Tuesday, May 23, 2017

They will know, and they will never trust you again, part 5

Rob Reich, on the Trump budget:
It imposes huge burdens on people who already are hurting. Not just the very poor, but also the working class. In fact, among the biggest losers would be people who voted for Trump – whites in rural and poor areas of the country who depend on Medicaid, food stamps, and Social Security disability.
"You cannot lie to the working class, James, not even once. They will know, and they will never trust you again." – fictional Fredrich Engels, Steven Brust and Emma Bull, Freedom and Necessity

And so they will, though it will take time for them to figure it out.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Allies in defeat, redux

(This was the first draft of my much shorter Allies in Defeat post. It has stood up well, and I think it is time to post it.)
After the hideous electoral loss the left suffered on 11/8, it seems that the Sandernistas and the Clintonites are still duking it out.

The Clintonites keep saying that Clinton's loss was due to Sanders, which is wrong. Most Sanders supporters voted for Clinton and Sanders himself campaigned for her. Clinton's loss was due to sexism, racism, bad press, and bad luck, in that order, with sexism far and away the biggest factor.

The Sandernistas alternate among saying that Sanders could have won, that the Democratic Party betrayed them, and that Sanders betrayed them by joining the Senate opposition. We can't, of course, say that Sanders would have lost. Still, I doubt he would have won. I was concerned that a hippie socialist atheist Jew would have had trouble in the general election and Kurt Eichenwald confirmed this in his reporting; Sanders would have been accused of, among other things, rape apology, communism, treason, and everything else Republicans could gin up from his long and varied history.

So what would have happened when Sanders hit a real opponent, someone who did not care about alienating the young college voters in his base? I have seen the opposition book assembled by Republicans for Sanders, and it was brutal. … Could Sanders still have won? Well, Trump won, so anything is possible. But Sanders supporters puffing up their chests as they arrogantly declare Trump would have definitely lost against their candidate deserve to be ignored. — Newsweek

Now we get people saying that Sanders doesn't care about women and people of color while, at the same time, saying that he is willing to be a Trump ally, which is idiotic — he gave up his shot at the Presidency to oppose Trump. Sanders, this past Sunday:

“There is a lot of racism in this country. There is a lot of sexism, a lot of homophobia,” he said. “I don’t have to explain to anybody here the racist background of Mr. Trump … I don’t have to tell anybody here about the slurs, the awful things he has said about Mexicans … Muslim people … and obviously … his attitude towards women.” Sanders urged his audience to unite in order to resist bigotry. “When we bring millions of people together, here in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, when we do that, there is nothing we cannot accomplish,” he said, acknowledging cheers of affirmation from the audience. Sanders highlighted the plight of the middle class in America, a problem he frequently spoke about on the campaign trail. “For 40 years, the middle class of this country has been in decline,” he said. “You see enormous pain and confusion as to why the people on top make huge amounts of money, while the middle class continues to shrink, and 43 million Americans live in poverty.” — The Daily Free Press (Boston University)

The Sanders and Clinton factions are now allies in defeat. We tried Clinton's way, and it didn't work. Now it's time to try Sanders way. Sanders is part of the Senate leadership. He has long experience getting concessions from a hostile coalition and fewer ties to the 1% than anyone else in the Senate. We are on the same side; let's get to work.

But we plainly aren't going to. At this point, what it would take to unify the Resistance would be something like a younger female version of Sanders, and I don't see anyone like that on the national stage.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Social Justice, Economic Justice, and the Two Party System

Advocates of social justice have tied themselves into knots defending the economic policies of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and they have left the opposition to Trump no way to unify. We now have a narrative where it is claimed that the "far left" (by which is meant the left wing of the Democratic Party) is overwhelmingly racist and sexist by neglect, concentrating on economic issues exclusively, and that the centrist wing of the Democrats, with its concentration on social justice to the exclusion of economic justice, is morally superior, and more deserving of support from women and people of color. This seems to me madness.

To set the language straight, first, because I am a pedantic bird, the Democratic Party has no far left. The far left is Glen Ford, Cornel West, Noam Chomsky, and so on. None of these people have any influence in the Democratic Party and two of them are African-American, making it plain that economic justice is an issue for people of color. This is not a new thing; women and people of color have long been part of the far left, an honorable tradition going back to figures such as Jenny Marx and, later, in the United States, Richard Wright and Langston Hughes. These people became Marxists in part because so many of the issues which faced women and people of color in their time were economic: women could not own property, the property and savings of African-Americans were routinely looted, and so on. In our time, the consequences of the crash of 2008 fell hard on people of color, who were disproportionately victims of mortgage fraud and disproportionately unemployed in the resulting depression. The African-American writer Ta-Nehisi Coates (and you should read him), in his essay "The Case for Reparations," uses this latest attack in a long history of attacks on African-American wealth in support of his argument.

The centrist wing of the Democrats is also the Wall Street wing of the party, led by the Senate Minority Leader Charles Shumer. In their times, President Barack Obama and Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton were leaders of this wing. Obama, as President, was a leader in social justice. Not only did the simple fact of an African-American president bring hope to African-Americans, in policy he supported the rights of African-Americans, women, and, under pressure, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transexuals. At the same time, he was a supporter and defender of the financial services industry, prosecuting no bankers despite their​ engineering the crash of 2008, refusing to advocate for a single-payer health care plan, or even a public option in the privatized system of the the Affordable Care Act, and taking only weak action on employment. These had harsh consequences for people of color, who were disproportionately victims of mortgage fraud and disproportionately unemployed in the depression which followed the crash. Hillary Clinton, as advisor to William Clinton, similarly took neo-liberal stands in the earlier Clinton administration, which led to harsh reforms in welfare and Medicaid, again disproportionately falling on people of color.

It was a blessing ("barack") for African-Americans to see one of their own in the highest government office of the United States. It is a blessing for LGBTQ people to have the respect, however grudging, of the legal system. Yet without economic justice as well, one has self-respect, civil rights, and institutionalized poverty – injustice. There is no way to have social justice without economic justice, and the separation of the two is itself injustice.

In the current situation, we have feminists attacking Bernard Sanders for being insufficiently feminist. Yet the Democratic Party's conservatives are even less so. Even Hillary Clinton; this faction forgets the weakness of her position on abortion. The unofficial leader of the moderate left, Bernard Sanders, is slammed for weakness on the issue, while he has been a strong supporter of women's rights for his entire political career, while the Democratic centrists, who are weaker, are granted a pass. There is little difference between Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton's running mate and supporter of the Hyde Amendment, and the Roman Catholic pro-Planned Parenthood anti-abortion Heath Mello, candidate for mayor of Omaha, who Sanders and the Democratic National Committee support.

Centrists are not social justice warriors. They are the "white moderates" who Martin Luther King, Jr. slammed in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" as those who preferred "a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice."

Yet what is to be done? The split has been created. There is a huge amount of effort devoted to widening it; the very wealthy, seeing their wealth threatened, are working hard to shoot the Democratic Party of its left wing. I do not see how, once that is done, the party can hope to win elections outside of major cities, and perhaps not even there. Feminist support for Democratic centrists is hugely foolish; the centrists have been slow-walking feminist issues for decades, as King's white moderates did with segregation, and betray feminists when the centrists see a profit in it.

Bernard Sanders, an independent running for President, stood for the Democratic nomination. He was well aware of the risks of a split in the opposition to fascists. Yet some the party's major backers in the financial industry are now supporting a split. It may be that, reluctant though Sanders has been, he has planted a sapling new party.

What are such a party's chances? It depends, paradoxically, on the integrity of the Republican Party. If the Republican Party falls from internal contradictions, and it may – its President is mad and its House delegation is unable to pass a budget or a health care plan – there will be space for a new party in the American two-party system. If not, it is harder to say. Will people abandon their long-held party loyalties? Republicans support a newly conservative Democratic Party? Democrats support a new Progressive party? And the fascists, domestic and international, will be quick to exploit any split.

Interesting times!