Saturday, April 02, 2016

My Rebuttal to Carles Blow's ridicule of the Bernie or Bust movement

See the article at

If Sanders wins the nomination, liberals should rally round him. Conversely, if Clinton does, they should rally round her.
Liberals surely will rally around him if Sanders wins. But why should they rally around Clinton if she wins? She is demonstrably NOT a liberal on economic issues. So, no, they should not and many of them will not rally around her if she wins (as indeed the poll you cite indicates).

When Al Gore ran against George W. Bush in 2000, some claimed that a vote for Gore was almost the same as a vote for Bush and encouraged people to cast protest votes for Ralph Nader. Sarandon supported Nader during that election. Bush became president, and what did we get? Two incredibly young, incredibly conservative justices, John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr., who will be on the court for decades, and two wars — in Afghanistan and Iraq — that, together, lasted over a decade.
In addition to setting the tone and direction of the country, the president has some constitutional duties that are profound and consequential. They include being commander in chief, making treaties and appointing judges, including, most importantly, justices to the Supreme Court. Bush demonstrated the consequences of that. 

Okay, this seems like a good point on its face: If Susan Sarandon hadn't made the "mistake" of supporting Ralph Nader in 2000, maybe we would have had a Gore presidency and averted the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the conservative Supreme Court appointees.

What's flawed in this argument, however, is that it doesn't proceed to its logical conclusion: that a Gore administration (which, evidently, Sarandon and others considered closely-enough-bad to a Bush presidency) would NOT have invaded Iraq, and would have nominated justices who were more "progressive".

As it turns out upon close analysis, this isn't at all necessarily so. Without the famous, supposedly liberal, NYT-published Judith Miller "endorsement" of the Iraq War (as it were), it's unlikely that Bush would ever have gotten a sizable number of Congressional Democrats to support the war resolution and thus have gone to war. If the Democratic-affiliated NYT can so easily push for this sort of aggressive and expansionist foreign policy, then I'm not at all convinced that a Gore administration would have not asked Congress to virtually declare war.

What Blow and many establishment pundits don't get, is that true policy differences are no longer divided along partisan fault lines, but along establishment/revolution battle lines. Establishment Democrats are more liberal only on social policies. When it comes to things that really matter to working-class Americans --as in the kind of policies that will affect their paychecks-- there was no demonstrable difference between Gore and Bush, just as there isn't any in the current election cycle between a hypothetical matchup between Jeb Bush (he has already dropped out) and Hillary Clinton, both members of the aristocratic power establishment.

Ditto to Blow's point about the Prez's power to nominate liberal justices: Sanders supporters and true progressives don't care about Elena Kagan and Sanya Sotomayor -type liberals. They are liberal about social policy alright (gay marriage, abortion, etc...) but these are distractors. The real challenge is overturning Citizens united, reforming the tax code, ending the corporate loopholes, taxing investments, ending foreign entanglement. Clinton stands for none of the above. Trump does stand for some of them. If anything, Trump is likely to nominate justices who are more favorable to the working class in those respects. What's more, it could be argued that his nominations could sail through Congress breezily since the Obama-obstructionist right-wing will now supposedly be on the same party Prez's side.
 The real estate developer is now talking carelessly about promoting nuclear proliferation and torture (then there’s Ted Cruz’s talk of carpet bombing and glowing sand).
He's completely taking Trump out of context here. Chris Mathews asked Trump whether he would take the nuclear option off the table. He responded with the common-sensical: why do we have nukes if they are not on the table? Mathews then continued to press Trump on whether he would use them on China, Europe etc... I was, frankly, disgusted by his line of questioning, which was obviously meant to fearmonger the audience. Why doesn't Mathews ask this question ANY OTHER candidate? Would Clinton or Sanders or Cruz answer any differently? If so, they're either fools or lying. OF COURSE it's on the table. It doesn't mean that it's even remotely LIKELY that nukes will be used in any given presidential tenure. But it's possible. (Recall that at the height of the Cold War, c. 1960, most people believed nuclear war was imminent. They would have been astonished and appalled by a presidential candidate running on a platform of taking nukes off the table).

Regarding torture, I know that many libs are against torture. Personally, I agree with Trump and other Republicans that there was and is nothing wrong with waterboarding and other torturous (a.k.a. "enhanced interrogation") techniques to extract information from suspects, in the interest of investigating an imminent national threat. I am surprised at how forgetful people are of 9/11 and the consequent necessity to gather intelligence by all reasonable means on possible future attacks. Is torture of a suspected terrorist enemy-sympathizer too high a price to pay for our national security? I don't think so!

I would in fact go a step further and support such torture even against American nationals (who are public enemies and have information that could avert a public disaster). And, no, I don't think this is prohibited by the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment, since this it is investigative in nature, not punitive.

Furthermore, Toobin laid out the diversity of the Obama transformation, writing:
“Sheldon Goldman, a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a scholar of judicial appointments, said, ‘The majority of Obama’s appointments are women and nonwhite males.’ Forty-two percent of his judgeships have gone to women. Twenty-two percent of George W. Bush’s judges and 29 percent of Bill Clinton’s were women. Thirty-six percent of President Obama’s judges have been minorities, compared with 18 percent for Bush and 24 percent for Clinton.”
And beyond war and courts, there is the issue of inclusion.
Take Obama’s legacy on gay rights. He signed the bill repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.” And in 2012, Obama became the first sitting president to support same-sex marriage. Last year, Obama became the first president to say “lesbian,” “transgender” and “bisexual” in a State of the Union speech.
Of more substance, according to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute:
“To date, the Obama-Biden Administration has appointed more than 250 openly LGBT professionals to full-time and advisory positions in the executive branch; more than all known LGBT appointments of other presidential administrations combined.”
There is no reason to believe that this level of acceptance would continue under the real estate developer’s administration. In fact, the Huffington Post Queer Voices editor at large Michelangelo Signorile wrote an article in February titled, “No, LGBT People Aren’t Exempt from Donald Trump’s Blatant Bigotry,” responding to a trending idea that the Republican front-runner wasn’t as bad for queer people as other Republican candidates:
“It’s absolutely false — he’s as extreme as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and will do nothing for LGBT rights — and it’s time to disabuse the media and everyone else of this notion once and for all.”
To summarize: Blow argues that the current Obama administration, as well as a Clinton or Sanders administration, would be active in appointing more federal operatives who are:
  • women
  • black
  • Latino
  • LGBT
But I find this argument (a little but) not much worse than the argument to vote for Hillary because she's a woman. Whenever we address the question of how inclusive our civil service sector should be, the first thing we ought to ask ourselves is: are we talking about appointing a minority person because they belong to a disadvantaged group or despite that. There is a big difference. The former is affirmative action and is contentious policy; the latter is just, fair and open-minded policy. There is, in my view, no moral imperative to appoint minorities because they are minorities --to give them a leg up in the hiring/appointment process even if they do not measure up to the talent and qualifications exhibited by other, majority-identified candidates.

If Obama's reasoning in appointing two women, one of them Latino, to the highest judicial office is that we ought to make a symbolic overture to show that such underrepresented groups are fully equal citizens and nurtured and respected by our society, even if they are not the most highly qualified candidates --a compelling, though controversial argument to make--, let us yet at least agree that it is not a national priority above the problem of money in politics, and gross income and wealth inequality. If we are forced to choose between a candidate who does not support affirmative action but does support campaign finance/wealth distribution reform, on the one hand; and a candidate who does support affirmative action with respect to public servant appointments but does not support the above reforms -- I, and other BernieOrBusters affirm that the former (Trump) trumps the latter (Clinton) on this.

Then there are all the other promises — threats? — the real estate developer has made. He has said he would deport all undocumented immigrants, build a border wall between the United States and Mexico, end birthright citizenship, dismantle Obamacare and replace it with something “terrific” (whatever that means), defund Planned Parenthood and temporarily ban most foreign Muslims from coming to this country, among other things.
I find none of the above proposals terribly offensive. Hey, I am generally pragmatic when it comes to public policy. I want to see politicians who represent my interests. Frankly, as Rick from Casablanca would say, I stick my neck out for no one. EVEN IF (and this is a big if) it is morally wrong to do all or some of the above things, it is very far-fetched to argue that such policies affect me or other working class Americans negatively, or will do so in the future. Conversely, the positive consequences are fairly concrete: higher wages for Americans if illegals immigrants are deported, less public expense for children of illegal immigrants who come here for the express purpose of achieving birthright citizenship for their children and thus anchoring the whole family here, and so on.

Again, I grant that these are arguable points. But what I'm saying is that they are abstract moral questions with no absolutely definitive answer. What a working-class person does know for sure and feel it in their bones every day is that health care for all would be a huge relief, that higher education for all would be an enormous benefit, and that better infrastructure and better-paying jobs would make life for working-class citizens so much better. Those are the things Sanders fights for, not a pseudo-liberalist platform which centers on social issues and is meant as a red herring to divert our attention from the stuff that is consequential, namely the economic issues.

It is unfortunate for Sanders, who seems infinitely sober and sensible, that some of his surrogates and supporters present themselves as absolutist and doctrinaire. As Sanders himself has said, “on her worst day, Hillary Clinton will be an infinitely better candidate and president than the Republican candidate on his best day.”
Yeah, I know, Sanders did say that. I am not sure that he fully meant it, though. What we do know is that Sanders could have attacked Clinton and contrasted his philosophy with hers much more emphatically, but he strategically chooses not to. We also know that Sanders isn't a real Democrat -- or should I say that he isn't a contemporary, corporatist, centrist, "neoliberal", Clintonian Democrat (though he would fit right in with the FDR-type Democrat). He is running on the Democratic ticket because that's by far his best chance to win the presidency in a two-party political system, such as we currently have. Consequently it is only natural that Sanders would show loyalty to the party if he is to run under its mantle. This doesn't mean that his supporters, who are by and large non-partisan, ought to take Sanders' words here that "Clinton would be an infinitely better candidate" at face value.

But even if Sanders really means what he says, we citizen-voters do not heed him nor serve him. He serves the revolution; he serves the cause; he is elected to address our outrage at the absurdity of us getting so little of the rising national wealth, whereas the top 1 percent is getting so much. This is our revolution, not Sanders'. We are electing him into office. He doesn't get to tell us whom to vote for, though I would certainly respect his advice and take it earnestly into consideration at the ballot.