon Clinton and/or her top aides if indicted.)

Clinton is all set to claim will give us the third term of Barack Obama. Looking at her policy views, it would more likely be a third term for the neoconservative foreign policy of George W. Bush, and would be no better on civil liberties. Or in terms of ethics, it would be the third term of Richard Nixon, including a restoration of the views of Henry Kissinger.

Of course it is possible that Obama said one thing in private, but does not want to admit to this. Should Clinton get elected, he might some day also regret tying his legacy to her. Ironically, in a recent interview, he made statements which greatly undermined Clinton’s ability to be Commander In Chief based upon her mistakes on Libya and Syria.

Clinton also made a gaffe which will probably be repeated in GOP commercials this fall in saying “We didn’t lose a single person”is Libya. Her statement was technically true in the context she intended, ignoring all the bloodshed which her policy led to, and the death of four Americans. This is as foolish as Republicans claiming that George Bush kept us safe from terrorism, if you ignore 9/11.

We are also seeing plenty of arguments that Democrats must unite behind Clinton to stop Donald Trump. First of all, we also do not know for certain whether Trump will be the Republican nominee. Secondly, if stopping Trump is so important, we should all unite behind Bernie Sanders, who has a better chance than Clinton of beating Trump in a  general election. Besides, if Trump is so terrible, why support the conservative Democratic candidate who is far closer to Trump ideologically, even if she is the lesser evil?

Obviously it is an uphill battle for Sanders to win the nomination and Clinton has a substantial lead. If it was two near identical Democratic candidates, then perhaps it would make sense to unite behind one. However we have two candidates with vastly different ideologies, a true liberal running against a Republican-lite DLC style Democrat. The stakes are too high to give up now, regardless of the odds.

Comparing The Candidates On Military Interventionism & Civil Liberties

Cruz Clinton

Democrats who ignore principle and support Hillary Clinton, despite her authoritarian right views, which are not far from those of the Republican candidates, generally ignore how far right she is on military intervention and civil liberties. If Clinton wins the nomination, she very likely will be as conservative as the Republican candidate on these issues, and possibly more conservative, which is rather disappointing for those of us who hoped to see the Democratic Party present a clear contrast with the Bush/Cheney era.

I recently looked at Clinton’s conservative record on civil liberties, including her being the only Democrat who refused to sign a pledge to restore Constitutional liberties in the 2008 election, her introduction of legislation to criminalize burning the flag in protest, and  how she falls significantly to the right of Antonin Scalia on civil liberties issues, and sounds shockingly like Donald Trump, the candidate of intolerance and authoritarianism,  in her disregard for freedom of speech. (Reason has a comparison of the views of Clinton and Trump posted today. Neither is acceptable.)

Ted Cruz has been seeking the libertarian vote since Rand Paul left the race. Cruz is mocked by libertarians for sometimes claiming to be a libertarian in the same manner which progressives mock Hillary Clinton for her claims to be a progressive. Both are conservatives, and both are far more authoritarian than libertarian.

Justin Amash, a libertarian-leaning Republican, is supporting Ted Cruz now that Rand Paul is out of the race. While he will never sell libertarians in believing Cruz is one of them, his discussion did suggest areas where Clinton is to the right of Ted Cruz on military interventionism and no better on civil liberties:

On civil liberties and foreign policy, Ted and I don’t always agree. But he was one of only ten Republican senators to stand up for our rights by supporting Rand Paul’s amendment to kill the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015—also known as CISA—a cyberspying bill that violates the privacy of all Americans. And Ted has been a stalwart defender of our Fifth Amendment right to due process, strongly opposing the government’s asserted power to indefinitely detain Americans without charge or trial.

Like me, Ted believes that the United States must be well defended and respected around the globe. He stands with our troops and will not put them in harm’s way unless necessary to protect our country. Unlike some other Republican candidates, Ted opposed intervening in Libya and voted against arming Syrian rebels, and he will not use our Armed Forces to engage in nation building.

The failed intervention in Libya was the low point of Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State and her position on Syria was a key issue where she differed from both Obama and Sanders. As for CISA, Bernie Sanders was strongly opposed, as he has opposed other legislation which would expand the surveillance state. Hillary Clinton, who is generally quite conservative on matters of government surveillance and censorship, repeatedly refused to answer questions as to her position while the Republican candidates, other than Rand Paul, all supported it. Amash was also overly kind to Cruz. While he might have voted for Rand Paul’s amendment, in the end Cruz voted for the act despite admitting he did not read it. Neither Clinton nor Cruz can be trusted on matters of civil liberties.

With the libertarian case of Cruz falling apart, this leaves us with Bernie Sanders as the only candidate now running who has been consistently opposed to both military interventionism and the surveillance state. While there is a strong case to be made that the risk of perpetual warfare is greater by electing Clinton, Sanders is the only candidate from either party who will prevent the expansion of the surveillance state.

Scalia, Trump, and Clinton on Civil Liberties

Scalia Clinton

The recent death of Antonin Scalia (which I discussed here when the news first broke) has led to a lot of well-deserved criticism of his record. While his conservative votes have been damaging in some areas, it should be kept in mind when evaluating the candidates that, on civil liberties issues, Hillary Clinton is to the right of Scalia.

I have previously discussed Clinton’s conservative record on civil liberties issues in posts such as here and here during this election cycle.Civil liberties were a bigger election issue eight years ago during the conclusion of George Bush’s presidency. This was discussed in a post here, which also notes the expansion of police powers under Bill 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. The Nation wrote:

The effort to get presidential contenders to sign on the American Freedom Pledge has been promoted by organizations ranging from the Center for Constitutional Rights to Human Rights Watch, MoveOn.org , Amnesty International USA, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Campaign to Defend the Constitution, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and True Majority.

The pledge is anything but radical. It simply asks candidates to affirm a statement that reads: “We are Americans, and in our America we do not torture, we do not imprison people without charge or legal remedy, we do not tap people’s phones and emails without a court order, and above all we do not give any President unchecked power. I pledge to fight to protect and defend the Constitution from attack by any President.”

Truth-Out had an article in December which looked at Hillary Clinton’s legacy of moving the Democratic Party to the right as she promoted the policies of the Democratic Leadership Council, and included her record on civil liberties while in the Senate:

More importantly, Clinton adopted the DLC strategy in the way she governed. She tried to portray herself as a crusader for family values when she introduced legislation to ban violent video games and flag burning in 2005.

While generally extremely conservative, Antonin Scalia was often liberal on civil liberties issues. Slate has reviewed the occasions in which Scalia did side with liberals. This includes opposition to laws against both flag burning and restrictions on video games. Both were discussed in further detail, with the conclusions below:

In the end, Scalia’s vote was decisive: A bare five-justice majority ruled that the First Amendment protected the right to burn the American flag. An incensed Congress quickly passed a federal statute banning flag burning nationwide—a law which the same five justices struck down the very next term…

Once again, Scalia’s vote here proved decisive: He wrote a lively majority opinion for just five justices, holding that a state could not constitutionally forbid children from accessing violent expression. Two justices held that states could sometimes censor violent video games; two justices held that states always could. But Scalia’s spirited pro-speech opinion garnered the necessary votes to become the law of the land.

Clinton not only comes out unfavorably when compared to Scalia on civil liberties. Techdirt compared recent statements from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in which both showed their lack of respect for freedom of speech. Here is a quote from each, starting with Donald Trump:

We’re losing a lot of people because of the internet. We have to do something. We have to go see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what’s happening. We have to talk to them, maybe in certain areas, closing that internet up in some ways. Somebody will say, ‘Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.’ These are foolish people. We have a lot of foolish people. We have a lot foolish people.

The speaking style was a little different, but the views expressed by Hillary Clinton were no different:

You’re going to hear all of the usual complaints, you know, freedom of speech, et cetera. But if we truly are in a war against terrorism and we are truly looking for ways to shut off their funding, shut off the flow of foreign fighters, then we’ve got to shut off their means of communicating. It’s more complicated with some of what they do on encrypted apps, and I’m well aware of that, and that requires even more thinking about how to do it.

Of course Donald Trump has made many other statements which are abhorrent on civil liberties issues, but it remains disturbing that on an issue as fundamental as freedom of speech there is so little difference between Trump and Clinton.

Often followers of a candidate demonstrate the same values as the candidate. I have found this to be the case with many followers of Hillary Clinton. I have received a lot of arguments from conservatives who disagree, and sometimes get quite upset, when I criticize Republican politicians. However I find the response from Clinton supporters to be even worse. They not only get upset about criticism of Clinton, but beyond disagreeing their arguments quite often center around claims that it is wrong to criticize Hillary Clinton. At least conservatives understand that criticism of their candidates is part of living in a democracy. Far too many Clinton supporters do not have this rudimentary understanding of freedom of expression.

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.

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

Clinton Campaign Underestimated Sanders–But Also Underestimated Clinton’s Weaknesses

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton listens to a speaker during a campaign stop at the YMCA in Rochester, New Hampshire June 15, 2015.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder - RTX1GLP8

With Clinton falling in the polls and acting desperate, it is no surprise to see The New York Times run a headline saying, Clinton Campaign Underestimated Sanders Strengths, Allies Say.

Advisers to Hillary Clinton, including former President Bill Clinton, believe that her campaign made serious miscalculations by forgoing early attacks on Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and failing to undercut his archliberal message before it grew into a political movement that has now put him within striking distance of beating her in Iowa and New Hampshire.

According to Democrats close to the Clintons and involved with her campaign, Mrs. Clinton and the former president are also unnerved by the possibility that Mr. Sanders will foment a large wave of first-time voters and liberals that will derail her in Iowa, not unlike Barack Obama’s success in 2008, which consigned Mrs. Clinton to a third-place finish. They have asked her advisers about the strength of the campaign’s data modeling and turnout assumptions in Iowa, given that her 2008 campaign’s predictions were so inaccurate.

…Mrs. Clinton’s problems are broader than just her message: Opinion polls show that some Democrats and other voters continue to question her trustworthiness and whether she cares about their problems. Recent polls show that her once-formidable lead over Mr. Sanders in Iowa has all but vanished, while he is holding on to a slight lead over her in New Hampshire.

While they have underestimated Sanders, as they underestimated Obama eight years ago, this isn’t the real problem. The problem for the Clinton campaign is that they failed to see the weaknesses in their candidate and they hopefully underestimated the ability of Democratic voters to recognize them. Clinton lost in 2008 and is struggling today not only because of the attributes of Obama and Sanders, but because Clinton does not have what it takes to a leader in the Democratic Party. She should have remained a Republican.

As the linked article notes, she is weak on ethics. She is weak in policy, both in terms of a history of showing poor judgment on the big issues and in term of opposing liberal viewpoints. By now everyone is aware of the considerable differences between the two with regards to Wall Street, despite Clinton’s attempts to distort the issueThe Nation did an excellent job of succinctly summarizing how often she has been wrong on foreign policy in their endorsement, briefly quoted here. Democratic voters, especially the young, also do not want a candidate who is so conservative on social issues that she teamed up with The Fellowship in the Senate, or who who has a long history of taking conservative stands on civil liberties and government transparency. She has similarly opposed campaign finance reform in the past as she has benefited from money from the special interests, making it hard to believe she will take serious action on the issue. Her record on the environment suggests she is more concerned about protecting the special interests she is indebted to as opposed to supporting any serious change to deal with climate change.

These are many of the same issues which led Democrats to support Obama over Clinton eight years ago.

Clinton’s campaign based upon inevitability and electability against Sanders has fallen apart, as the same strategy did eight years ago, as her lead in the polls has evaporated, and as many head to head polls against Republicans show that Sanders is more electable than Clinton is. Plus, as a general rule of thumb, it is not wise for a political party to nominate a candidate involved in a major scandal, and who has the FBI investigating their actions.

As Van Jones put it last week, the Democratic base is in “full-on rebellion” against Hillary Clinton. This can also be seen in the endorsements from MoveOn and Democracy for America, as well as in DFA’s defense of Sanders from the dishonest attacks from the Clinton campaign.

If there wasn’t a Barack Obama in 2008 and a Bernie Sanders today, somebody else would be challenging Clinton as they are because of the weaknesses of Hillary Clinton.