On Donna Brazile and moving progressive politics forward

I’m no fan of Donna Brazile. As vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) she violated her responsibility to run a fair process by leaking debate questions to the Clinton campaign. It is hard for me to escape the conclusion that Donna’s recent revelations are merely an attempt to curry favor with the newly ascendant lefty faction.

Nevertheless, there is substance to the information she’s provided.

First, you might want to refresh your memory about how the sham transfers between the Hillary Victory Fund (HVF), DNC and state parties worked to flout campaign finance laws. These shenanigans materially impacted state parties and their ability to support candidates. For a real-world example of opportunities lost, look no further than the James Thompson fracas.

As Democrats, we’re presumably committed to good politics and a defensible process. You’d expect us to deal seriously with well-founded claims that one favoured candidate secretly reached an agreement with the DNC (prior to the primaries) to control appointments to key positions. You would of course, be wrong.

There’s no denying that the secret side-letter the Clinton campaign reached with the DNC in August 2015 is problematic. Most defended of HVF’s agreement revolve around the presumption that Clinton was bound to be the nominee, but of course, this side letter is executed about six months before a single person had voted for Clinton to be the nominee. So even if you think Clinton was destined to win the nomination, the wholesale takeover of the DNC by the Clinton campaign. assumed and partially executed by the side-letter, is profoundly un-democratic, solely because it precedes the vote. And that’s before we get to the bit granting the Clinton campaign veto power all DNC communications about ANY primary candidate.

It’s been interesting to see the various dubious theories advanced to exonerate the side-agreement instituted between Hillary For America (HFA)f and the DNC a year before the primary was decided. These include:

  • There was no such agreement, Donna can’t make out 2015 from 2016. A patently false claim, but one made repeatedly.
  • There was a side-agreement but it really applied only to the general election. This claim is made over and over again, even though the secret aide-letter was inked 18 months prior to the election and gave HFA a say in DNC personnel decisions a year before th convention. The sole evidence presented is a transparently CYA clause in the secret side-letter itself.
  • Others have pointed to the fact that this side agreement explicitly permitted the DNC to reach similar agreements with other candidates as exculpatory. That’s a dubious claim since the Clinton campaign had already put its people in place by September 2015. Would this hypothetical other candidate have been allowed to fire these people? By the way, no other candidate (Chafee, O’Malley, Sanders or Webb) has come forward to say they were offered such a side-letter, or notified of its existence with the Clinton campaign.
  • The oft-heard defense that “loyalty” to the party is what drove various DNC staff to favor the Clinton campaign. Folks presenting this defense are applauding machine politics, perhaps unknowingly.
  • A corollary is the claim that the DNC owed nothing to Sen. Sanders because he “isn’t a Democrat”. First, this ignores the fact that he’s caucused with Democrats for decades in Congress and helped co-found the Progressive Caucus. Second, it doesn’t matter, you either run a fair process for all, or you don’t. Finally, the folks advancing this defense are hoping you’ve forgotten that the secret side-agreement also disadvantaged other candidates. Biden for example, did not conclusively rule out a run till October 2015.
  • A particularly pernicious defense is that the Clinton campaign was justified in imposing its will on the DNC because it directed large sums to it. This justification of donor-driven politics would be comical if it weren’t so dangerous. One shudders to think what demands these people believe high-dollar donors should are justified in making of politicians since apparently explicit quid pro quos are acceptable. If this is truly where we are as the “party of the people”, the sale of our democracy to the highest bidder is complete, we just don’t know it because the memorandum recording the sale was shredded.
  • Lastly, my personal favorite: Donna Brazile and Black Lives Matter were pawns in the hands of, you guessed it, the Russians.

There are several others, but time is short and there’s only so much you can do after you bring horses to water.

Here’s the thing, it’s not like the Clinton campaign even had to tilt the scales. They likely would have won anyway. The decision to twist arms at the DNC came from the same galactic brains who tried to run up the score in blue states for a popular vote margin but forgot to lock down the Electoral College. Donna Brazile advocated for such a popular vote focused strategy, which is another reason it makes no sense to throw yourself into the Brazile fan club.

Believe it or not, there’s a silver lining in all this for the left.

The 2016 election cycle and its aftermath make it abundantly clear that the Democratic party’s reigning centrist/third-way faction is in disarray. The DNC can’t seem to tie its own shoelaces, state parties have been intentionally starved of funds, candidates lack resources, and egos rule the roost.

All this disfunction makes the job of returning the party to it’s lefty roots that much easier, if we can provide the momentum forward.

All we have to do is keep working for progressive candidates, continue bringing more people to the party and stay focused on justice and equality.

There’s no reason to expend our considerably energy in futile arguments with defenders of the status-quo and mega-donor driven politics. Most voters have a healthy sense of fair play and respect for fairly run elections. They already know the score and have moved on to think about 2017 and 2018. That, is a winning strategy.

— @subirgrewal

Treasury’s doors are wide open to buy bombs, but we have no money to care for the sick.

The day before President Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea, the Senate passed a bill authorizing another $700bn for the Pentagon.

In a rare act of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill, the Senate passed a $700 billion defense policy bill on Monday that sets forth a muscular vision of America as a global power, with a Pentagon budget that far exceeds what President Trump has asked for.

Senators voted 89-9 to approve the measure, known as the National Defense Authorization Act; the House has already adopted a similar version. — www.nytimes.com/…

Yes, you read that right. The Senate voted to spend even more than the president who wants to “totally destroy” a country with 25 million people in it.

When it’s time to educate our children, or care for the sick, or shelter the homeless, we see no end of hand-wringing about “cost concerns”. But, when it’s time to buy a few bombs, or jets and ships to launch them from, bipartisanship breaks out like a rash in DC. In these trying, divided times, we can still count on both parties to come together and claim the common ground that bombing other (preferably poor and brown) countries is a good thing.

In the bill, lawmakers boosted funding for the F-35 fighter jet by $1.2 billion for 11 more aircraft for a total buy of 74; the F/A-18E/F fighter jet procurement by $979 million for 12 more aircraft. — www.defensenews.com/…

That’s just the acquisition cost. The total cost of the F-35 program is well north of a Trillion dollars. Governing is about choices. We can’t have nice things like free public college, health-care for all and affordable housing, because the military-industrial-complex wants F-35s. So instead of building housing for our own people, we blow up houses across the world. Instead of paying for health-care for our own people, we kill and maim others across the world. Instead of paying to educate our children, we drop bombs on children somewhere else. Last year alone, we dropped 26,000 bombs.

After all, our politicians know there is no cost to starting wars, even when they lie to the American population to start them. They can expect to be invited to the talk show circuit and cocktail parties just like George W. Bush is. They can count on the media, and documentary filmmakers, to whitewash their actions as “honest mistakes” made by “well-meaning” people.

There are eight senators who voted against the National Defense Authorization Act. Rand Paul (R-KY) voted No because he wants to revoke the AUMFs for the 15 and 16 year old wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Mike Lee (R-UT) is concerned about the cost of our war budget. Bob Corker (R-TN) voted No because he’s deeply concerned about spending levels, he released this statement:

“Unfortunately, this legislation not only blows the budget caps by nearly $83 billion but also exceeds the president’s funding request by more than $32 billion and continues the abuse of OCO as a budget gimmick. While I support investing the appropriate resources to ensure our troops have the tools they need, we cannot continue to do things the same way and deepen the fiscal crisis jeopardizing our national security.” — www.chattanoogan.com/…

Patrick Leahy (D-VT) objects to the process and to the bloated bill. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is concerned about waste in the DoD contracts and overall spending on war given other priorities. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has not released a statement but her objections are likely along the same lines. Gillibrand did propose an amendment to overturn Trump’s transgender ban (it was not included in the bill). Wyden (D-OR) and Merkley (D-OR) have voted No in prior years. Sen. Wyden issued this statement to explain his No vote:

“I can’t sign off on another bill that OKs massive increases in military spending, including unnecessary military hardware even the Trump administration didn’t ask for. All this, when Congress can’t figure out how to pay for new roads, bridges, schools and other priorities Americans desperately need to create jobs.”  — www.wyden.senate.gov/…

The House passed the bill back in July, the vote was 344-81.

We have been at war almost without exception, somewhere in the world, for the past 100 years. We’ve currently got special forces deployed in 70 countries.

Here’s then MP, Tony Benn’s speech in the House of Commons in 2003. He went on to chair the Stop the Wars coalition.

If we want single payer healthcare, progressives have to pressure the Democratic leadership

Meet the Press had Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) on today to talk Health-Care. Cassidy made headlines in May for insisting any healthcare plan meet “the Jimmy Kimmel test”. Cassidy supposedly agrees that healthcare is a right. The devil though, is in the details, and when he began talking about letting state legislatures and governors determine what was “affordable”, I realized it’s just a talking point for him, to appear “bipartisan”.

Block grants, or state administered programs allow Republicans to play the game they’ve been playing for several decades. Attacks on progressive programs generally fail under the bright lights of Congress, so they fall back to the dimmer rooms of 50 separate legislatures. That’s how the Voting Rights Act, Medicaid, SNAP and unemployment assistance have been gutted, with 50 small cuts and bruises.

If you believe healthcare is a right, there is a simple solution to achieve that right. Rep. John Conyers Jr.’s Medicare for All bill provides universal coverage and expands Medicare benefits in critical ways. HR 676 has more co-sponsors than it’s ever had before (113). Almost 60% of the Democratic caucus supports it.

But crucially, the Democratic Leadership in the House and the Senate does not. This is surprising because Medicare for All is extremely popular policy.

60% of Americans support Medicare-for-All, 23% are opposed and 17% aren’t sure (full poll results). Contrast the Democrats’ “caution” with the actions of the Republican leadership.

ACHA is very unpopular and the GOP is pushing ahead; single payer is very popular and Dem leadership won’t get behind it. Says everything. — @freddiedeboer

3 out of 4 Americans who have an opinion on it want Medicare for All. And yet, here we are wondering why the Democratic leadership won’t get behind it, and I don’t have a good explanation. Please help me out here, and not with some cockamamie story about the country being “center right”. Because on this issue, the country is pretty firmly hard left.

Our leadership is supposed to you know, lead. Propose policies and then gather public support for them. Medicare for All has massive levels of support among Americans. So half the work is done already. If the Democratic leadership isn’t leading us in the direction of Medicare-for-All, then they’re leading us away from it. To what exactly?

And it’s not even like the Democratic leadership support state-level “experimentation” with single-payer.

To get the leadership on board, we have to press them on it, so we can join every other OECD country in providing health care for all. It sounds radical now, but it is far less radical than it was three years ago. Remember when a $15 minimum wage sounded radical?

Wait, what’s this? Senate and House Democratic leaders joined progressives and got behind the Raise the Wage Act which would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 over time? Why yes, they did.

The energy and the momentum is with Medicare-for-All.

The alternative is a loss of momentum.


Bernie Sanders: How Democrats Can Stop Losing Elections

Bernie at the People’s Summit, a Rainbow coalition.

The NY Times has an Op-Ed by Bernie Sanders up, advocating the Democratic party adopt a more progressive agenda.

Bernie Sanders: How Democrats Can Stop Losing Elections

In 2016, the Democratic Party lost the presidency to possibly the least popular candidate in American history. In recent years, Democrats have also lost the Senate and House to right-wing Republicans whose extremist agenda is far removed from where most Americans are politically. Republicans now control almost two-thirds of governor’s offices and have gained about 1,000 seats in state legislatures in the past nine years. In 24 states, Democrats have almost no political influence at all.

Bernie argues that the right way to reverse this decline is with a progressive agenda that shows working people the party is firmly on their side. He notes that the sharp spike in participation among young people in the UK is an example of how a progressive platform can help drive voter turnout among the young.

The Democrats must develop an agenda that speaks to the pain of tens of millions of families who are working longer hours for lower wages and to the young people who, unless we turn the economy around, will have a lower standard of living than their parents. A vast majority of Americans understand that our current economic model is a dismal failure. Who can honestly defend the current grotesque level of inequality in which the top 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent? Who thinks it’s right that, despite a significant increase in worker productivity, millions of Americans need two or three jobs to survive, while 52 percent of all new income goes to the top 1 percent? What person who claims to have a sense of morality can justify the fact that the richest people in our country have a life expectancy about 15 years longer than our poorest citizens?

Bernie highlights a number of issues he believes Democrats should campaign on and how these can be contrasted with Trump’s plans and those of the GOP’s billionaire masters. The list includes Medicare for All, a progressive tax system, an infrastructure plan, action on climate change, free public college, criminal justice reform and comprehensive immigration reform. Some of these issues have been part of the mainstream Democratic agenda for a while, others have been languishing in the progressive caucus for years. Bernie argues it is time for Democrats adopt an unabashedly progressive platform.

While Democrats should appeal to moderate Republicans who are disgusted with the Trump presidency, too many in our party cling to an overly cautious, centrist ideology. The party’s main thrust must be to make politics relevant to those who have given up on democracy and bring millions of new voters into the political process. It must be prepared to take on the right-wing extremist ideology of the Koch brothers and the billionaire class, and fight for an economy and a government that work for all, not just the 1 percent.

In many ways, the Democratic party has already begun moving in the direction Bernie is advocating for. John Conyers Jr. who has been a relentless voice for Medicare-for-All (and sponsor of the bill Bernie advocated for on the campaign trail) is seeing more Congressional Democrats than ever support his plan. Rep. Bobby Scott (VA-3), Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-5), Sen. Patty Murray (WA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) introduced a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $15. They are supported by the Democratic leadership.

— @subirgrewal

Bernie Sanders says Jeremy Corbyn is “doing exactly what I am trying to do”

James Corbyn’s proved himself to be a tenacious leader. He was chosen by rank and file members to be the Labour party’s leader after their disastrous showing in the 2015 general election. Though Labour’s centrist MPs mounted a no-confidence campaign against Corbyn after the EU referendum, he won the leadership position again, with an even larger portion of the vote.

Now, Corbyn faces his first general election contest. When Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May first called the snap election (reversing her own public statements), Labour was down over 23 points to the Tories. It looked like the Labour party was heading for a historic defeat.

There is little love lost between Corbyn and Labour’s third-way wing. Tony Blair suggested in April that Labour voters should consider voting for the Conservative party or Liberal Democrats.

He also praised Theresa May, arguing: “She’s very sensible, she’s a very decent person, she’s very solid, I agree with a lot she says.”

Mr Blair has previously admitted that he “wouldn’t want to win on an old-fashioned leftist platform” like Jeremy Corbyn’s, “even if I thought it was the route to victory”.

Continue reading “Bernie Sanders says Jeremy Corbyn is “doing exactly what I am trying to do””

DNC lawyers say it can pick candidates in smoke-filled back-room

For the DNC, the fallout from the presidential primary is not yet over.

In the conduct and management of the affairs and procedures of the Democratic National Committee, particularly as they apply to the preparation and conduct of the Presidential nomination process, the Chairperson shall exercise impartiality and even handedness as between the Presidential candidates and campaigns. The Chairperson shall be responsible for ensuring that the national officers and staff of the Democratic National Committee maintain impartiality and even-handedness during the Democratic Party Presidential nominating process. — Democratic party charter/by-laws

That section of the charter is the subject of a class-action lawsuit by Sanders supporters and DNC donors. The plaintiffs claim the DNC violated its own by-laws and was not impartial during the 2016 presidential primary race.

The DNC’s lawyers had an interesting defense at the initial hearing:

“We could have voluntarily decided that, ‘Look, we’re gonna go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way,’” Bruce Spiva, lawyer for the DNC, said during a court hearing in Carol Wilding, et al. v. DNC Services Corp., according to court filings exclusively obtained by TYT Politics. […]

In one of the more strange defense rationales, Spiva evoked baptism to suggest the term “impartial” is too vague and open-to-interpretation to be enforced legally.

“You have a charter that says you have to be — where the party has adopted a principle of even-handedness, and just to get the language exactly right, that they would be even-handed and impartial, I believe, is the exact language. And, you know, that’s not self-defining, your Honor. I mean that’s kind of like, you know, saying, Who’s a Baptist?”

Jordan Chariton (TYT) on Medium

Now, as an occasional cigar-smoker, I object to the stereotype, but I’ll let it slide, this one time.

The attorney for the plaintiffs pointed out that DNC officials, including chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz repeated the impartiality claim on television numerous times.

The DNC’s lawyers aren’t addressing that. Instead, they’re trying to undermine the expectation of impartiality itself. Claiming that it is too vague and not enforceable.

“There’s no right to not have your candidate disadvantaged or have another candidate advantaged. There’s no contractual obligation here . . . it’s not a situation where a promise has been made that is an enforceable promise,” Spiva said.

— Salon

The DNC lawyer’s argument is this: The charter is crafted in such a way that what appears to the average person to be a promise of impartiality isn’t one at all. It’s all an illusion. What Democrats have is just a “political promise”.

The most recent court hearing on the case was held on April 25, during which the DNC reportedly argued that the organization’s neutrality among Democratic campaigns during the primaries was merely a “political promise,” and therefore it had no legal obligations to remain impartial throughout the process. — Newsweek

An uncharitable view would be that the actions of DNC officials were indefensible, and so this is the only defense their legal team could come up with.

Let’s be charitable for a moment. Maybe this is just a legal tactic, the quickest way for the DNC’s lawyers to get this case dismissed. Let’s accept their claim that there’s no “enforceable promise” so we don’t waste the court’s time trying to figure out whether or not the DNC was actually impartial. Let’s agree with them that impartiality is undefined, and there’s no measurable standard to apply to the DNC official’s actions.Now, let’s take this line of thought to its conclusion. The DNC claims:

  • the charter authorizes them to pick a candidate in a proverbial cigar smoke-filled backroom.
  • “impartiality” is so vague a concept that DNC officials can, with impunity, take actions to favor whichever candidate they wish.
  • impartiality is a “political promise”, and we all know those are worth squat amiright?

What then, is the purpose of the entire primary charade? To give Democrats the illusion that they have an actual say in who heads the ticket? To lull us into believing Democrats actually stand for democracy?

Does anyone at the DNC understand what calls for “unity” look like in this light?

Does anyone at the DNC understand what this argument does to their credibility in the future?

Does anyone at the DNC understand what happens when politicians break a “political promise”?

— @subirgrewal

Cal Democratic party chair elected by 62 delegate margin, is being contested.

There continue to be several fissures in the Democratic party as competing factions jockey for party positions and the future direction of the party. One of those fissures opened in dramatic fashion at the California Democratic party’s convention last weekend. We had a really good diary recounting a view from on the ground at the convention, where Los Angeles County chair Eric Bauman was elected to the state party chairmanship with a slender margin of 62 votes, out of over 3,000 cast.

The saga continues because Bauman’s opponent, Kimberly Ellis has not conceded the election and there is a review underway:

“I will not concede this race until we have validated the results,” Ellis said. […]

Ellis said she met with California Democratic Party staff and executives and “shared with them some concerns” with some

Kimberly Ellis

of the voters that were cast. Ellis supporters are questioning whether all the votes came from credentialed party delegates.

“One of the things that party cannot be is a party that’s just like Trump and the Republicans,” Ellis told the crowd. “A party that operates in closed rooms, smoked-filled rooms, behind curtains, in secrecy and shadow. It is time for this party to be a transparent party.” […]

Ellis was the director of Emerge California, a Bay Area nonprofit organization that trains Democratic women to run for office.

Though Ellis supported Hillary Clinton in the presidential primary, former Bernie supporters, including the National Nurses Union and Our Revolution backed Ellis and she emerged as an unexpectedly strong challenger.

Bauman was the state party’s vice-chair for the prior term. When announcing his candidacy, he said the party needed to welcome fresh voices. But news that Bauman’s consulting firm received $12,500 a month from the pharmaceutical industry to help defeat Prop 61 didn’t help him win over progressives. Prop 61 would have capped prices paid by the state of California for drugs at levels the VA pays, though there was a lot of discussion about secondary effects of the bill.

In an interview with The Real News, former Sanders-surrogate and Our Revolution board-member Nina Turner discussed what happened at the CA convention:

It’s a very influential position and it became the target, or the focal point, of what is really an ongoing civil war in many ways between the Sanders forces, who describe themselves as “progressive,” they want single-payer healthcare, Medicare for all, $15. But most importantly, they don’t want to raise money from billionaires. They want to raise money from the general public, and that’s a point of great division in the party right now, and it was a point of great division at the California convention. […]

RoseAnn DeMoro, the leader of the nurses, said something in her speech during the convention that I think is worth noting.

What she said was, there is not going to be consensus or unity for the sake of unity; that the Democrats have to show that they really are the party of the people. And that message is not just for California Democrats; that message is for the DNC as well […]

But what I will give the California Democrats credit for, and maybe it’s because the Berniecrats were such a force, is that there was no illusion there. Folks knew that there was tension in the room. They knew that it was a fight between these so-called establishment Clinton Democrats and people who are more on the progressive side. That wasn’t hid. […]

But the beauty of this, Paul, is even though she lost – and I want our viewers to understand this – sister Fantasia, the singer, said it this way; she said, “Sometimes you’ve got to lose to win again” – the fact that she only lost by 62 votes says a lot. The fact that the establishment-backed candidate, who had every big name, had more money, more influence, more power only won by 62 votes, that the California Democratic Party is really split between the progressive wing and the establishment wing says that progress has been made.

Sanders backers had won the majority of elected positions in California’s party re-organization, but these posts accounted for only a third of delegates, the remaining two thirds were Democratic County Central Committee appointments and elected officials along with their appointees.

In a statement posted to Facebook, Ellis had this to say about the review of ballots underway:

It is critical that the delegation has confidence in the outcome of this Chair’s race so that we might move forward, irrespective of whomever wins. Should the election results stand, we will congratulate Eric on his well earned success.

As reported by the San Jose Mercury News, the new party leadership believes it can lay concerns to rest after a review of all ballots which is currently underway:

“They’re not redoing anything,” said Steve Maviglio, a Democratic strategist hired Sunday by the party to handle communications about the controversy. “They’re just literally looking at the ballots.”

Eric Bauman

In a lengthy, nine-point email sent to reporters Tuesday, Maviglio dismissed speculation about “ballot stuffing” and other ways the election might have been rigged. He said that the ballot boxes “are constantly monitored” during voting, with observers from each side, and that they are opened with those observers present.

The delegates’ ballots, which Maviglio said were counted twice on Saturday, are not secret.

“Any suspected problem ballot can be individually identified, tracked and segregated from the rest of the vote,” he said. “For this reason, the proverbial bad apple cannot spoil the bunch.”

Maviglio seems to be pretty confident the review will validate Bauman’s win, though he does seem to have a bee in his bonnet about the National Nurses Union: