Paul Ryan’s Bernie Sanders Nightmare: The Progressive Vote Will Make It So | #OurRevolution on Blog#42

House Speaker Paul Ryan has a terrible nightmare and it isn’t Hillary Clinton:

“If we lose the Senate, do you know who becomes the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee? A guy named Bernie Sanders, you ever heard of him?” Ryan warned. “That’s what we’re dealing with in a divided government if we lose control of the Senate.”

“What vision to Hillary Clinton and her party offer the people? They want an America that doesn’t stand out. They want an America that is ordinary. There is a gloom and grayness to things,” he continued. “In the America they want, the driving force is the state. Where we are ruled by our betters, by a cold and unfeeling democracy that replaces original thinking. A place where the government twists the law and the constitution itself to suit its purposes. It’s a place where liberty is always under assault. Where passion, the very stuff of life is extinguished. That is the America Hillary Clinton wants.”

Ryan is absolutely spot-on in the first snippet quoted above. In a divided Congress in which the Senate returns to a Democratic majority, Bernie Sanders would be in charge of the Budget Committee and negotiations with his Republican counterpart in the House of Representatives. Bernie Sanders is the monster under Paul Ryan’s bed.

While Sanders is known to strive to find common ground with the other side in order to get legislation through, he also is known not to triangulate away core principles. In a Democratic Congress, the significance of Bernie Sanders as Senate Budget Committee chair would mean that progressive policies would finally prevail and core principles would not be eroded, even if they reflect the will of the White House. After the past eight years, this will be not a moment too soon! We’ve all seen Sanders’ dogged resolve over the past year, and the relative success his single-mindedness yielded. The New Republic’s Eric Bates describes Sanders in a new interview:

“He wants to talk about policy, and the nuts and bolts of organizing, and whatever else is needed to bring a greater measure of justice and equality to human affairs. He lives by the Marxist-Calvinist tradition of everything for the cause. He doesn’t have time for roses. Too many people need bread.”

Ryan is correct that Sanders’ ascendence as chair of the Senate budget committee would be the GOP’s nightmare scenario in that negotiations with Democrats will be a lot tougher than in the recent past.

Sanders’ last Democratic predecessor on the Budget Committee, Senator Patty Murray, triangulated away, at the very last minute and in secret, the renewal of unemployment insurance for millions of unemployed older workers who were laid off at the start of the Great Recession. In our nation’s very curious unemployment figure-counting arrangement, these long-term unemployed were dropped from the rolls of the unemployed at the end of 2014 and have not been counted since in the monthly jobs numbers the BLS announces. 2014 and 2015, in California and many other states, mark the beginning of a new wave of homelessness due to both a lack of affordable housing and adequate income.

Senator Sanders’ message to his voters

“I want to see Hillary Clinton become president and the day after that I and the progressive members of Congress, and hopefully millions of other people will say, ‘President-Elect Clinton, here is the Democratic national platform. It is a progressive document. We are going to be introducing legislation piece by piece by piece. On trade. On raising the minimum wage. On making public colleges and universities tuition free. On a Medicare-for-all, single-payer program. On rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure.’”

What’s at stake for progressive voters?

  • Jobs, trade, and fiscal policy
  • Higher minimum wage
  • Racial justice, police and criminal justice reform
  • Getting the money completely out of politics
  • Education and student debt
  • Fracking and the environment
  • Social safety net
  • Housing
  • Foreign and military policy
  • Immigration
  • Reforming the Democratic party

The 45% of Democrats who voted for Sanders is made up of upward of 14 million people, including millennials, relatively few of which have resigned themselves to voting Blue in November. A large coterie of Sanders voters seems to have have moved on to the Green party following the DNC convention.

We can also count a sizable portion of Black millennials among those refuseniks. They too, for their own reasons, are disillusioned with the process. Democrats have been very cool to Black Lives Matter. Emails leaked by Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks vindicate at least some of the suspicions of Black voters, where the new movement for civil rights is concerned. In speeches as well as private correspondence, instead of receiving Democrats’ full embrace, BLM is effectively being cut out.

The last three months since the DNC convention feels more like a year and it remains to be seen how many committed Sanders voters remain active in his post-primary organization, Our Revolution, and will continue to take part in it once their votes are cast. From Bates’ piece:

“Now, after laboring for years as a lone voice on the left, Sanders suddenly finds himself speaking for millions. It’s an unexpected role, and not without its pitfalls. Having won twelve million votes in the Democratic primaries—a showing that exposed the deep rift between younger voters and the party establishment—Sanders faces a new challenge: how to continue to pressure the party from the left without tearing it apart in the process.”

Our Revolution is backing one hundred progressive candidates who are running for statewide offices, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Should all or most of the candidates for federal office win, they will be a part of a new, formidable progressive opposition within the Democratic party, led by Senator Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and, assuming he wins back his seat, Russ Feingold, in the Senate. In the House of Representatives, the Progressive Caucus should also see its ranks swell with the addition of candidates such as Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), Rick Nolan (Minnesota), Zephyr Teachout (NY), Pramila Jayapal (WA), and others, totalling 16 incoming and returning members of Congress. These new potential progressive members would bolster the position of the Progressive Congressional Caucus, headed by Representatives Raul Grijalva (AZ) and Keith Ellison (MN) Should Sanders’ effort to build a progressive coalition succeed, it will boost the Progressive Caucus’ power in very significant ways and will most likely redistribute the internal balance of power within the internal Democratic structure as soon as the new Congress reconvenes.

Eric Bates asked Senator Sanders about Hillary Clinton and her commitment to follow through on positions she pivoted to as a result of his campaign:

[Bates] You certainly played a major role in pushing Clinton to the left on some key issues, at least in the party’s platform. But many of your supporters don’t believe that Hillary really supports those positions or will make good on those promises. They see it as something she did in the platform to appease the left.

[Sanders] I think that Hillary Clinton is sincere in a number of areas. In other areas I think she is gonna have to be pushed, and that’s fine. That’s called the democratic process.”

This “democratic process” will be especially important – crucial, really – as the outgoing Congress is expected to pass a number of key bills during the lame duck session, to present a set of faits-accomplis for the incoming Clinton administration. The TPP is one bill that progressives fear will be passed right after the election. The Intercept reported on President Obama’s town Hall meeting in Laos, a few weeks back:

“We’re in a political season now and it’s always difficult to get things done,”Obama said at a town hall meeting in Laos. “So after the election, I think people can refocus attention on why this is so important.” He sounded confident: “I believe that we’ll get it done.”

Candidate Hillary Clinton declared her opposition to Keystone XL rather late into the primary process, but then appointed Ken Salazar as her transition team lead immediately following the Democratic convention. In early July, Clinton’s choice of Salazar, a high-profile lobbyist and ardent supporter of the TPP and fracking, threw into question Clinton’s commitment to opposing both issues as promised over the past year. Add to that, the choice of Senator Tim Kaine, who is both an ardent supporter of the TPP and the relaxation of the Dodd-Frank banking regulations that were put in place as a result of the Great Recession.

If Hillary Clinton’s commitment to the progressive stances she adopted were being questioned in July 2016, after WikiLeaks’ revelations in October 2016, we are now certain about Clinton’s dual belief system from private speeches and emails that were leaked. The Obama administration rejected the Keystone pipeline on the recommendation of Secretary of State Kerry in 2015, but that doesn’t mean that a Republican Congress won’t try to pass the legislation in the lame duck or that the White House would necessarily veto such a bill at the last minute. There is ample evidence in the WikiLeaks dumps over the last two months that Hillary Clinton, the private citizen, is a yuuge fan of fracking, which, in the context of her very early choice of Ken Salazar to lead her transition team, points to her acting in ways that contradict her public statements on fracking and the environment or her propensity to roll back any adverse lame duck legislation. We now know so much more about what was in those speeches Hillary Clinton gave Wall Street bankers. Indeed, the New York Times’ David Gelles, in a piece on the newly announced AT&T-Time Warner merger, wrote this:

““Everyone is expecting a Clinton victory,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “She represents the status quo. They think nothing is going to change, and they’re comfortable with that.’”

In a piece entitled “Whether Clinton or Trump, Multinationals Set to Win the Election,” in Bloomberg News, Joseph Ciolli writes:

“Regardless of which candidate wins the U.S. presidential election, domestic companies that stash the most profits overseas will be the victors, according Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Through the first half of the year, almost $3 trillion in earnings from U.S. multinationals went untaxed because companies chose to permanently reinvest the capital overseas, Goldman strategists led by David Kostin wrote in a recent report. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are keen to tap that revenue stream. So as an enticement, the candidates are expected to cut the tax rate global conglomerates like Apple Inc. and General Electric Co. pay to bring money made overseas back to the U.S. to less than half its current 35 percent, they wrote.”

This should send shivers up the spines of most middle and working class Americans. According to Fox News‘ Nicholas Eberstadt:

“Today some 7 million prime age men are neither working nor looking for work: nearly one in eight.”

Continuing to allow corporations to take their untaxed profits overseas will seal these men’s fates, along with those of millions who lost jobs in 2008-9 and are now a part of the American Precariat, barely surviving in a depressing gig economy.

Moreover, it is known that automation will have a very large impact on the kinds of jobs open to billions of people across the globe. Here, in America, we are not ready for the day when there just aren’t enough jobs to employ most Americans. Robert Reich and many other notable economists have been talking about instituting a “Universal Basic Income.” But is such a progressive notion something that right-of-center Hillary Clinton will even be willing to entertain as a part of laying a foundation for the economy of the future? Probably not without a whole lot of pushing, and not without a hefty amount of leverage.

The WikiLeaks revelations that Democrats so ardently characterize as tainted by Russian interference in U.S. electoral politics are rife with proof for every suspicion voters had of the degree to which a Clinton administration would be beholden to special interests. The Clinton campaign and the DNC spared no effort to write the narrative – not merely control it – in its effort to thwart any insurgent candidacy that might stand in its way. But if voters will it, the progressive fight doesn’t have to be over.

Those same WikiLeaks revelations put a heavy stain on journalism, with many well-known reporters’ unethical contact with Clinton campaign staff having been exposed. In the race to the bottom that now characterizes public trust, even trusted think tanks have had some of the luster taken of their shine. The great Brookings Institution’ relationship with corporate donors was recently the subject of reporting by the New York Times.

The DNC was first to receive a black eye from WikiLeaks. DNC Chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz ended up resigning. Donna Brazile was named interim Chair, as the powers that be banked on her golden media reputation. That reputation took several hits, which Brazile was able to bob and weave away from, until this weekend:

There is already talk of several congressional Democrats beginning to vie for the DNC top position. The sitting Democratic president, as head of the party, chooses the DNC Chair. This level of rot has to be excised.

This cycle, especially, it will be up to voters to ensure that future budgets and reforms are as progressive as possible by supporting the candidates of Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution movement. It must win as many seats as possible in the 2016 election in order to match in power, the resonance of the idea of a “political revolution” gained during the primary season.

Voting Strategies for Progressives

In Black Vote Blank-Out,  an article aimed at Black voters, Professors Eddie S. Glaude and Fred Harris wrote:


We see one way to loosen the hold Democrats have on the black electorate: for African Americans to become strategic voters. We call it the Blank-Out Campaign.

As both pressure voters and pivotal voters, African Americans can simultaneously deliver a victory for the Democratic nominee in swing states and keep the Democrats’ feet to the fire. Casting ballots as pressure voters would not merely be a symbolic act. Depending on the Blank-Out campaign’s success, it could have consequences for Democratic Party leaders down the line. Lower vote totals for the party’s standard bearer in red states could reduce representation of delegates at the 2020 convention, under formulas the party uses to estimate the number of delegates for each state. How well the party’s presidential nominees performed in the preceding two elections is one factor used to calculate the number of delegates for each state. We think the threat of losing delegate representation should incentivize red-state Democrats—and other Democratic leaders—to prioritize issues that directly affect black communities on the state and federal levels.

But at the symbolic level, the Blank-Out Campaign would announce that African Americans are done with business as usual. Party leaders, black and white, would be served notice that black voters are more than cattle chewing cud, to be herded to the polls every two and four years. So how does it work?”

I submit that the prescription in Glaude and Harris’ very thorough and measured essay applies not only to the audience they aimed for, but all progressive-minded American voters. Hillary Clinton will most likely be elected by a huge margin of voters, including a sizable Republican contingent. The Clinton camp is already talking about winning a mandate. A mandate for what, one might ask? Public sentiment has been to alternate between ignoring WikiLeaks’ revelations, to chanting the mantra that WikiLeaks is a tool of the Russian government, and completely turning a blind eye to the content revealed in the leaks. Whatever else these leaks may be, no one is disputing the authenticity of the leaked emails. Waiting until after the election to deal with the fallout is foolish, if the aim is to prevent the neoliberal power-grab that is currently in the making. The parties are jockeying for power now, setting their plans into motion now.

What is a progressive to do?

As House Speaker Ryan asked, “do you know who becomes the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee?” All progressive-minded Democrats need do is, as Captain Jean-Luc Picard famously used to say, make it so! Making it so means electing every last candidate on Our Revolution’s list, and following the advice given in Professors Glaude and Harris’ excellent essay.

There will be many who will hesitate to blank-out, based on fears that sending a message may have unintended consequences. To be clear, Our Revolution supports progressives. All of them are Democrats. In addition, for voters who know that their candidates are right of center liberals, there is one more option to consider. Professor Glaude, again, with some very nuanced analysis for progressives:

“EDDIE GLAUDE: Well, I think we agree on principle. And part of what I think—where we agree is that we have to keep Trump out of office. And the question for me is that: How do we do that? And one of the ways I’m thinking we need to do it is to vote strategically. And that is, in those places where we can, for me, blank out or vote for Jill Stein, we should. And in those places where—the battleground states, where it matters, where Trump has a chance to win, I think we need to turn out in massive numbers and make sure that he doesn’t win those states. I think we have to do two things simultaneously.

And I think he’s right in this regard: I think that what we’ve seen and what we’ve witnessed in this moment is the bankruptcy of a particular economic ideological philosophy that has left so many—so many people behind. And I think we need to dare to imagine a new world. But I think it’s going to require strategic and tactical thinking. And I think, on its face, Chris and I aren’t disagreeing. I just think there are ways to get to the same—to the same end.”

One must not discount the possibility that at least some of the candidates put forth by the Green Party will win their elections. There are Green candidates on the ballots in twenty states and, according to BallotPedia, the party is supporting five U.S. Senate candidates and 26 congressional candidates. It would make sense that any successful Green candidates would most naturally ally themselves with progressives in Congress, especially if the Democrats are unable to retake the House of Representatives or come up three to four seats short.

Whatever one believes about the way things turned out in this election cycle – whether the Clinton-Trump face-off is some sort of behind the scenes plot designed to force voters to choose Clinton or some other conspiracy theory – one thing is clear, all is not lost for those who worked hard to elect Senator Bernie Sanders, only to be infuriated at the lies and deception that went on, not only behind the scenes at the DNC, but also in the collusion of the media with the Clinton campaign.

Voting strategically doesn’t require the effort of coordination. All that is needed is for disillusioned voters not to give into their disgust and disengage, but show up en-masse at the polls and vote progressive.

The system was designed for both parties to control the electoral process. The parties were designed for their respective establishments to maintain dominance. The GOP went completely off the rails in the aftermath of the 2008 election. The Democratic party has been under the control of right of center forces since the 1990’s. Though he came out of the blue, Senator Sanders represented a clear and present danger to the neoliberal establishment and, were it not for mainstream corporate media collusion, Sanders might well have won. We can all still hand him a win. As James Madison most famously wrote:

“This power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”

Federalist Papers, No. 58, 1788

As Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Bernie Sanders will have the power over the purse.


List of Candidates Backed by Our Revolution

BallotPedia’s List of Democratic, Republican and Third-Party Candidates Running for Congress

 Robert Reich video on Trade:

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