Monday, April 8, 2019

Bernie and the Racists

It seems to me that one reason so many Democrats resent Sanders is because he reminds them of what the party was, and abandoned in the 1990s, to gain votes in conservative states, especially in the South.
From the early 1990s to 2016, the Democratic Party was dominated by its conservative wing. They supported and passed a series of tight-fisted laws: the Clinton tax increase, which cost the party the House; welfare and Medicaid reform; the Clinton health plan, followed by the PPACA. At the same time, we heard racist rhetoric from the party leaders: “Sister Soljah,” “superpredators,” and so on. These reassured white racists that African-Americans would be kept from rising against their oppressors.
I wonder how much of the tight-fisted conservative policies were also covert appeals to racists. How much of the conservative faction of the Democratic Party is racist? Some, surely. Most?
Scratch economic conservatism, find racism (and sexism, but I’m writing about racism.) Policies which keep property relations as they stand, dominated by a wealthy white minority, those policies are racist, even if they do not incorporate explicit bigotry. The bigotry may be there, but it only becomes visible when attacked or when some demagogue like Donald Trump makes a direct appeal to it.
I don’t believe we can address racism without addressing disparities of wealth. Do we grant people of color full civil rights and still keep them dirt poor?
Which brings us back to Sanders. Sanders critique of class divisions is profoundly anti-racist – addressing class will, necessarily, raise up African-Americans. The objection from some African-Americans is that that is not enough, that one must first have basic rights. But Sanders stands for those as well: the young man who marched against housing discrimination in Mayor Daley’s Chicago (a very brave thing indeed), the only light-skinned man who stood with the Congressional Black Caucus when the Democratic leadership turned conservative in the 1990s, the first 2016 Democratic Presidential candidate to say “black lives matter” supports civil rights for African-Americans.
I think Sanders is so hated because, just by being who he is, he shames them. Sure, there’s other reasons. There’s people who say he cost Hillary Clinton the Presidency. I don’t agree, but I can understand that. But in the end, Sanders has stood against poverty and racism for his entire career and stands in reproach to people who have not. That is why there are so many attempts to make him out to be a racist, because if he is one, there is no need to listen to him, and his conservative opponents need not be ashamed. I regard such attacks as as valid as the attacks on Hillary Clinton as a cruel entitled masculine woman: these attacks relieve the attackers of the need to consider Clinton as a strong, competent leader, and reassure them that they need not be ashamed for their own weakness.
So let us treat Sanders with respect and listen to him. I doubt he could be elected to the Presidency and he is an old man who may lack the stamina to cope with the stresses of the office, but we should at least treat him decently. He’s been fighting the good fight for most of his life and he deserves respect for that.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Representation and Ideology

Many people decide what political ideas to believe on the basis of candidates they think represents them, but how do they know if a candidate represents them without first understanding that candidate's ideas?

It ought to be the other way around: first decide if a candidate's ideas are good for you, then decide if the candidate represents you.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Bernie Sanders: Right About Everything and Unelectable

Sanders was right about everything before every other Presidential candidate, and he can’t win
  In 1962, the college-age Bernie Sanders was arrested by the Chicago police, protesting racism. He continued his activism throughout the 1960s. He was also an antiwar activist.
  In 1987, when he was the mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Bernie Sanders was explaining the dangers of climate change and environmental degradation to schoolchildren.
  Throughout the 1990s, Bernie Sanders, as a member of the US House of Representatives, was a reliable ally of the Congressional Black Caucus, sometimes the only light-skinned. Representative who stood with them.
  In 1993, he took a public pro-choice stand.
  In 1995 he defended gay and lesbian service members on the House floor.
Yet Bernie could not be a national political leader for many years; there was no faction in either major party he could lead. There has been no Democratic left since the loss of the Presidency to Reagan in 1980. Since that time, elections have been increasingly dominated by wealthy donors and candidates who cater to them. The abandonment of anti-fascist media law and regulation under Reagan, the general commercialization of news, and the emergence of the major right-wing propaganda network Fox News made it impossible to be a major leftist leader within either major party. It took the crash of 2008 and the failed response to it to create the conditions that put Sanders in a position to lead a major Democratic faction.
But Sanders ran against Hillary Clinton in 2016, and many women are convinced he cost her the election. On top of which he is a light-skinned secular Jewish man and is therefore held to a far higher standard than a white Anglo-Saxon protestant. I remember with loathing how Sanders was painted as racist and sexist despite his long history as anything but, while Hillary Clinton, with a history of racist language and support for racist policies in the 1990s and a wobbly position on abortion, was given a pass, apparently because she was a good Methodist woman.
It remains true that the largest plurality of voters vote on representation. This is not a simple matter of voting for someone like themselves. A majority of white women, for instance, find Donald Trump representative of them. (I can only wonder why he doesn’t remind them of every harasser and rapist.) This is an impediment to the choice of good leaders. Instead, we get people who can persuade the public that they represent the public – affinity scams on the broadest scale. William Clinton “felt their pain” until he was in office, then delivered more pain.
And sometimes, usually desperate times, a great leader slips through the haze of self-regard. We get a Washington, a Lincoln, an FDR. But there are no guarantees. Sanders’ time, I think, has passed. He would, I think, have made a great Senate majority leader, if the Democratic Party had not been so conservative in his time. If elected to the Presidency, Sanders would turn 80 in office and I doubt he could survive the stresses of the office. But there seems no-one of comparable stature among the Democratic hopefuls, though I think well of Elizabeth Warren. Would that we could learn to embrace our best in their times!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Feeding the Monster: On Ilhan Omar, Antisemitism, and Islamophobia

Ilhan Omar, as a Muslim, has no reason to love the state of Israel. I don't expect her to do so, but I wish she would not to feed the antisemitic monster, either. It is almost as hungry for Muslim blood as it is for Jewish.

The only reason she's being censured in the media is because of her skin color and religion. Republican antisemites, all the way up to Donald Trump himself, have been talking antisemitism for years. No wave of outrage there. But when a black American Muslim says it, they start clutching their pearls.

But she did say it. Back in 2012, she tweeted, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” She has since become more subtle, but the echoes are still in her language and she keeps repeating the offense. In 2018, leaders of Minneapolis’ Jewish community spoke with her, and came away unsatisfied.

I am underwhelmed by the response of many non-Jewish liberals and leftists of various stripes. White people don’t get to forgive racism on behalf of blacks. White people don’t get to forgive antisemitism on behalf of Jews. From Alex Zeldin, in the Jewish magazine Forward, we have an extended discussion of the problems of her language. Jews are right to be angry and scared:

I like the remarks of Rabbi Ruti Regan, no lover of the Israeli right wing herself:
Things that apparently need saying in this repetitive stale hell of a news cycle: 1) Neither the American Jewish community nor Israel is secretly hypnotizing America. 2) Congresswoman Omar is not a terrorist and the American Muslim community is not a terrorist group. –
The end result of all of this is to both offend Jews and to reinforce the position of the most aggressive supporters of Israel.

As a side comment, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's response ( was impressive, neither supporting the language nor adding fuel to the fire. AOC will be Presidential material, if there is still a Presidency when she is old enough.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Selected Recent Tweets 2019-02-24

[on Clobuchar’s student loan debt plan] At least, go back to allowing student loan debt to be dissolved in bankruptcy, and go back to allowing a dignified bankruptcy, none of this "reform" garbage. That's not enough, but it would for sure be better than what we have now.
But you know, she can't. I think she's a bought and paid for creature of the big money - that's what this shows

If we wanted to aid the people of Venezuela, we could lift the sanctions on the country. But, no, gotta get that oil. It's cooking the world, but gotta get that oil. –

[On preferring Warren to Sanders for reasons of representation] The black union people in Milwaukee, they loved [Bernie]. He was speaking their language.

In what world is rectifying economic inequities not a part of eliminating racism?

Fk. USA declares war on Venezuela, more-or-less. –

[In response to Paul Krugman, on health plans] One thing you are missing is how very much most people hate the [health] insurance companies. No medieval landlord was crueler. –

We have taken small steps, while the destroyers of the Earth have taken strides.

[On climate change] When packs of wolf packs are arriving it's OK to cry wolf. –

[on the idea that one needs a racially uniform population to successfully implement universal health care]
"All of our history is a coming together
  You want pure you're gonna have caves again.
Anyway who needs a freak like the grand dragon,
  So full of s..t his breath makes acid rain." [Bruce Cockburn lyric, slightly misheard] –

[On Sanders remarks on “humanitarian aid” in Venezuela] Or maybe he's a politician, doing what he needs to do. People forget that Sen Sanders is a pol. An unusually decent one, but he still has constituents to answer to. –

[On the sophisticated plagiarism that has emerged in Amazon ebooks] Hack writing and scam publishing for the 21st century, and Amazon doesn't care. Amazon makes money from it, hand over fist. –

Chavez, Maduro's predecessor, nationalized the Venezuelan oil industry and the US can't tolerate that. –

It's not so much that they want Venezuela's oil, though they do, but they hate having Venezuela's oil taken away from them. –

[What do white rural voters want?] Someone to represent them. They don't see themselves in the sophisticates, often children of the rich, they are usually offered. They're one rung up on the social ladder and they're determined to keep someone below them.

A lot of white suburbanites want the same thing.

Let me suggest that a lot of what goes wrong [in US foreign policy] is that we are using the military to resolve our internal conflicts, much like a man who has problems at home picking bar fights. It doesn't resolve problems at home, and it makes new problems outside. –

Cornyn, while people who sounded like you were building camps and ovens, socialists were dying to stop them.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Reading the Tea Leaves: the Democratic Presidential Nominee

I think we are likely to get a “socially liberal, economically conservative” woman of color. (And no, not necessarily Kamala Harris.)

I have a sick feeling. I am not sure that any economic conservative can win the necessary votes. The Democrats who vote will vote for her, but it will be hard for her to get the black working class and the youth vote to work for her enthusiastically, or to turn out for her.

Assuming she does win, we will then face more years where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Better that than the party of rape and treason, to be sure, but hard years. And who knows how any “economic conservative” will deal with the fossil fuel industry?

Sanders is in. Sigh.

He made the announcement this morning, on Vermont Public Radio.

On the one hand, I like him and his politics. On the other hand, he will have trouble winning both the nomination and the general election. There's a lot of women and blacks who hate him. His hippie and socialist past will be dragged out by his Republican opponent. And I fear that just running will kill him. The Presidency ages people, just running ages people, and Sanders is already an old man.

And where will the born-again progressives of the Democratic Party get their ideas from, if they cannot steal them from Sanders?