Haspel Evades Questions On Torture, Cheney Backs It, And Will Democrats Back Down On Resisting Once Again?

The American Civil Liberties Union has outlined how Gina Haspel evaded multiple questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee this week. This included a question from Kamala Harris whether she found torture to be immoral. She evaded questions from Ron Wyden about whether she had wanted the use of torture “to be continued or expanded” between 2005 and 2007. She refused to recuse herself from decisions on declassifying her role in torture, with Haskel making the decisions regarding which documents the CIA will release. She misrepresented the content of torture tapes. She evaded questions on Trump’s views on torture.

While Haspel evaded questions, Dick Cheney had no qualms about presenting his views, which unfortunately consist of strong support for resuming the use of torture. He also said that that he thinks Haspel would “be a great CIA director.”

The vote on Haspel could be very close. So far one Democrat, Joe Manchin, said he would vote for her while John McCain has said he would vote against. Rand Paul previously stated he would oppose the confirmation of both Pompeo and Haspel, but folded on Pompeo.

Stopping her confirmation will depend upon the remaining Democrats sticking together, along with additional Republican defections. Glenn Greenwald questions whether the Democrats will stick together to block her nomination:

It is difficult to be optimistic, to put that mildly. The history of Democrats throughout the war on terror is to ensure that just enough members of their caucus join with the GOP majority to ensure passage of even the most extremist pieces of legislation or nominees justified in the name of terrorism or national security.

The ruse Democrats typically use to accomplish these dirty deeds is quite ingenious: The defectors change so that no one member bears the blame for enabling right-wing measures, while the party itself is able to claim that a majority opposed the extremism. In 2010 — as the Bush-era tactic of Democratic defections to the GOP continued under Barack Obama — I referred to this tactic as “Villain Rotation” and described it this way:

The primary tactic in this game is Villain Rotation.  They always have a handful of Democratic Senators announce that they will be the ones to deviate this time from the ostensible party position and impede success, but the designated Villain constantly shifts, so the Party itself can claim it supports these measures while an always-changing handful of their members invariably prevent it.  One minute, it’s Jay Rockefeller as the Prime Villain leading the way in protecting Bush surveillance programs and demanding telecom immunity; the next minute, it’s Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer joining hands and “breaking with their party” to ensure Michael Mukasey’s confirmation as Attorney General; then it’s Big Bad Joe Lieberman single-handedly blocking Medicare expansion; then it’s Blanche Lincoln and Jim Webb joining with Lindsey Graham to support the de-funding of civilian trials for Terrorists; and now that they can’t blame Lieberman or Ben Nelson any longer on health care (since they don’t need 60 votes), Jay Rockefeller voluntarily returns to the Villain Role, stepping up to put an end to the pretend-movement among Senate Democrats to enact the public option via reconciliation.

We most recently saw the Democrats act more like collaborators than a resistance civil liberties during the votes on FISA renewal with eighteen Democrats siding with the Republicans to prevent consideration of amendments to reform the law. The eighteen Democrats provided exactly the number of votes for cloture to pass.

Despite Their Gestures, Democratic Candidates Continue To Take Corporate Money

Democratic candidates  increasingly feel like they must swear off corporate contributions, but Zaid Jilani at The Intercept shows that this might just be a cheap gesture. He writes:

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, D-Calif., became the latest lawmaker to swear off all donations from corporate political action committees, telling a radio host in mid-April that she made the move after being asked about it at a town hall by a constituent.

Harris joins five other senators who have vowed not to take corporate PAC contributions: Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. …

Swearing off corporate PAC money can be one positive step a lawmaker can take towards reducing the corrupting influence of money on politics. But it’s far from enough.

The reason is that money from PACs – corporate or otherwise — comprises a relatively insignificant portion of these senators’ campaign contributions, raising the question of whether curtailing donations from corporate PACs will really make a difference. Critics think it doesn’t, noting that the bigger threat of influence comes from wealthy donors who don’t funnel their cash through PACs. But for politicians looking to seize on public discontent with the influence of money on politics, the decision makes for an effective messaging ploy.

Michael J. Malbin, a campaign finance researcher at Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, pointed out to The Intercept that Harris has received only a small amount of her total campaign funding from PACs. “However, she also received many of her itemized contributions from individuals whose income is derived from their work as corporate executives,” he said.

Benjamin Page, a long-time researcher of political decision-making at Northwestern University, agreed. “Refusing to take corporate PAC money makes a nice symbol, and I suppose we should give it some credit.  But far more money comes from wealthy individuals,” he wrote in an email. “That is much more important, and I believe it tends to corrupt both the Republican and the Democratic party.”

OpenSecrets, a project of the Center for Responsive Politics, tracked and categorized PAC donations between 2013 and 2018. The data reveals that most of the senators who’ve sworn off corporate PAC money received more from large individual donors — donors giving $200 or more, who can be regular people but also corporate executives and lobbyists — than from PACs in that time period.

  • Cory Booker: 10.37 percent of Booker’s campaign funding has come from PACs, 76.40 percent of which is from business PACs. By contrast, 72.12 percent of Booker’s campaign funding is from large individual donors.
  • Maria Cantwell: Just 0.62 percent of Cantwell’s campaign funding has come from PACs of any kind. In contrast, 73.61 percent of her campaign funding has come from large donors.
  • Kirsten Gillibrand:6.95 percent of Gillibrand’s campaign funding has come from PACs. Of this proportion, 65.73 percent is from business PACs. Meanwhile, 62.15 percent of her fundraising has come from large individual donors.
  • Kamala Harris: 4.89 percent of Harris’s campaign fundraising has been through PACs; 41.07 percent of this total has been from business PACs. By contrast, 64.99 percent of her campaign funding has come from large donors. (Though the OpenSecrets analysis covered a five-year period, in Harris’s case, it only goes back to 2015, when she first ran for U.S. Senate.)
  • Bernie Sanders:1.73 percent of Sanders’s funding has come from PACs. Of that, 7.27 percent is from business PACs. 17.70 percent of his funding has come from large individual contributors.
  • Elizabeth Warren: Just 1.4 percent of Warren’s campaign money has come from PACs. Of that, 12.91 percent is from business PACs. Large individual donors made up 29.72 percent of her campaign funding.

These figures make clear that the senators are giving up relatively little money by swearing off donations from corporate PACs — it just isn’t a very big portion of their overall campaign funding. Which raises the question: Is it really possible that the system is being corrupted by sums of money this small? If not, then politicians — and the voters they’re looking to win over — need to look closer at how big money is corrupting Washington.

There are further examples of how corporate influence is not diminished by this gesture, with Kirsten Gillibrand being just one example:

UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS Boston professor emeritus Thomas Ferguson is one of America’s leading academics who studies the influence of money in politics; he is the brain behind “the investment theory of party competition,” which says that politicians are essentially driven by donors, their true political base.

He doesn’t think much of senators disavowing corporate PAC money. “It’s an absolutely cheap gesture that means nothing, that’s why they do it,” Ferguson said in an interview. He pointed out that corporations can also run their money through the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and that these senators haven’t disavowed the comittee’s backing.

A close look at Gillibrand’s and Booker’s top donors makes clear just how little it matters when senators swear off corporate PAC money. Gillibrand’s 11th-largest donor is Morgan Stanley, which did not give a penny of its money to Gillibrand through a PAC. Instead, Morgan Stanley employees donated $40,425 to her campaign committee as individuals. Of the $814,463 that she has received from the securities and investment industry, just $70,500 came from PACs.

Gillibrand was one of the Democratic senators who voted down an amendment that would have broken up Wall Street’s largest banks in May 2010. Jeff Connaughton, an aide to then-Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Del., who co-wrote the amendment, noted dryly in his book that an Obama administration Treasury official later boasted that if the administration had supported the amendment, it would have passed, but because they didn’t, it didn’t. Speaking about the amendment four years later, Warren noted that it “had bipartisan support, and it might have passed, but it ran into powerful opposition from an alliance between Wall Streeters on Wall Street and Wall Streeters who held powerful government jobs. They teamed up and blocked the move to break up the banks.”

This was contrasted with how Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have raised money:

A better path to limiting the influence of big money is for senators to simply develop a small donor base that supplants large donors of any sort, Ferguson said. “Let them say they won’t take money over, you know, a particular limit — $500, $750, whatever you like,” he suggested.

Page agreed. “What we really need from candidates is reliance on small donations, if possible, as was done by Bernie Sanders and (to a lesser extent) Barack Obama,” he wrote to us.

In that regard, Warren and Sanders deserve an honorable mention, as they are the only senators in this group of six who got the majority of their campaign funding from small individual contributors since 2013. Nobody else comes close.

It’s easy to imagine lawmakers getting swayed by a pool of donors from a big bank or fracking company who give them $2,000 donations; it’s less easy to imagine that if the politicians build a donor base of people throwing in relatively small amounts, that they’d fall under pernicious influence.

(The Onion had an amusing article on this topic in 2016, with the headline: “Bernie Sanders Clearly In Pocket Of High-Rolling Teacher Who Donated $300 To His Campaign.”)

Politico On “How the Bernie Wing Won the Democratic Primaries”

While there have been many negatives since the 2016 election, including both the presidency of Donald Trump and the Democratic establishment falling into McCarthyism and Cold War Revivalism, one good result was a weakening of the hold by the Clinton/DLC faction on the Democratic Party. A Clinton victory would have probably meant watching the Democrats pushing conservative candidates who would go down to defeat by even more conservative Republicans. Instead we are seeing a chance for more liberal and progressive candidates to run.

Politico has already declared the left to be the winners this year in an article entitled, How the Bernie Wing Won the Democratic Primaries. Here are some excerpts (quoting of which, as usual, does not indicate complete agreement):

In state after state, the left is proving to be the animating force in Democratic primaries, producing a surge of candidates who are forcefully driving the party toward a more liberal orientation on nearly every issue.

These candidates are running on an agenda that moves the party beyond its recent comfort zone and toward single-payer health care, stricter gun control, a $15 minimum wage, more expansive LGBT rights and greater protections for immigrants.

In the surest sign of the reoriented issue landscape, they’re joined by some of the most prominent prospects in the 2020 Democratic presidential field—Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris among them—who are embracing the same agenda.

According to data compiled by the Brookings Institution’s Primaries Project, the number of self-identified, nonincumbent progressive candidates in Texas spiked compared with the previous two election years. This year, there were nearly four times as many progressive candidates as in 2016. Meanwhile, the number of moderate and establishment candidates remained flat for the past three elections in Texas.

Even in Illinois, where the Democratic Party holds most of the levers of power, the data tell a similar story: There were more progressive candidates this year, the Primaries Project reports, than moderate and establishment candidates, by a count of 25 to 21…

The party’s ascendant left is coming after everybody, regardless of the outcome in Lipinski’s race. Progressive energy is pulsing through the primaries, most notably in the proliferation of Trump-backlash grass-roots groups like Indivisible, Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress that are teeming with activists inspired by Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. There’s no comparable counterweight within the establishment…

These progressives aren’t necessarily sweeping races up and down the ballot. But they are winning enough of them—and generating enough grass-roots pressure—to continue driving the party leftward.

In Texas, a greater percentage of the progressive candidates either won or advanced to a runoff than the percentage of moderate and establishment candidates who did. In Illinois, the success rate between the wings was about equal. Five moderate or establishment candidates won their primaries, compared with three progressives.

Many on the left will question whether Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Kamala Harris truly embrace the same agenda, but as politicians they definitely see the need to at least give lip service to a more progressive agenda than Hillary Clinton did, despite her weak attempts to modify some of her conservative positions.

As is so often the case with articles which cite issues backed by more progressive candidates, I am also disappointed that nothing is said about Democrats opposing American interventionism and the neoconservative foreign policy which was promoted by their last presidential candidate. Nor was anything said about scaling back the surveillance state, restoring civil liberties lost as a consequence of the “war on terror,” or ending the drug war. It is as if the Democratic Party has stopped trying to dismantle the deleterious policies of George W. Bush.

If the victory is being called a victory by the “Bernie Wing,” in articles such as this, I hope that Bernie Sanders speaks out more on these issues. He has often taken the correct side, even if he has not stressed such issues. Sanders initially ran as an insurgent candidate to raise the economic issues which were more important to him, not expecting to win the 2016 nomination. Now that his wing has a chance of taking over the party, and winning elections at all levels, I hope that he does devote more time to these issues.

Democratic Pundit Disputes Myth That Progressives Are Less Electable Than More Conservative Democrats

Democrats suffered serious losses in Congressional and state races in 2010 and 2014 after running as a Republican-lite party. Despite trying to shift the blame to Russia and others, Democrats lost the 2016 election to a candidate as terrible as Donald Trump by nominating a corrupt conservative warmonger who has spent her career undermining liberal values. Finally we are seeing people question the conventional wisdom that nominating more conservative candidates will increase the chances for Democrats to win. I looked at this issue yesterday, and found that Bud Budowsky, a Democratic columnist at The Hill, has written a column on the same topic.

Budowsky wrote that A Sanders-Warren ticket could win big in 2020. Besides this ticket, Budowsky discussed two other hypothetical Democratic tickets, Joe Biden-Amy Klobuchar and Joe Kennedy III with either California Attorney General Xavier Becerra or Senator Kamala Harris. He wrote the following in favor of a more progressive ticket:

Behind the scenes of the national Democratic Party, it is commonly accepted wisdom, though not proven by facts, that the most progressive candidates are not the most electable candidates. In some states and districts this might be true.

But, in terms of winning the national popular vote and an electoral vote majority, there is a credible case that the most clearly progressive and politically aggressive Democrats can indeed win, and potentially win big.

The most important and powerfully persuasive data in modern American politics is that virtually every poll in 2016 showed Sanders defeating Donald Trump by 10 percent or more. In the Real Clear Politics summary of 2016 polling, Sanders ran ahead of Trump by an average margin of more than 10 percent and often by much larger margins.

Whether one supports Sanders or any other potential candidate in 2020, the case is clear that a strong progressive program and message would give Democrats a decided advantage in any campaign against the scandal-ridden and crony-capitalist-dominated presidency of Trump and his GOP allies in Congress…

While I could support Sanders, Warren or any of the progressive Democratic change candidates who could run on the ticket in 2020, it is important to disabuse the false notion, which is contrary to the facts demonstrated by national polling throughout 2016 and beyond, that progressive candidates are less electable.

Americans want a clear message of progressive change and would enthusiastically support a Sanders-Warren ticket, or any other ticket running on a similar program in 2020.

I agree with nominating candidates who have a clear message and stand for change. My one nitpick is that I would not limit this to progressive economic ideas. While Bernie Sanders did concentrate on this message in 2016, there were other factors which led many to support him over Hillary Clinton. It was partially over character, but there were other issues too. One study argues that Clinton lost because of being a warmonger. While I question if this was the main factor, foreign policy is important. Democrats attracted new voters when they opposed neoconservatives while George Bush was in office. They lost votes when they nominated a neocon interventionist such as Hillary Clinton, whose policies have caused considerable death and suffering around the world.

Sanders’ views on social and cultural issues were also far more attractive to voters than than Clinton’s socially conservative views. Many voters, especially young voters, are more socially libertarian. Democrats might be preferable to Republicans on reproductive rights, but fail to consistently support policies to reduce the role of government in the private lives of individuals. In addition to Clinton’s support for military interventionism, and the toleration of this by establishment Democrats, there is their support for the drug war. Clinton did not change her views on same-sex marriage until it became politically inexpedient to continue to oppose it. While it is still a government program, support for single payer healthcare, which Clinton campaigned against and the DCCC continues to oppose, is far more acceptable than government mandates pushed by Clinton to purchase private insurance plans with outrageous deductibles.

It is a good sign that more Democrats are paying attention to Bernie Sanders’ criticism of corporate Democrats, along with his support for Medicare-for-All.  If Democrats are to rebuild a winning majority, they should more consistently challenge establishment views in other areas too.

Sanders Seen As Front Runner For 2020 Democratic Nomination

Bernie Sanders is repeatedly topping lists of potential 2020 Democratic candidates for president. The latest is a list at The Fix of The top 15 Democratic presidential candidates for 2020, ranked:

1. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (Previous: 1)

must-read story from Politico’s Gabriel Debenedetti recently showed how Sanders conspicuously seems to be addressing the shortcomings that hampered his candidacy in 2016 — most notably his lack of familiarity with foreign policy and of inroads with powerful pro-Democratic groups, such as the American Federation of Teachers. Sanders has done nothing to diminish speculation that he will run again; the biggest question is, and will be, his age (76) — as it is with Brown (79) and Biden (75).

Complaining of a lack of familiarity with foreign policy is a bit of a stretch considering how Bernie Sanders has a far better track record than Hillary Clinton did when it came down to the decisions they made. I am hoping that greater study of foreign policy might lead Sanders to giving more priority to reducing foreign interventionism in a future campaign.

Joe Biden follows at 2nd, Elizabeth Warren is 3rd, Kirsten Gillibrand is 4th, and Kamala Harris is listed as 5th.

Brent Budowsky, writing at The Hill, wrote yesterday that Sanders would be the instant frontrunner if he runs:

If Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) decides to run for president in 2020, he would be the instant frontrunner for the nomination and favored in the general election against Trump or any other GOP nominee. If Sanders decides not to run, there is a strong likelihood that the ultimate nominee will campaign, win and govern as a true progressive in the Sanders mold.

When historians look back on the Sanders campaign in 2016, they will note two fundamentally important and lasting contributions that Sanders and his supporters made.

First, the Sanders platform in the 2016 primaries, which was significantly but not fully included in the Democratic platform at the convention, will provide the policy blueprint for the next Democratic presidential campaign and the next great Democratic president.

The progressive populist policies of William Jennings Bryan evolved into the progressive populist presidency of Teddy Roosevelt. The populist policies of Teddy Roosevelt, when he campaigned to regain the presidency as the progressive candidate after abandoning the Republican Party, were largely incorporated by Franklin Roosevelt into his New Deal.

Similarly, the programs championed by Sanders in 2016 will largely be adopted in the Democratic platform in 2020 and fervently championed by the 2020 nominee, whether it is Sanders or a similar candidate.

The second historic legacy of the Sanders campaign in 2016 was that he challenged, and defeated, the old style campaign fundraising paradigm of previous major candidates. It was revolutionary and historic that Sanders energized a gigantic army of small donors and became a fundraising leader who changed campaign fundraising forever.

The Sanders small-donor paradigm thrives today in the pro-Sanders group, Our Revolution, and in the enormous impact small donors have had since 2016, most recently in the Alabama Senate election.

Repeated polls showing that Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in the country (while the favorable ratings of Clinton and Trump continue to decline) is another point in his favor.

While early predictions for presidential nominations are often wrong, it is encouraging that Sanders has been named by so many sources as the likely front runner for several months. For example, as I posted in July, Vox, A Voice Of The Democratic Establishment, Now Realizes That Bernie Sanders Is The Democrats’ Real 2020 Frontrunner.

We certainly cannot count on the Democrats making the wisest decision, considering that they essentially rigged the nomination for Clinton in 2016 despite all the evidence that Clinton would have difficulty winning and lagged about ten points behind Sanders in head to head match-ups against Republicans. There are also many in the Democratic establishment who are more concerned about maintaining their positions than what is best for the party, and for the country.

Democratic Insiders See Bernie Sanders As Top Contender For 2020 Nomination

It is rather ridiculous to try to predict the 2020 nominee this far in advance, but encouraging to see the rankings from The Hill. In an article entitled How Dem insiders rank the 2020 contenders, Bernie Sanders is listed first:

1. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Advisers to the senator are telegraphing that Sanders is eyeing a 2020 run — and his network is already ready to go, with supporters convinced that he was the candidate who would have beaten President Trump in 2016.

“His people have never gone away,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon. “And he has a loyal core following out there that will be with him come hell or high water.”

Also working in Sanders’s favor, Bannon said, is the leftward shift of the Democratic Party.

“The Sanders wing is becoming the dominant wing of the party,” he said.

Still, strategists note that Sanders would be 79 in 2020, which could work against him at a time when Democrats are hungry for change.

Following Sanders are: Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Sherrod Brown, and Deval Patrick. As is typical in such horse race coverage from the media, there is virtually nothing said about the comparative views or records of the candidates.

It is hopeful that the Sanders wing is referred to the dominant wing of the party. This is also not an isolated view. For example, last July I had a post noting that Vox, A Voice Of The Democratic Establishment, Now Realizes That Bernie Sanders Is The Democrats’ Real 2020 Frontrunner. Of course all available evidence does suggest that Sanders would have won in the general election. He did ten points better than Clinton in head to head polls against Trump, he had far more support among independents and even Republican voters than Clinton had, he was stronger in the rust belt than Clinton, he had no email scandal, and had nothing to fear from leaks of DNC email by Wikileaks. If Clinton supporters claim that Clinton lost due to Comey’s letter or Wikileaks, they should admit that the candidate who would not have been affected by either would have had a better chance to win.

Of course Clinton supporters are not that rational–and some are still not giving up. One of the more ridiculous articles posted recently is from Salon entitled  Here’s your leftover turkey: The case for Hillary Clinton 2020. Needless to say, the case is not very strong, unless you consider being a war monger who came close to Donald Trump, but still lost, to be  points in her favor.

Bernie Sanders Winning The Battle On Health Care, Now Max Baucus Caves On Opposition To Single Payer

Bernie Sanders’ proposal for single-payer health care was viciously attacked by Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign, but now Sanders is winning the debate in the Democratic Party. Kamala Harris already joined on as a co-sponsor, indicating how she sees this as the expected position for a serious contender for the 2020 nomination. It came as no surprise when Elizabeth Warren also decided to co-sponsor the legislation. The real surprise was when former Senator Max Baucus changed his position:

It’s time for America to consider seriously a single-payer, government-run health system, says Max Baucus, Montana’s longest serving U.S. senator, former ambassador to China and one of the chief architects of Obamacare.

“My personal view is we’ve got to start looking at single-payer,” Baucus said Thursday night at Montana State University. “I think we should have hearings…. We’re getting there. It’s going to happen.”

This is significant as Baucus was a chief author of the Affordable Care Act, and was strongly opposed to even considering a single payer plan eight years ago. David Weigel provides this history lesson:

Eight years ago, as a once-in-a-generation Democratic Senate supermajority debated health-care reform, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) kept their focus narrow. As the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Baucus was focused on passing a reform bill that moderate Republicans could support. At one point, he had single-payer health-care supporters removed from a hearing; Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), an advocate for Canada-style universal coverage, set up a meeting to tide them over. But he did not expect much from Baucus.

“[Is he open] to single-payer?” Sanders asked rhetorically. “Not in a million years.”

His estimate was just 999,993 years off. At a Thursday night forum in his home state, a now-retired Baucus suggested that single-payer health care could pass, and not too long from now.

It gets worse per this account from Common Dreams:

Baucus declared single payer “off the table” and had single-payer proponents arrested after they disrupted a committee hearing. Those arrested were later called the “Baucus 8.”

Dr. Pat Salomon, who was arrested alongside other physicians and activists, explained why the protests were necessary:

When we looked at the list of 41 people testifying in the three days of the Finance Committee’s roundtable on healthcare, we saw that not a single witness was an advocate of the principle that healthcare should be a fundamental human right for all in America, nor was there anyone to speak for the majority of the American people who support single-payer Medicare for All.

Maybe this is a case of a politician speaking more honestly once out of office, or perhaps it is a sign of how much Bernie Sanders has moved the discussion of health care reform. Just to raise Peter Daou’s blood pressure further in case he happens to read this, I’ll also point out that Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in America, while Hillary Clinton’s favorability has continued to fall since the election, and is below that of Donald Trump. Sanders being right, and Clinton being wrong, in supporting Medicare for All is just one of many reasons for this.

After September It Will Be Even Harder For Republicans To Repeal Obamacare

Donald Trump has, fortunately, been able to accomplish very little as president. Obstacles have included his complete lack of understanding of how government works and widespread opposition to his plans. He has already had considerable difficulty keeping his campaign promise to repeal Obamacare. Should Senate Republicans try again, repealing the Affordable Care Act will become even harder as the ability to pass this with fifty-one as opposed to sixty votes ends September 30.

Bloomberg News reports:

The Senate parliamentarian told lawmakers that Republicans’ ability to pass an Obamacare replacement with just 51 votes expires at the end of this month, Senator Bernie Sanders said Friday.

The preliminary finding complicates any further efforts by Republican leaders in Congress to pass a comprehensive GOP-only replacement for the health-care law.

Sanders, a Vermont independent, in a statement called the determination a “major victory” for those who oppose repealing Obamacare.

Senate Republicans, who control the chamber 52-48, failed to win enough support for their Obamacare replacement in July as three GOP lawmakers joined Democrats to oppose the measure. Republican leaders haven’t ruled out reviving their effort, and some party members — including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Ted Cruz of Texas — say they’re talking to colleagues about a possible broad-based bill.

Earlier guidance from Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough dogged Republicans in their Obamacare replacement effort throughout the summer. In late July, she issued a preliminary finding that key parts of a proposal drafted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t qualify for the fast-track procedure, dramatically complicating the already slimming prospects of passing a bill.

After the 2017 budget resolution which allows for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act expires at the end of September, both houses would need to pass a new budget resolution to enable repeal to pass with only fifty-one votes. It is considered unlikely that Congress would be able to deal with both health care and rewriting the tax code at the same time this fall, but we are also seeing a lot of things lately which we would have previously considered to be unlikely.

New York Magazine has more on this.

Meanwhile Democrats are attempting to take health care reform further with Bernie Sanders introducing legislation promoting a single payer plan, with Kamala Harris co-sponsoring the legislation. This has no chance of passing the Republican-controlled Congress. It is a favorable sign that a moderate Democrat such as Harris with presidential ambitions finds it more expedient to be on the side of a single-payer plan, in comparison to last year when Hillary Clinton vigorously opposed the idea.

Howard Dean Attacks Democratic Left, Forgetting What He Said About Restoring Principle To The Party In 2003; Hillary Clinton And The Resistance

After Howard Dean turned into a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry, it was no longer necessary to point out what a hypocrite he is.  While unnecessary, I can’t resist pointing this out. While I quickly found that he couldn’t be trusted back in the 2004 campaign, it is worth remembering that he claimed to represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic party.

Bob Edwards asked him what he meant by that and Dean explained:

Former Vermont Gov. HOWARD DEAN: That was really a phrase that was first developed by Paul Wellstone, and although Paul Wellstone’s probably a little more liberal than I, his characteristic, which I enormously admire, was that he’s willing to stand up for what he believes in. I think there are so many people in our party that aren’t. When I go around talking to Democratic audiences, one of the lines that gets an enormous round of applause is that there are almost as many Democrats that I talk to that are angry at the Democrat Party as they are angry at the Republican Party.

EDWARDS: Well they wouldn’t be Democrats otherwise, would they?

DEAN: Well, that’s true. But people just don’t feel like the Democrats have stood up against this president who’s got really what amounts to, essentially, a radical agenda.

EDWARDS: The Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, would that be the wing that loses national elections?

DEAN: It’s the wing that wins national elections because they restore principle to the party, and without principle we’re never going to beat this president.

Restore principle to the party. So what does Howard Dean say now about those who want to restore principle to the party? The Hill reports, Former DNC chair criticizes ‘whiny’ left:

Former Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Howard Dean ripped what he called the “whiny” portion of the Democratic Party on Saturday in response to criticism of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) by a number of progressives.

“There has always been a section of the left, which I call the whiny party — the party that doesn’t really wanna win, they just wanna be pure, and if they go down swinging purely, then that’s fine,” Dean, who ran for president in 2004, told MSNBC’s Joy Reid on “AM Joy.”

Dean was right about how to win elections in 2003. Unfortunately Democratic leaders, including Dean, have forgotten that, and no longer win many elections.

Speaking about losers, in related news BuzzFeed News reports, Hillary Clinton Hires Two Former Campaign Aides For “Resistance” PAC. That should serve as a reminder that Hillary Clinton has not gone away. Unfortunately she does not realize that she is a big part of what we are resisting.

Besides her PAC, Clinton has her book of excuses coming out, and then will be on her book promotion tour. Politco has this editorial cartoon regarding her upcoming book:

Establishment Democrats Relying On New McCarthyism To Attack The Left As They Move To The Right

With the Democratic Party moving right, becoming increasingly like the Republican Party of circa 2002, while current Republicans have become even further detached from reality, they have also increasingly been attacking the left. We already have gone through the last election watching Hillary Clinton campaign against Medicare for All, promoting restrictions on civil liberties, and defending her failed history of neocon interventionism, while her supporters attributed criticism from the left to sexism, and have moved closer towards embracing neoconservativism. This may have just foreshadowed what to expect in the future.

Ryan Cooper recently discussed how the left questions establishment Democrats such as  Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Deval Patrick over their records. He predicted in The Week how the Democratic establishment will respond by continuing to play dirty against the left:

..if they just want to have a retread of the 2015-16 primary, the center could just try to win dirty. The left, they might say (working hand-in-glove with sympathetic columnists), just doesn’t like minority or female candidates because they are racist and sexist.

I would bet quite a lot of money the centrist Democratic establishment will opt for the latter strategy. Indeed, some are already doing so — like Neera Tanden, head of the Center for American Progress, elite Democrats’ in-house think tank.

That would be pretty rich coming from the crowd that shamelessly leveraged Islamophobia to keep Keith Ellison — probably the left’s second-most trusted politician, after Bernie Sanders — out of the chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Of course that is what we are already seeing. Just today Shareblue has a defense of Kamala Harris which resorts to such dirty attacks, claiming that the objection to Harris from the left is that she “shares a gender with Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

Such attacks on the left based upon false claims of misogyny are especially absurd considering that many people who ultimately backed Sanders had previously supported Elizabeth Warren before she declined to run. Some wound up voting for Jill Stein. Many are now backing Tulsi Gabbard for the 2020 nomination. (Many of us are also excited about Jodie Whittaker breaking the glass ceiling in the TARDIS.)

Many of the most vile attacks on Bernie Sanders and the left have come from former Clinton staffer Peter Daou, who runs Shareblue. The Washington Free Beacon showed a recent tirade from Daou on Twitter within the past week. Conservative Democrats (often labeled centrists in light of how far right the middle has moved in American politics) have become the major opponents of liberal and progressive ideas, while turning to the tactics of the far right.

George Zornick responded to MyCarthy style attacks on Bernie Sanders from Peter Daou and Melissa McEwan in an article at The Nation entitled, Bernie Sanders Is a Russian Agent, and Other Things I Learned This Week: A case study in how fake news is attracting liberals. He pointed out how Peter Daou has started a string of accusations that Sanders is practically a Russian agent based upon false claims:

The jumping-off point seems to have been when Peter Daou, an avowed Hillary Clinton fan and major Twitter personality, quoted-tweeted my original post. Daou spends almost as much time energetically trashing Sanders as he does attacking Trump, and many of the respondents were followers of his. He certainly did not imply Sanders was a secret KGB asset, though, writing only: “Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul were the ONLY TWO VOTES **AGAINST** the Russia sanctions bill. Bernie was out of sync with every Dem senator.” (It was a Russia/Iran sanctions bill, and Sanders made it clear he objected only to the Iran part, but never mind.)

Sanders made his position quite clear, including on his web site, but such facts are irrelevant to anti-liberal hatchet men like Daou who are more interested in Swift Boating Sanders (even if Sanders’ concerns were also expressed by John Kerry). If anything, I think that Sanders has been too accepting of the Democratic party line on Russia, which goes far beyond the facts which have been established. Despite this, while Daou’s followers on social media have found it a sign of extremism that Sanders and Paul voted together, I see a view shared by two Senators who frequently differ from their party’s orthodoxy to be worthy of consideration.

Zornick went on:

So how did people jump to this conclusion that Bernie Sanders, by opposing Democrats, must ipso facto be working at the behest of Russia? It wasn’t entirely organic. And it points to how fake news can infect some of our brethren on the left.

Blame starts with the people with megaphones that peddle this nonsense. Eric Garland, who became a Twitter celebrity with his bizarre “game theory” thread, has explicitly tied Sanders to Russia in his threads. So has Melissa McEwan on her Shakesville blog. “Bernie Sanders, who has visited Russia, has not been, to my knowledge, suspected of being vulnerable by Russian kompromat cultivated on his visits, unlike Donald Trump. But, as I said above, if I intend to say something, I will state it plainly, and here I am plainly stating that I do believe these connections warrant more scrutiny,” she wrote. The Palmer Report, which churns out Russia-related fake news by the pixel load, wrote a post in April: “Bernie Sanders must disclose what he knows about his campaign adviser Tad Devine and Russia.” And of course, uber-grifter Louise Mensch has joined the conspiracy theorists.

We have a long way to go until the 2020 primary battles and can expect to see far more of such dirty tactics from conservative Democrats who place victory for someone with a D after their name over principle, failing to understand that their abandonment of principle is a major reason why Democrats have been on such a losing streak and could not even beat Donald Trump.

Update: 

Democrats Risk Blowback On Russia Narrative