Tag Archives: Congressional Progressive Caucus

Why I’m on board with Bernie

Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders acknowledges the audience's applause at a campaign event in Des Moines

Reuters photo

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders waves to his audience at a packed Drake University auditorium in Des Moines, Iowa, on Friday. Sanders has surged in recent New Hampshire polling but still has work to do in Iowa toward winning the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination. 

Americans apparently still are hungry for the hope and change that they ubiquitously were promised back in 2007 and 2008. That, I think, helps to explain why U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is doing better in his quest for the White House than even he ever had anticipated that he would.

Initially written off as a dark-horse candidate at best and a joke at worst (replete with mad-scientist-like flyaway hair), Sanders is in the news lately for polling quite competitively in New Hampshire, the first state to hold a presidential primary election (on February 9), right after Iowa’s caucuses (on February 1).

Sanders (who as of late has had his flyaway hair under remarkable control) reaps not only the allegiance of those of us (including yours truly) who still are waiting for that once-much-promised hope and change, but reaps also the anyone-but-Billary vote, since the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden very apparently aren’t running.

This is no poor reflection upon Sanders; you – or at least I – go with the most-progressive-yet-still-viable presidential candidate, and Sanders fits the bill. And kudos to Sanders for not being too timid to compete against Queen Billary, who deserves a coronation now no more than she did in 2008.

It is to Sanders’ credit that until now, with his presidential run, he has not identified with the Democratic Party, but has been an independent, a self-identified democratic socialist (I’ve seen “democratic” there capitalized by some, but that’s quite incorrect), ever since he joined Congress in 1991.

Not that this is good enough for everyone.

Fellow leftist Chris “Chicken Little” Hedges, with whom I agree on most things but whose frequent hysteria and hyperbole make me look quite tame by comparison, has remarked that Sanders “lacks [Ralph] Nader’s moral fortitude” and that Sanders “will, when it is all done, push his followers into the vampire-like embrace of Hillary Clinton. He is a Pied Piper leading a line of children or rats — take your pick — into political oblivion.”

Wow. Condescending and reductionist. (And again: hyperbolic and hysterical.) I support Sanders now (he’s a Democrat in name only, but in a good way, for once), but I won’t vote for or otherwise support Billary Clinton (who’s a Democrat in name only in a bad way) in any shape, way, manner or form. Sanders is not a gateway drug who will lead me into the Billary camp; he will not lead me, like a mindless child or rat, into “political oblivion,” as I’m quite capable of thinking for myself.

Sanders has stated that he had to decide whether to run for president as an independent, as Ralph Nader* has done, or to run as a Democrat, since it’s much harder for an independent to run for president than it is for someone who is aligned with one of the duopolistic parties. I don’t fault Sanders for deciding to run on the Democratic Party ticket, and while Ralph Nader, as much as we might want to vaunt him (and I do admire Nader quite a lot), never has won elected office**, Sanders has been in the U.S. House of Representatives (from 1991 to 2007) and in the U.S. Senate (from 2007 to present), at least pressing for progressive change (Sanders co-founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus his very first year in Congress and chaired it in its first eight years of existence), albeit with the constriction of being the only self-identified democratic socialist in Congress and more or less being able to caucus only with Democrats.

Chris Hedges proclaims that in November 2016 he most likely will vote for the Green Party presidential candidate, whomever that turns out to be, and that’s fine; that’s Hedges’ choice. I voted for Ralph Nader when he ran on the Green Party ticket in 2000, almost voted for Nader in 2008, and I voted for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein in 2012. (In 2004 I voted for John Kerry, as ousting George W. Bush from office was my No. 1 goal, and from the get-go I saw Kerry as the candidate best able to oust the incumbent [and ousting an incumbent president is usually quite difficult], and in 2008 I fell enough for the promises of “hope” and “change” to vote for Barack Obama.)

If Sanders doesn’t win the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination, there’s a good chance that, like Hedges, in November 2016 I’ll vote for the Green Party presidential candidate, of which I have a history.*** (I know that I won’t vote for Billary, no matter what. No, I never would vote for a Repugnican, but that doesn’t mean that I’d have to vote for Billary, because I don’t and I won’t.)

But let’s face it: the Green Party is incredibly politically weak. True, that’s in no small part because the duopolistic parties do their best to kill third parties and independent candidates (which is why the independent Sanders isn’t running for president as an independent or on a third-party ticket), but at the same time, Hedges and his ilk encourage us to tilt at windmills (such as by supporting the Green Party) to the point that it’s abusive.

It strikes me that the Green Party had an opportunity to grow since 2000, but has squandered the opportunity – in no small part, of course, because getting leftists on the same page is like herding cats on crack on a hot tin roof.

Chris Hedges calls for all-out revolution, and while an all-out revolution would be great (indeed, I’m reading Hedges’ current book, Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt, right now), it seems to me that we’re still fairly far away from the critical mass that is necessary for one. “Every action we take now must be directed at ripping down the structures of the corporate state. This means refusing to cooperate [such as in the duopolistic electoral process]. It means joining or building radical mass movements,” Hedges proclaims, and again, while I’d love a progressive revolution, and while I suppose that a revolution (a progressive or a regressive one) could erupt in the United States (revolutions often erupt taking everyone by surprise), the fizzle of the Occupy movement leads me to surmise that a progressive revolution isn’t going to happen in the United States soon.

And to paraphrase war criminal Donald Rumsfeld, you go to political war with the army that you have, not with the army that you wish you had. Just as I saw John Kerry as the best “army” to defeat incumbent George W. Bush in 2004, I see Bernie Sanders as the best shot for an actually progressive White House come January 2017.

Hedges, of course, disagrees. “Any further energy invested in these elections, including championing Bernie Sanders’ ill-advised decision to validate the Democratic Party by becoming one of its presidential candidates, is a waste of time,” Hedges, whose columns so often read like fatwas, proclaims, but real-world politics is about getting the most that you can get under the conditions that you actually have while doing your best to improve those conditions. Real-world politics is not about pouting and repeatedly supporting the Green Party candidate who has a snowball’s chance in hell of ever winning, which is tantamount to scooping up all of your marbles and storming home in a huff. (And isn’t supporting the Green Party candidate still participating in the system that needs to be overthrown?)

I don’t see that Bernie Sanders is “validating” the Democratic Party by having become one of its presidential candidates, especially when he has identified himself as an independent and a democratic socialist since at least 1991 and clearly has explained why he is running on the Democratic ticket (again, it’s a procedural thing, not his agreement, tacit or otherwise, with the direction in which the Democratic Party has gone). I see that Sanders apparently is trying to change the Democratic Party from within, which is much more likely to succeed than is the national electoral success of a progressive third party. (Again, the Green Party remains weak and will remain weak for some time; only under a parliamentarian system, it seems to me, could the Green Party flourish in the United States.)

Bernie Sanders might not succeed in winning the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination. While he obviously is politically stronger than he has been considered to be (even by himself, apparently) – he seems to have roused a sleepy giant, one that has been disappointed profoundly by Barack Obama – I concede that of course he might not succeed in his quest for the White House.

But it is a worthy quest to at least try to elect the most progressive president that we can, and while that’s still a possibility, I’m on board with Bernie Sanders.

P.S. I found it interesting to read that musician Neil Young, who has a problem with plutocratic jackass Donald Trump having used his song “Rockin’ in the Free World” without permission during his bogus presidential campaign rollout, supports Bernie Sanders…

*Nader ran for president on the Green Party ticket in 1996 and 2000 and as an independent in 2004 and 2008.

**That’s not a slam, and perhaps Nader has been most effective fighting from the outside. In any event, the fight can and should be fought from both within and from without the current corrupt system, it seems to me; this either-or, puritanical bullshit doesn’t sit well with me. Politics isn’t pure; it’s a dirty game.

***Having lived in the very blue state of California since 1998, it doesn’t matter whether I vote for the Democratic presidential candidate or not; the Democratic presidential candidate always wins California and all of its electoral votes in the winner-takes-call Electoral College, which needs to be scrapped for a simple popular vote of the U.S. president. (The last time that a Repugnican presidential candidate won California was in 1988.)

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Liz’s new gig: Being the only real Democrat in the room

U.S. Senator Warren stands behind Senate Majority Leader Reid after leadership elections for the Congress in Washington

Reuters photo

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts listens to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada as he announces the Democratic Senate leadership lineup for the two-year congressional session that begins in January.

We may never know exactly how or why it came to be that U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has been given a Democratic Senate leadership position created just for her. ABC News has described the position as “liaison to liberal groups to ensure they have a voice in leadership meetings and discussions, according to a source familiar with the role.

The Huffington Post reported this reaction to the news:

“A liaison to liberals? I’ve never heard of such a thing,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), throwing his hands in the air. “I asked her about it and she said she was some kind of adviser. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what that all means.”

I’ll help Tommy Boy out:

With “Democrats” like, say, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who apparently believes that the predictably environmentally disastrous and good-only-for-the-plutocrats Keystone XL oil pipeline should be shoved down our throats in order to help her win re-election that she very apparently cannot win anyway, um, yeah, it’s time for the Democratic Party to finally fucking return to its progressive roots, from which it strayed no later than during Bill Clinton’s presidency, in which he repeatedly sold out the American people for his own political convenience (“welfare reform,” NAFTA, DOMA, etc.).

Undoubtedly, a President Billary would sell us out just as her hubby did, and we’ll see how much the Clintonian Barack Obama will sell us out during his remaining two years in office.

It is long past time for what remains of the Democratic Party to come together and proclaim:

If you are a politician in a backasswards (redundant) red state (such as Landrieu is), then become a Repugnican already. Just do it. Don’t fucking call yourself a “Democrat.” Because if you are espousing right-wing causes (such as the construction of an oil pipeline that is only meant to make a few filthy rich people even richer, the environment be damned), then you are a treasonous wingnut, and your place is within the Repugnican Tea Party. Stop further tarnishing the Democratic Party brand name with your right-wing bullshit and join the enemy already.

I only hope that Elizabeth Warren, despite her assertion that “Nobody’s clipping my wings,” didn’t strike a deal with the devil – namely, such as with the Billary Clinton camp (perhaps even with The Horned One Herself); and specifically, a deal to not run against Billary in 2016 in exchange for the newly created Senate leadership position.

In any event, Warren apparently rejects her job description as a liaison to the liberals. Huff Po again:

“[Soon-to-be Democratic Senate Minority Leader] Harry [Reid] asked me to be a strategic policy adviser, because that’s what I talk about, I talk about policy — college affordability and minimum wage and Social Security,” [Warren] said. “And that’s what I’m supposed to do and that’s what I will do. That’s my portfolio.”

You say potato, I say potato.

The gargantuan problem of income inequality mostly has been ignored by the Democratic Party during Obama’s tenure (as it was during Bill Clinton’s), and while I think of the striving toward socioeconomic equality and socioeconomic justice as progressivism rather than as “liberalism” (really, “liberals” – DINOs – like the Clintons have given the word “liberal” a bad name), yes, indeed, the Democratic Party has come off the rails to the extent that it sorely needs to be put back on track.

So while I personally eschew the word “liberal” because many if not most of those who call themselves “liberal” aren’t at all progressive (they want to be selfish, evil assholes, but they also don’t want the stigma of calling themselves Republicans, since Republicans are so widely reviled, so they call themselves “liberals”), Warren’s new job description – in her own words – does indeed sound like she’ll be a liaison to progressives (at least in part).

Every Democrat in D.C. should be a liaison to progressives, but, I suppose, it’s better to have one than none.

(Well, we have some progressives in D.C., such as U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, but, interestingly, Wikipedia’s entry on the Congressional Progressive Caucus states that while 68 House members are part of the caucus, the entry lists only Sanders as the sole U.S. senator on the caucus. That’s way beyond fucked up. [Sanders, recall, calls himself a democratic socialist – and he’s the only such one in the U.S. Senate. He caucuses with the Democrats but does not call himself one, although he has considered running for the 2016 presidency on the Democratic Party ticket.])

We Americans still sorely need a new New Deal, which Obama at least quasi-promised but never delivered.

And without real Democrats/progressives like Elizabeth Warren – and Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich (whose “Inequality for All” you should watch if you haven’t already) – pushing for a new New Deal, with our help,  it won’t materialize, because the establishmentarian “Democrats” are too fat, lazy and comfortable feeding from the corporate trough to lift a fucking finger for the American people (except, perhaps, to extend their middle fingers to the American people) – which is why, I believe, they lose elections.

Maybe, just maybe, the elevation of Elizabeth Warren to a leadership post is at least the dim recognition of the Democratic Party hacks that without the party’s base on board, the party is weaker and is going to continue to flounder, at least in midterm elections.

What we progressives cannot allow Warren’s promotion to be is a substitute for the actual progressivism that the Democratic Party abandoned some time ago.

We allow DINO Billary Clinton into the White House at our own peril.

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