In “Bernie’s Bad End,” Paul Krugman writes:
“Can someone tell Bernie that he’s in the process of blowing his own chance for a positive legacy?”
The problem with such a request is that it is founded on a false premise; the premise that Krugman himself and his media peers have tried hard to establish since January 2016, by concocting the narrative that Hillary Clinton is and has always been a progressive, and that because of Senator Sanders’ candidacy, she is even more progressive.
But is Clinton really a progressive?
By all accounts, Hillary Clinton has been forced to move farther to the left than she’s ever been – to the point where her credibility is shaky at best, in view of the tacks she’s taken. Reliance on the mainstream press – even Nobel Laureates – to institute and then solidify a narrative that is consistently disproved in polling is tantamount to committing political Hara-Kiri.
Let’s examine banking reform, a top campaign issue in which she has both claimed to take a more progressive stance and also steadfastly refused to do the one thing that both Liberal and Progressive Democrats have been talking about ever since 2008: reinstating Glass-Steagall. Yes, everyone knows that it is her husband who repealed Glass-Steagall after his Secretary of the Treasury, Larry Summers, lobbied hard to get it passed in Congress. Her views on banking reform, particularly breaking up the banks are virtually identical to former GOP member, Ben Bernanke. Here is Bernanke, testifying in the Senate, answering a question on Too Big To Fail, by Senator Elizabeth Warren:
Nothing has changed in the Dodd-Frank law since Bernanke was Fed Chair and he gave this testimony in 2013. What is new, three years later, is that we were recently told that the “living wills” are a failure. We also know that breaking up the banks under Dodd-Frank isn’t exactly a precise prescription. Yes, the Fed can move in that direction because it was given some authority, but there are lots of procedural questions on what would trigger such an event and whether or not there is the authority for the Fed to actually do it, without further involvement from Congress.
What’s more, Bernanke’s “prediction” that the benefits of banks being large are going to be reduced over time and the banks will voluntarily break themselves up, three years on, is nowhere near coming to pass. It is for those reasons and more that both Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are still calling for the end of Too Big To Fail and the immediate break-up of the big banks. Hillary Clinton and Barney Frank maintain that Dodd-Frank is sufficient. Here is Barney Frank in a spirited debate with Robert Reich on whether or not Senator Sanders knows what he is talking about when it comes to breaking up the banks:
Frank maintained that a bank becomes too big to fail when it holds too much debt and his law, Dodd-Frank, prevents that. But what Sanders, Reich, and many others have been pointing out – that banks are bigger now because they’ve consolidated so much since Dodd-Frank was passed – in and of itself, constitutes a set of dangers. Does Dodd-Frank deal with consolidation? Does Dodd-Frank give the Fed a clear mandate to break up a bank? Ben Bernanke’s answer in his Senate testimony and Robert Reich’ answer on MSNBC clearly indicate that it does not. Hillary Clinton’s platform on banking is essentially the same as that of the former Fed Chair who, himself, is a moderate Republican whose party left him.
Moreover, banking being the central issue that it is for both campaigns, Clinton has the added burden of reconciling her policy stances of reform with the money she has taken from Wall Street for speeches she’s given, as well as millions in contributions that the Clinton Foundation has accepted from the big banks.
While Clinton most certainly has a strong following, her following is decidedly liberal and neoliberal – not progressive – and her pivots leftward are viewed with distrust by a majority of Americans polled. When it comes to favorability, the poll numbers that describe the perception of a candidate’s honesty, Clinton’s number are now the lowest they’ve ever been, even though respondents will vote for her if she is nominated. But when faced with answering whether she will work to earn the votes of Sanders supporters, Clinton was downright bristling at the thought of having to reach out to them:
The Clinton camp’s attempts to disqualify Bernie Sanders have failed. While he hasn’t been able to make a clean sweep, his ideas and the public’s view of them remain unchanged, regardless of whom it voted for. So, having two, even three million more voters than Sanders is no shield against losing the many more who voted for Sanders, along with those who wanted to vote but were sent away from the polls due to irregularities in multiple state primaries. Saying you are going to unify the party and then sounding angry like this when you are being asked how you are going to go about this unification just isn’t how one sets about unifying a party. When a significant portion of a political party’s base is split, concessions are necessary in order to ensure unification and prevent voters from disengaging. At this juncture, with very high stakes in the form of the candidacy of Donald J. Trump, Clinton’s attitude toward Sanders’ voters is imprudent, especially when we know that at least one third of Sanders voters plan on either sitting out the election entirely, writing in Sanders on their November ballots or, worse, a portion have said they’d vote for Trump.
In, ‘Sanders Fights On for ‘the Strongest Progressive Agenda That Any Political Party Has Ever Seen,’ John Nichols writes:
“Sanders made it clear that his campaign—which has won 18 contests and 1,355 delegates and has the potential to win more primaries and delegates—would go on. “The people in every state in this country should have the right to determine who they want as president and what the agenda of the Democratic Party should be. That’s why we are in this race until the last vote is cast,” said the senator. Then he offered a framework for how that campaign might influence the direction not just of the party but of politics in the years to come. “[This] campaign,” said Sanders, “is going to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with as many delegates as possible to fight for a progressive party platform that calls for a $15 an hour minimum wage, an end to our disastrous trade policies, a Medicare-for-all health care system, breaking up Wall Street financial institutions, ending fracking in our country, making public colleges and universities tuition free and passing a carbon tax so we can effectively address the planetary crisis of climate change.””
“Platforms define parties, not just for the purposes of a campaign but for the future. It mattered when the Democratic Party embraced civil rights in a meaningful way in 1948, and in a more meaningful way in 1960 and 1964. It mattered in the 1980s when the Democratic Party moved (at the behest of the Rev. Jesse Jackson and his “Rainbow Coalition” campaigns) toward more aggressive opposition to South African apartheid, and when it moved (at the behest of the Jackson and Gary Hart campaigns of 1984) toward an embrace of the principle that the United States should work with allies rather than engage in unilateral military action. It mattered when the Democratic Party began to embrace LGBTQ rights in a meaningful way in its 1980 platform, and when it embraced marriage equality in 2012.”
As Steve Weissman points out in “What Is Bernie’s Price for Playing Nice?“:
“He [Sanders] has also refused to call on his supporters to back Hillary, explaining – quite correctly – that he did not have the power to demand that they fall in line behind her. She would have to win them over, he said. How? He has told her quite clearly.
“We are in this campaign to win,” he told a crowd of students at Purdue. “But if we do not win, we intend to win every delegate that we can so that when we go to Philadelphia in July, we are going to have the votes to put together the strongest progressive agenda that any political party has ever seen.””
That is the agenda of the progressive voters of the Democratic party, the same party that Hillary Clinton wants to preside over, and they are adamant about getting it set in stone in Philadelphia. Just as DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz includes big money in the democratic “big tent,” so must Clinton include all of the progressives who voted for Bernie Sanders in this primary or else risk losing the party sufficient enough votes to hand her Republican opponent a victory, not to mention souring the not insignificant millennial generation. As I wrote in a recent piece on the meaning and goals of the ‘Political Revolution‘:
“The two most important developments in American politics in the last two decades have been the birth of a new civil consciousness in America in the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM,) and the political revolution that Senator Bernie Sanders has started. However either movement grows, one cannot deny their impact on the consciousness of all Americans in general, Black Americans – particularly the young, and the Democratic voters as a whole. These two movements have completely changed the political vocabulary of the left’s most prominent politicians.”
This is 2016, and we are in an era of voter discontent and disenfranchisement not only due to inequality and a greatly weakened middle class, an unequal system of government, but also by political parties that have been co opted by special interests. It would be foolhardy and arrogant of leading Democrats to continue operating under the belief that voters will fall in line behind the party establishment out of fear of Donald Trump. While, undoubtedly many will, it will take as many voters as Sanders has garnered to ensure a Democratic victory in November. Without all of those voters – not just most of them – defeat is assured.
If anything has been clear over this past year, it is that the arrogance of both parties’ establishments will no longer be tolerated by their respective memberships. Just as the GOP has imploded, it is just as possible that the Democratic party could implode next as its leadership arrogantly takes for granted a sizable segment of its rank and file that has felt marginalized for years.
The Democratic party had been due for a realignment for quite some time and the hour has finally arrived. The establishment may well go on and leave the signs of trouble unheeded, ignoring the biggest and most dangerous risk: losing a presidency that is the Democrats’ to win, after losing both houses of Congress and not having performed its due diligence of a post-mortem in 2014.
So, to answer the closing question in Paul Krugman’s blog post:
“Isn’t there anyone who can tell him to stop before it’s too late?”
It’s not Sanders who needs to stop, but Hillary Clinton, her establishment machine, backers and the DNC apparatus. Elections have consequences and the DNC may well finally face its bad end in 2016, from the as of yet unlearned lessons of the shellacking that was Election 2014.
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