Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Dems Need Bernie Sanders To Transcend Wuss-hood And Become Warriors For The People

Author Michael Tomasky ('Dems Fighting Words',  The American Prospect, Aug. 26, 2006 once observed that he Republicans s are "unified around a central idea which can be expressed in both positive and negative language: that they are the conservators of liberty and morality, and that liberals are sending the country to hell in overdrive. Whatever Republicans do or don't believe they believe in those two hypotheses. This unity gives them their passion."

 I'd add  that it also gives them their power of continually beating the Milquetoast Dems in political showdowns, whether in dealing with budget face offs, taxes, raising the debt ceiling,  or in Supreme Court nomination battles such  as now transpiring in the wake of Scalia's death,

In effect, the Repubs KNOW what they are fighting for, the Democrats do not. (Else they wouldn't so often splinter in their voting - as with the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and later in extending them, and also on the TPP etc).  Tomasky argues that the Dems have paid a huge price in lost voters for their turning to "reason and balanced" talk, rather than appealing to emotions (at least some of the time) like the Rs do. In addition, their lack of aggression at critical points during the past 30 years - when they had the opportunity to define themselves- have left many others yawning and not too impressed- hence the conscious choice to be independents - like me.

Basically, the Dems eschewed political point-making and "hard nosed", no-holds barred political partisanship sometime in the early 70s. They thereby lost their political balls even as a Dem mutation (DLC known as 'Democrats for the Leisure class') surfaced to make them more like the Repukes in one way (moving away from FDR's norms via deregulation, privatization etc.) but less in another (less fight for social benefits, fewer daring actions to thwart R nonsense) Thus, they  replaced the hard nosed, brass knuckles style  with discussing fact-based policy points, which appeal to "reason" and "temperance" but do little or nothing for core partisans. The very people Dems need to get out to the polls each mid-term election. As he observes:

"Apart from judicial battles, the Democrats don't have much fight in them."

Tomasky attributes this substitution of rational" policy talk for good, old-style politicking to a loss of identity that particularly accelerated with the onset of the Reagan plague years. The problem was that, in making this conscious switch of emphasis, the Dems lost the ability to really fight.(Note how often they lose the critical language wars to the Rs, e.g. "death taxes"  then punk out totally and retreat from defending their earlier positions).
These issues are now playing out again in this election year as we hear the pundit class and the wine and brie faction of the Dems -  the "sober voices of well-compensated moderation" (according to one salon. com writer) -  professing to not like Bernie Sanders’ proposals. They are too impractical, off the wall, and besides no Repuke will accept 'em (as if they will accept any of HRC's) These voices  include influential liberal economists like Paul Krugman of the New York Times and Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress.

Neither of those stalwarts appreciates or admires Sanders' targeted rhetoric to fight Wall Street and the banksters because well, they are part and parcel of the comfy class of leisure Dems that doesn't want to rock the boat of financial funding for a party now turned corporate.  And while this lot often has given pithy journalistic or rhetorical defense of the interests of the poor and besieged middle class, they turn tail and hide when the rubber meets the road. As they did when the Ds punked out on the public option for the ACA.

Not to put too fine a point on it but they are emphatically not fans of Sanders' hardball rhetoric. To the pretentious  realists of the Democratic Party's Leisure class  he’s making impossible promises, employing the dreaded “unicorns” and “magical thinking” of those vile Republicans.

As Tim Donovan writes (ibid.)

"It’s telling that in Krugman’s most full-throated critique of Sanders’ proposals, he whines that “it would probably create many losers as well as winners — a substantial number of Americans, mainly in the upper middle class, who would end up paying more in additional taxes than they would gain in enhanced benefits.” There’s Krugman, bravely imploring his New York Times readership to find it in their hard hearts to pity the poor upper middle class. "

Donovan then goes on to echo the take of Tomasky:

"At their heart, appeals to moderation willfully ignore an obvious and indisputable aspect of our presidential system: the ahistoric procedural tactics marshaled by the Republican Party to accomplish their objectives are adopted because they usually work. And despite brief episodes of political blowback when the party reaches too far, Republicans have done incredibly well for themselves by pushing the limits of acceptable political behavior to their advantage."

The question then - for an independent like me (and others) is: Why aren't the Dems ALSO capable of pushing the limits of acceptable behavior to their advantage? Why are they almost always acting the part of nails rather than hammers, serfs rather than masters, whiners rather than winners? Why did they allow no less than two successive cuts to the SNAP program creating more hungry kids to cede power to the Repubs? Why did they allow a poison pill amendment (in 2013) to be passed as part of a gov't spending bill that enabled the FICA to insure toxic credit default swaps? Why did they not use the "nuclear option" in filibusters to blow up the Alito nomination when they had the chance - as opposed to forming a 'gang of 12' to obliterate it, thereby confirming conservative control of the Supreme Court?  Why did they allow passage of the Military Commissions Act de facto repealing habeas corpus? Why did they allow the Bush invasion of Iraq in 2003? Why did they allow the budget to balloon to unfathomable heights by extending the odious Bush tax cuts and also cutting the payroll tax (crucial to Social Security's survival) for two years - generating an additional hole of $200b?

In game theory,  "the Prisoner’s Dilemma"   outlines how two seemingly-rational parties can behave in a manner that’s mutually self-destructive.  It is summarized by Wikipedia as follows:

"Two members of a criminal gang are arrested and imprisoned. Each prisoner is in solitary confinement with no means of communicating with the other. The prosecutors lack sufficient evidence to convict the pair on the principal charge. They hope to get both sentenced to a year in prison on a lesser charge. Simultaneously, the prosecutors offer each prisoner a bargain. Each prisoner is given the opportunity either to: betray the other by testifying that the other committed the crime, or to cooperate with the other by remaining silent. The offer is:
  • If A and B each betray the other, each of them serves 2 years in prison
  • If A betrays B but B remains silent, A will be set free and B will serve 3 years in prison (and vice versa)
  • If A and B both remain silent, both of them will only serve 1 year in prison (on the lesser charge)"
The problem for would be players A and B is twofold: 1) not knowing in advance what your opposite will do, and 2) not trusting your opposite  to work toward the common good. Now translate this scenario  to a nearly evenly divided nation wherein the politics of cynicism, brinksmanship, and mounting constitutional crises is endemic. Then let "A"  be the Democratic Party and "B" the Republicans.

 A simple examination of recent events in the past 10 plus years will disclose that "A" is the proverbial prisoner (Dems)  still holding out hope that their craven, beastly opposite party "B" will play by the damned rules and not bend them or kick them to the curb. (The Reepos say the Dems are doing this but they're living on an alternate Earth) .

Let's even go one further and suppose the Dems were to really resort to extreme tactics  like their prisoner counterpart Reeps, say:  fiscal brinksmanship, judicial stonewalling, Senate filibusters, and even nuclear options in the latter etc. Even allowing the gov't to shut down rather than allow or enable a poison  pill banking amendment (risking the whole banking system) to pass. This would be only  after the unwritten rules discouraging such behavior have already been broken by their Republican opponents, B.

If we’re being especially generous (or blind), perhaps we can view this reluctance to take B to the mat as evidence of civility or noble sobriety. . But let's get real. Even if that interpretation is true, so what? Once the norms are cast aside and the Democrats  agree to play by the new ugly rules of political reality  what does refusing to play hardball  really accomplish? Well, a big fat nothing other than to depress your most fervent supporters - the ones you need to come out at midterms (say to keep control of a branch of congress)  Besides, not playing to win - calling it uncivil or "ugly", whatever-   gives the Republicans the political equivalent of one free punch before the fight.

It stands to reason that playing by Marquis of Queensbury rules while your antagonist is playing with knives and Glocks means you are a sucker and playing on a losing wicket. It means you are destined to lose most political battles because you treat them as scholarly debates and not warfare.
But this was also the point brought out by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton in their terrific book, Banana Republicans, e.g. http://www.prwatch.org/books/bananas.html

Rampton and Stauber observed that  while the Reeps treat political altercations as warfare, Dems treat them like debate society meets. No wonder, the authors noted, the Ds get their butts handed to them so often.
This extends to the current election campaign and how as many Dems are coming down on Bernie Ssanders as dumb Reepos. For example, consider Hillary by contrast. She has no coherent unifying message or narrative as Sanders does with Wall Street and the banksters. This vanilla approach assures her "moderate" wine and brie corporate class dems will be content but not the most energetic partisans - the very type the Ds need to show up at midterms.

By contrast, Sanders' Wall Street theme provides an overarching narrative that can account for all aspects of our misshapen political and economic system. Thus, the Wall Street yen for ever more monies with which to speculate drives the impetus for Social Security (and VA) privatization, the demand  for ever higher share increases for health insurers, like Aetna, UnitedHealth etc.,  forces them to jack up rates leading to ever higher deductibles- as well as closed state  health exchanges (like here in Colo.)  if profit margins don't meet the mark. By the same token, similar pressure on private lenders forces them to insist on ever higher student loan rates - thereby increasing student debt. Meanwhile, Wall Street demand for more mobile global capital and resources leads to more wars and occupations such as Iraq and Afghanistan - but with designed cover stories (if we don't fight them there we fight them here)

Lastly, all these imperatives are driven by the enormous sums of Wall Street money poured into political campaigns which gives the movers and shakers dubs on driving economic policy - as it turns out for both parties. Thus, the infusion of corporate cash into the Dem party essentially breeds political eunuchs, balless wonders with no fight left in them since they're on the take like the Repukes.

Incredibly, the Dems in this critical election year have had a born fighter - Bernie Sanders -  drop into their collective laps,  but they want to eschew him as a full throated class warrior on their behalf. They want to banish him to the political hinterlands using the cowardly ruse of "super delegates" to prevent any breach of their perfectly vanilla Neolib  moderate-corporate  political style. And then these nimrods wonder why they are losing the Millennials in terms of preference and why - as in a poll cited this a.m. on CBS- this demographic believes Socialism can work for them by a 58 percent to 33 percent margin. Capitalism not so much, because it's been perverted by the corporatists and their lackeys into crony capitalism and corporate welfare! This latter will survive so long as corporate money buys our elections and corrupts the process

Will they use him, given most polls show him beating any given Repup? Hell no, because they themselves are too terrified of a real class fighter, given this party is now allied with the monied Overclass.. They have been reduced to ninnies - such as the four economists (Austan Goolsbee, Alan Krrueger, Christina Romer and Laura D'Andrea Tyson) who the idiot media refers to as "liberal" but who are in fact bought and paid for Neoliberals.  These four turkeys - all former WH advisors (no wonder) evidently penned a missive to Sanders,  arguing that the "extreme claims" of his proposals "could undermine the credibility of the progressive agenda".   The honest to God truth? These pawns wouldn't recognize a progressive economic agenda if it bit them in their collective asses.

That's how inured their brains are to real liberalism and its principles, see e.g.
Goolsbee, recall, back in 2011, floated plans for Social Security "fixes" to "insolvency" including privatization. The guy is another Pareto -based economist from the U. of Chicago and totally sympathizes with the Overclass. This is because he and the 3 other econ imps value the Banking hegemony and Wall Street moneymen Sanders has been inveighing against. Why? Well, they are the main pillars of financial support for the Dem party and also probably fund most of Goolsbee's academic research.

As if all this isn't enough we have - from across the 'pond' - another Neolib hack whore  and former Labor PM (Tony Blair) bloviating that Dems must "avoid nominating Sanders" who this dick brain actually compares to the UK's Jeremy Corbyn. See e.g.


For those who need a memory jog,  recall it was Blair who supported Gee Dumbya's invasion of Iraq which has directly brought us the ISIS scourge in the Middle East. That this asshole is even putting his two cents in on an American election - praising Hillary- reminds our citizens which two sides are in play.

Look, if this is how Bernie stands to be treated then perhaps he needs to strike out as an Independent (Democratic SOCIALIST as opposed to "Democrat") and fight the good fight without the pseudo-support of puppets and poltroons using a rigged superdelegate system. I am ready to back him, because I'd rather have a real fighter in my corner than a damned pretender.

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