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 1981, he was demonstrating with Vermont NOW pro-choicers.
  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 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. https://www.twincities.com/2019/02/12/mn-jewish-leaders-talked-with-ilhan-omar-about-anti-semitism-last-year-why-they-remain-frustrated/.

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: https://forward.com/opinion/420269/for-jews-ilhan-omars-attack-against-allegiance-to-israel-is-all-too/.

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. –https://twitter.com/RutiRegan/status/1102386123526029313
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 (https://twitter.com/AOC/status/1102925532604391425) 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.