Tag Archives: bernie sanders

Not a Dime’s Worth of Difference?

The failure of Sanders’s $15 wage amendment to the Covid Stimulus bill unleashed a barrage of criticism directed at the eight Democratic Senators voting against it. Most came from activists who have worked closely with congressional progressives to establish the Fight for 15 firmly within the Democratic Party mainstream. But also included among the critics was a vocal minority who take as an article of faith that there is “not a dime’s worth of difference” between the two parties.

While the phrase was associated with legendary Dixiecrat George Wallace, over the years, the NADWOD (not a dime’s worth of difference) tendency, as I will refer to it, has been associated with an ultra left fringe.

Continue reading Not a Dime’s Worth of Difference?

Burnishing the John Lewis Legend

Here’s something that will probably surprise those who responded with the most hostility to the twitter poll above:

I agree with them. Upon reflection.

The two words are key. As the relatively small 56%-44% margin indicates, reasonable, informed people have differing opinions on the question.

An answer requires reflection and discussion among those who care enough about saving our wreck of a planet to take politics seriously.

Not all of us do, however. Most conspicuous among those who don’t are those who supported “smearing the most principled and effective figures challenging (the Democratic Party’s) capitulation to the corporate right.”

Continue reading Burnishing the John Lewis Legend

Taibbi: How Weaponized Identity Politics Destroyed Sanders

Matt Taibbi/Will Menaker, Chapo Trap House 435

Matt Taibbi: So this politician who has a long history of courting the white, middle of the road voter and doing the Sister Souljah moment, now suddenly when Sanders comes along and he starts talking about breaking up the banks, what’s Hillary’s response? “Oh, if we broke up the banks tomorrow would that end racism?” And people Continue reading Taibbi: How Weaponized Identity Politics Destroyed Sanders

Making the White Guys Squirm: Kamala Harris’s Weaponized Identity Politics

In an Intercept essay from last year, Briahna Joy Gray defined weaponized identity politics as “the cynical emphasis on personal identity over political beliefs in order to advance candidates whose interests are inapposite to the needs of the groups they’re presumed to represent.”

Whether or not the term is, the thing should be plenty familiar by now, with an entire presidency, that of Barack Obama, serving as an object lesson in how policies which directly attack the lives of particular groups, in his case African Americans, are most effectively advanced by those having membership within those very groups.

Continue reading Making the White Guys Squirm: Kamala Harris’s Weaponized Identity Politics

“Better in the Original German”–Joe Biden Endorses Mass Incarceration

The clip above makes apparent the continuing relevance of the late Molly Ivins’  line cited in the title. It is, however, not as amusing as it was when it was directed at far right icon Pat Buchanan. Now, any guffaws it elicits should be followed by the recognition that what accurately described a reactionary Republican can readily be applied to the Democratic front runner.

This is depressing, yet another indication of our continuing descent into something resembling fascism.  But it’s also good news of a sort that we’re finally waking up to the reality of the “tough on crime” rhetoric of 90s.  That it was more than a little reminiscent of the Waffen SS is now pretty obvious.  And it’s also useful to be reminded that the mass incarceration mania was a bipartisan affair. The Democrats obscured their role in consigning countless low level drug offenders to our system of gulags  through Clinton initiating a “national conversation on race” conducted under layers of “I feel your pain” therapy-speak combined with “tough love” respectability politics.

Biden’s role in the creating mass incarceration epidemic has meant that one of the signature achievements of the neoliberal era, the 1993 Crime Bill, has become a campaign issue. His opponents are predictably and entirely appropriately making Biden’s position known.  Not surprisingly, the Biden camp is attempting to deflect attention away from Biden’s lead sponsorship (which he brags about here) by noting that Sanders also voted for it.

Continue reading “Better in the Original German”–Joe Biden Endorses Mass Incarceration

Elizabeth Warren for President: A 10 Point (non) Endorsement

1) Elizabeth Warren is familiar and attractive to people like you and me. I’ve never met her, but I like her in roughly the same way that many voters “liked” George W. Bush: I would enjoy “having a beer with her”. Most of those of my acquaintances feel the same way.

2) 1) is not a recommendation. Quite the opposite in fact and that’s because a likely majority of the population distrusts and dislikes people like you and me. It has good reason to do so, as I discussed here.

3) 2) in part explains why Warren routinely polls substantially worse than other Democrats in head to head match ups with Trump. It also explains her dismal campaign rollout, achieving only $299,000 in donations from a trickle of supporters, in comparison to the $6 million and 600,000 strong army of volunteers raised by Bernie Sanders.
Continue reading Elizabeth Warren for President: A 10 Point (non) Endorsement

Sanders, “Disgusting” and “Pushy”. I am “Scum”: A Pulitzer Winner Speaks

My continuing support for the policies associated with Bernie Sanders and the movement which developed from his campaign is known to most of my acquaintances.

Nor is it lost on me that many of them disagree with me, something which occasionally becomes apparent when we comment on each other’s Facebook threads.

One instance occurred yesterday, provoked by a friend (a real “meat space” as opposed to virtual friend) having circulated on Facebook the long standing criticism that Sanders’s support is limited to whites. I took issue in a comment posting results from a recent Gallup poll.

As the numbers indicate, the reality is the exact opposite of what my friend and other Sanders detractors assume to be the case: Sanders is overwhelmingly popular with non-white voters and only marginally popular with whites.

My making this observation provoked some pushback from another commenter-a friend of my friend. Typical of much internet discourse, he didn’t dispute the data presented in my post (which consisted only of that), but simply issued a one word dismissal of Sanders as “disgusting.”

I responded by reposting the same word including underneath it pictures of Sanders getting arrested at a civil rights demonstration in the early sixties


and that of Clinton (this commenter’s preferred candidate in 2016) appearing at Donald Trump’s wedding.

 “not disgusting”

The discussion devolved from there, as might be expected, ultimately leading to the commenter characterizing Sanders as “pushy” for delivering his own state of the union response (as he has done for the past three years).

For a child of a holocaust survivor that set off alarm bells.
“A pushy jew,” I commented. “Charming.”

Unsurprisingly this resulted in a freak out and his blocking of me, though not before his referring to me as “scum,” a designation I welcomed coming from a self-identified antisemite.


Two comments on this exchange seem worth making.

First, the poster in question was not, unlike myself, a random internet nobody but someone who would be uncontroversially characterized as a media elite. Indeed, he is a Pulitzer Prize winner, having been employed for many years at the Washington Post among other prestigious outlets.

This should not come as a surprise: mainstream, corporate media contempt, indeed, sheer hatred for Sanders has been obvious since his 2016 campaign began to pick up steam, anyone not recognizing it by this point being willfully blind. So universal is the hatred for Sanders among the elite media class that the poster simply assumed that he could issue his one word attack and receive universal approval in the comment thread. When I failed to deliver it, he referred to me as not being “house broken.”

Again, that’s an entirely accurate description, one which I proudly accept-I may put it on my tombstone. And that brings me to the second point which is that the individual’s work is as a classical music critic and here again, we shouldn’t be surprised. This is, after all, the musical genre most closely associated with social, economic and cultural elites. That they fear and disdain the political figure directly targeting the system through which they accumulate wealth and privilege and who threatens their ability to exercise it is a virtual law of political physics.

While it’s not pleasant to have to confront the venom which they can be counted on to spew in unguarded moments, it’s useful for them to reveal the intensity of their hatred and for all of us to recognize the interests they serve.

Back with a Vengeance: The Left Blue Wave Advances

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been waiting (literally) decades for the unambiguous celebration of the Democratic Party left which Michelle Goldberg delivered in her Times op-ed column last week.

It’s been many years since anything like it could be found there or anywhere else in the so-called agenda setting media.  So it’s easy to forget that traditional liberal/left positions (opposition to military aggression, increased social welfare spending, environmental stewardship etc.) used to be routinely encountered in not only in major and minor newspapers but on numerous talk radio outlets and in nationally syndicated columns in mass circulation news weeklies.
As we now know, they were erased, first, by the victories of the neoliberal Clintonite wing of the party in the 1980s and 90s and then dispatched to what seemed to be permanent oblivion by the “hope and change” presidency of Barack Obama. (1)

But, as Chomsky has pointed out for years, polling results routinely attest to the massive popularity of New Deal programs. So it is no surprise that a politics based on them is making a reappearance in almost exactly the form which they were presented by the figures in the pictures above and who I vividly remember from my childhood. The basic substance is unchanged.  All that’s different is the presentation: it’s now brushed off and served up by fresh faced activists in the Sanders successor organizations (Our Revolution and Justice Democrats) and the Democratic Socialists of America (of which I am a member) rather than dour boomers like me.

Two quick comments on Goldberg’s piece beginning with a sour grape provoked by Goldberg’s remark that “there’s nothing surprising about left-wing candidates losing their primaries. The happy surprise is how many are winning.”

Now wait a minute. Just a few months ago, Goldberg was actively campaigning against and denouncing the “left wing candidate” Bernie Sanders. But now she’s celebrating the left’s victories? 

Whatever. We will need to learn to accept that of those who change their minds only a fraction will admit that they are doing so. (Those who get payed to produce opinion pieces will never do so-an iron law of political punditry, as I’ve noted in the past).

That said, Goldberg is right about pretty much everything here including her observation that there is no “evidence that the Green Party’s habit of running doomed third-party campaigns has ever done anything to further its ostensible values.”

“Greens will sometimes justify these runs as movement-building tools, but they never seem to actually build a movement.” This is, unfortunately, accurate, and, as a former Green elected official, I could fill in the details providing an explanation for why that’s so but that’s of mainly historical interest at this point. (2)

We should be looking forward, not back, with the focus on “The new generation of left-wing activists.” This is in contrast to the Greens and other dysfunctional elements on the left who congratulate themselves for their self-marginalization. In contrast, (thank God) the new pragmatic left is “good at self-multiplication”, as Goldberg puts it.

They are taking the lead. As they damn well should be.

(1)  Obama liberal defenders tend to forget that his senate mentor was Trump supporter Joseph Lieberman, his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and his press secretary Robert Gibbs the former who referred to the liberal wing of the party as “retards” and the latter as in need of “drug testing.”

(2) These matters are dealt with in some detail in this memoir from 2001 documenting my experience working on the Nader campaign and subsequent attempts to develop the New Haven Green Party.

(Lightly edited for clarity: 4/7/2019)

On Personality Politics, Fandom and the Sheepdogs of 2016


A commenter posting on this Facebook discussion is wary of describing me as a fan of Ocasio-Cortez about whom I have been frequently posting.

He thinks he might take it as an insult.

He’s right. I would and here’s the reason:

Being a fan implies an emotional investment in a politician. To personalize politics is a recipe for disaster since it fundamentally misconceives how politics works and the role of politicians within the process.

That is, they are to be regarded not as personalities, as “friends” or “enemies” but as tools to achieve concrete goals. Insofar as they are useful to achieving them, they should be supported. Insofar as they are not, they need to be dropped. One’s personal feelings about them as individuals have nothing to do with this and are in fact a distraction from the kind of objective, cold blooded determination which needs to be made.

To prevent that from happening is, of course, why millions are invested in political campaigns. The billionaire donors behind George W. Bush knew that they could never sell his policies to a public certain to be overwhelmingly disadvantaged by them. What they relied on was enough votes being acquired from those who (famously) thought he would be a great guy to have a beer with.

An identical logic applied to Barack Obama his award winning branding exercise (masquerading as a campaign) targeting a urban, college educated demographic who no doubt imagined themselves discussing Beyoncé, basketball or Urdu poetry over single malt scotch with our first African American president.

To capitulate to either marketing strategy-to become a fan of any politician-is to become a chump or a fool. I would like to think I am neither, and I’m glad that he didn’t insult me by suggesting that I am.


That said, there are plenty on the left who believe that we should relate to politicians and politics as fans. In fact, as it turns out, the commenter himself is one of these. We know this because, in his capacity as Georgia Green Party co-chair he has routinely promoted Green Party candidates, this despite, as Michelle Goldberg recently observed, the decades of evidence “that the Green Party’s habit of running doomed third-party campaigns has (never) done anything to further its ostensible values.”

In short, he meets the precise definition for a “fan” advanced in the above.

This awareness casts a different light on his suggestion that I might be one. Specifically it is an instance of what is referred to as projection-defined as denying the existence of tendencies in one’s self while attributing them to others.

Furthermore, the commenter, in his capacity as a Green is perhaps best known for his having created a viral meme, namely, the characterization of Bernie Sanders as a “sheepdog” candidate, one who would lead activists into the “graveyard of social movements” which is, so the story goes, the Democratic Party.

But, as we can now see, this is projection too. For it was Sanders who, in demonstrating that a major national campaign could be run without financing from corporate sources, was the most promising story of  2016 campaign and probably of the decade. And it is the Sanders campaign and its successor organizations providing the foundation for the current mobilization, one which, for the first time, is showing real potential to seriously challenge the dominance of neoliberal elites.

Conversely, it was the Greens in alliance with an equally cynical and opportunistic ultra left  who recognized the viable, functional left which the Sanders campaign represented as an existential threat to what remains of their dysfunctional sects. The sheepdog meme is probably the most effective smear which has emerged from them. But by now it has become clear to whom it should be applied. For in attempting to lead activists down the dead end of national third party politics, precisely at the moment when victories within Democratic Party primaries were being fought for and won that it was Sanders’s opponents on the left who were the sheepdogs of 2016.

And it was the Sanders successor organizations which are tangibly and unmistakeably “advancing the left and its values” through candidacies like that of the extraordinarily charismatic, photogenic and personable Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, not to mention Sanders himself who is none of these.

They have their fans, but their core supporters are those who know that their success means our success, which is to say major improvements in the quality of life of the 99% and in the future viability of the planet. The commenter, whose work, I should say, I have admired over the years and favorably discussed on more than a few ocassions in the past probably knows this is so.

Now is the time to admit he put his money on the wrong horse and find a way to invest his impressive talents in building up the movement rather than tearing it down.

NY 19 Revisited: Should Progressives Support Pat Ryan?

I’m glad that my piece on the NY 19 congressional sweepstakes provoked at least a small amount of conversation. As expected that included criticism–some of it quite harsh. One of those taking issue with it was Tim Hunter, a member of the Gardiner Democratic Town Committee who denounced it as “betray(ing) a shocking lack of political understanding.”

What irked Mr Hunter was my raising questions about the committee’s endorsed candidate, Pat Ryan, specifically his commitment to progressive legislation. I got it wrong, according to Mr. Hunter. Ryan, is, in his words, “A Progressive Chris Gibson. YES, progressive!”

I’m sorry if it upsets Mr. Hunter to hear this, but it needs to be said that the assertions of Democratic Party leaders (even local ones) have long since ceased to be sufficient. Progressives such as myself now require evidence and, with respect to Pat Ryan, there is little which gives any indication of a serious commitment to progressive politics.

Furthermore, there is at least one indication of the exact opposite, namely Ryan offering to spy on left wing activists and unions for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as mentioned in the Intercept piece linked to in my article.

We also have the matter of Ryan’s participation in the great war crime and atrocity which was the Iraq invasion. Ryan, a West Point grad, was required to serve. Relevant here is that some courageous veterans also served but then actively spoke out in opposition, most notably in the winter soldier hearings of March 2008. Ryan did not, nor is there any record of his supporting those who did.

Then there’s the issue of Ryan’s having accepted by now over $1 million in contributions, some of these from some of the most unsavory sources, namely, Palantir corporation headed by the extreme right wing billionaire Peter Thiel. Ryan, to be fair, has distanced himself from Thiel whom he has correctly characterized as “a lunatic.” But the presence of more conventionally predatory private equity outfits such Lone Pine Capital or white shoe law and lobbying firms certainly doesn’t inspire confidence of Ryan’s commitment to challenge the power of the 1%.

For these reasons and others I’m not willing to accept on face value Mr. Hunter’s characterization of Ryan as a progressive. What I am willing to accept (political hyperbole aside) are Mr. Hunter’s assurances that Ryan “is a local product. War hero, and job creator.”


That said, it’s worth noting an oddity which is that Mr. Hunter seems to assume that “jobs creator” will be taken as an accolade.

Is he not aware that this was the exact phrase the Republicans deployed in 2012 to promote the candidacy of billionaire investor Mitt Romney and to justify his proposal for another round of tax cuts to their 1% base?

We’re all familiar with the characterization of the Democrats as Eisenhower Republican party of 1950s, the Gerald Ford Republicans of 1970 and even the Bob Dole Republican Party of the 1990s. But the post G.W. Bush, ultra-right Republican Party of 2011?

Suffice to say that this sort of rhetoric (1) recalls nothing so much as Harry Truman’s classic remark that “If it’s a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time.”

I’ll conclude this with a disclosure which might surprise Mr. Hunter: I am by no mean opposed to Mr. Ryan’s candidacy, and could very well end up supporting it. But if I do, I will be for the legitimate argument he provides, namely that Ryan may well be the candidate most able to accomplish what we all agree is absolutely crucial: defeating John Faso.

If that’s so, there is a strong basis for supporting him.

I may very well do so albeit with the expectation-as alluded to in my piece-that real progressive change will require his being primaried in 2022 with a candidate who does not just give lip service to the Sanders agenda, but demonstrates in his votes that he is truly committed to it.

In the meantime, if the Ryan campaign expects to convince those of us in the Sanders camp to support him, I would urge them to remember what they have learned in kindergarten and seem to have forgotten: honesty, as always, is the best policy.


1)I would have been hesitant to raise this objection had not another commenter on the same Facebook thread referred to her preferred candidate, the former Citigroup executive Bryan Flynn, in nearly identical terms. Outraged by my description of his firm’s having outsourced jobs to low wage North Carolina-not to mention still lower waged Dominican Republic, this commenter suggests that Flynn “is totally progressive and interested in creating jobs opportunities and businesses . . .(but)  he should not be expected to stand and watch his business erode and not generate a profit . . . we can try to change what is to create jobs and opportunities.” John Faso would, of course, agree with this sentiment while also ridiculing Flynn for his hypocrisy.