Friday, April 15, 2016


I started writing this up as a Weekend Roundup bullet item, but decided to let it stand [almost] on its own.

Tom Hayden: I Used to Support Bernie, but Then I Changed My Mind: The famed 1960s New Left radical, a founder of SDS, defendant at the Chicago 8/7 trial, and moderately successful California politician, explains:

I intend to vote for Hillary Clinton in the California primary for one fundamental reason. It has to do with race. My life since 1960 has been committed to the causes of African Americans, the Chicano movement, the labor movement, and freedom struggles in Vietnam, Cuba and Latin America. In the environmental movement I start from the premise of environmental justice for the poor and communities of color. My wife is a descendant of the Oglala Sioux, and my whole family is inter-racial.

What would cause me to turn my back on all those people who have shaped who I am? That would be a transgression on my personal code. I have been on too many freedom rides, too many marches, too many jail cells, and far too many gravesites to breach that trust. And I have been so tied to the women's movement that I cannot imagine scoffing at the chance to vote for a woman president. When I understood that the overwhelming consensus from those communities was for Hillary -- for instance the Congressional Black Caucus and Sacramento's Latino caucus -- that was the decisive factor for me. I am gratified with Bernie's increasing support from these communities of color, though it has appeared to be too little and too late. Bernie's campaign has had all the money in the world to invest in inner city organizing, starting 18 months ago. He chose to invest resources instead in white-majority regions at the expense of the Deep South and urban North.

I'm surprised to see Sanders depicted as having "all the money in the world," but checking Open Secrets I was even more surprised to see that he has managed to collect $139 million so far -- more than Ted Cruz ($119 million, including $52 million PAC money), still less than Hillary Clinton ($222 million, including $62 million PAC; Sanders has made a big point about not having a dark money PAC). Most of Sanders' money came in February ($42M) and March ($44M), well into the primary season. Until that happened, he was mostly dependent on volunteer efforts. I know, for instance, that he's had an active supporter group here in Wichita for over a year, and they would be pretty surprised to find he's rolling in all that money. They did, however, organize Sanders' second-largest victory margin to date -- although he's since won bigger elsewhere. As primary season unfolded, the money understandably went to critically competitive states. And Clinton, who started with (and still has) much more money, had somehow locked up the Deep South where most Democrats are black -- maybe she had made the investments Hayden charges Sanders with neglecting. (Still, isn't it interesting that a seasoned politician like Hayden sees money as the essential element in securing the loyalties of black and Latino votes? The implication is that those votes are tied to group elites in a way that approximates the old political machines.) And even more than cash, the big advantage that the Clintons brought into this election was a well-oiled patronage machine. The clearest evidence that established patronage matters is Clinton's 469-31 superdelegate lead. (Sanders' contributions have averaged $27-30, which works out to five million-plus donations though there are repeaters -- I know that my wife has donated $27 several times, probably putting her over $100 by now. Beyond her PAC money, Clinton has also gone after small donations, and claims more than one million donors. Sanders has more, "nearly two million donors" (Hillary Clinton Touts One Million Donors, While Bernie Sanders Approaches Two).

I've been somewhat mystified why Clinton enjoys such a large lead over Sanders among black voters. It's certainly not based on a sober examination of positions and issues, and I doubt if it has much to do with personal style. The best I've been able to come up with is that even with growing economic inequality and the decimation of the middle class all across America, most blacks have improved their lot, and see their solidarity with the Democratic Party as having helped them out. This isn't an unreasonable stance, and no doubt if/when Clinton wins she'll owe blacks and Latinos big time -- but she'll also owe bankers and the war industry, and in the end I suspect their investments will pay off better.

If Hayden was just a cog in the Democratic Party machine, I could see his choice: indeed, it would be as unremarkable as it's been for hundreds or thousands of Party hacks all across America. But Hayden was one of the most prominent figures in the New Left in the 1960s. One might argue that choosing Clinton over Sanders shows that he's not really much of a leftist, but more likely, I suspect, he's just proving one of the major critiques of the New Left: that it was run by people who came from privileged backgrounds and saw their role as to advocate for other people who had been denied their good fortune. That's not bad per se, but in practice shifted much of the left's focus from class to minority and identity issues like race (and sex and sexual orientation). They've done good work on all those fronts, but while they were off helping others the right smashed the unions that propped up the middle class and created vast inequality -- so much so that young people in America today have less reason to expect to live out their lives in comfort and freedom (e.g., free of debt) than any past generation for at least a century.

The upshot is that we have a guy who's spent more than fifty years working towards radical political change yet can't recognize it when it's actually happening, just because it's not coming from where he's been expecting it. The irony is that the Old Left that Hayden rejected had made the same mistake, expecting the working classes to rise up even after labor unions had won them middle-class jobs and social security, enough to buy homes (and cars, etc.) and send their kids to college and retire comfortably -- enough luxury they could even afford to look down on the less fortunate. Hayden, like much of the New Left, rebelled against the white working class as much as against the Old Left. I suspect that's because he was never of it, whereas those of us who grew up there were better able to notice when things went sour.

A few other quick links, limited to the elections. Next up is the New York primary, where 538's "projected results" favor Clinton 57.8-39.6%, although I only see one (of eight) April polls where she has that kind of margin -- 10-12% is typical. I don't expect Sanders to win, but wouldn't be surprised if it turns out to be much closer. (Friends who watched here -- I didn't, but baked them some cookies -- tell me Sanders had a very good debate last night.) On the Republican side it's Trump-Kasich-Cruz: 52.9-24.4-20.4%. You'd think that Trump's first majority win plus a third-place Cruz finish would turn the post-Wisconsin punditry around, but I doubt it. (Although I see that Josh Marshall is already out front there.) Trump, by the way, is polling well ahead in the April 27 primaries (Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania) -- as is Clinton (although Connecticut is closer, and a couple of Pennsylvania polls show her lead there down to +6 or +7).

By the way, while I was not listening to the debate, I somehow imagined Hillary saying:

Well, sure, I'm for everything that Senator Sanders is for, but I can assure you that under my administration none of that will actually get done, because I expect to spend the entire four years embroiled in one stupid scandal after another. And as I'm sure you're aware, no one -- certainly not Senator Sanders -- has more experience surviving stupid scandals than I.

Meanwhile, some brief links:

  • Jeff Merkley: Why I'm Supporting Bernie Sanders: The first endorsement of Sanders by a US Senator (Merkley represents Oregon).

    I grew up in working-class Oregon. On a single income, my parents could buy a home, take a vacation and help pay for college. My father worked with his hands as a millwright and built a middle-class life for us.

    My parents believed in education and they believed in the United States. When I was young, my father took me to the grade school and told me that if I went through those doors, and worked hard, I could do just about anything because we lived in America. My dad was right.

    Years later, my family and I still live in the same working-class community I grew up in. But America has gone off track, and the outlook for the kids growing up there is a lot gloomier today than 40 years ago.

    Many middle-class Americans are working longer for less income than decades ago, even while big-ticket expenses like housing, health care and college have relentlessly pushed higher.

    It is not that America is less wealthy than 40 years ago -- quite the contrary. The problem is that our economy, both by accident and design, has become rigged to make a fortunate few very well off while leaving most Americans struggling to keep up.

    And as economic power has become more concentrated, so too has political power. Special interests, aided by their political and judicial allies, have exercised an ever-tighter grip on our political system, from the rise of unlimited, secret campaign spending to a voter suppression movement.

  • David Jameson: Bernie Sanders Has His Own Shadowy Donors -- And They're Nurses: The Open Secrets page above shows that Sanders, despite his principled opposition to PACs, does have a tiny bit of "dark money" on his side (less than 1% of Clinton). This seems to be the explanation:

    In fairness to Sanders, there are differences between a super PAC like that of National Nurses United and one like Priorities USA, a group aligned with Clinton. Most of the money in the nurses super PAC likely comes from the dues that individual workers pay to their union, in small amounts each paycheck.

    In contrast, 98 percent of the money raised by Priorities USA Action in the second half of 2015 came from donors giving $100,000 or more, as The Huffington Post recently reported. And 90 percent of its money came from donors forking over at least $1 million.

  • Dean Baker: Bernie Sanders: Enemy of the World's Poor?:

    A popular theme in the media in recent days is that the world's poor would face disaster if Bernie Sanders ended up in the White House.[1] The story is that Sanders would try to protect jobs for manufacturing workers in the United States. The loss of these jobs has been a major source of downward pressure on the wages and living standards of a large portion of the working class over the last four decades.

    While saving manufacturing jobs here may be good for U.S. workers, the media line is that by trying to block imports from the developing world, Sanders would be denying hundreds of millions of people their route out of poverty. This story may be comforting for elites in the U.S. and Senator Sanders' political opponents, but it defies basic economics and common sense.

    The article goes on to tear the argument apart. No need to repeat the critique here, but I have to ask who would even bother to credit credit this line of thinking? Are there really people who think that Americans are so well off the government should devote itself to subsidizing the world's poorer countries? And that the best way to do that is to encourage businesses to set up sweatshops abroad? Practically every poll every taken shows that the number one (and pretty much the only) government program that a huge majority of Americans want to cut is foreign aid. It doesn't happen because (a) foreign aid doesn't really amount to much, and (b) regardless of its effect on foreign countries (and their people) aid (including trade rules) benefits certain influential Americans (usually big corporations), sometimes to the detriment of other Americans (often workers, although you can equally cast the weakening of domestic labor markets as a benefit to business interests).

  • Jason Horowitz: Bernie Sanders Campaign Suspends Jewish Outreach Coordinator for Vulgar Remarks About Netanyahu: The "vulgar remarks" were in a since-deleted Facebook post during the height of Netanyahu's Gaza slaughter last year. Those offended by the comments were were a couple of bigwigs who have never uttered a remotely critical word about Israel -- which is to say people whose touch with reality is sadly compromised. This sort of thing happens all the time to all sorts of candidates, and the standard reaction is to duck rather than fight -- even when the charge is baseless it's not something the candidate personally did and it's not something he or she wants to be distracted with. (One of the more famous examples I recall was when Obama's campaign fired Samantha Power for saying something rude about Hillary Clinton. Power was eventually given a prominent job in Obama's administration, in Clinton's State Department.) Worth noting that Sanders said some things in Thursday's debate that the Israel lobbyists would have found even more troubling (if not quite so conveniently objectionable):

    In Thursday night's debate, though, Mr. Sanders advocated a critical discussion of Israel that, while popular with his young liberal base, was unlikely to please the Jewish establishment figures who had sought to hold a common line on Israel in Democratic politics. Mr. Sanders criticized Mrs. Clinton's pro-Israel orthodoxy, called the Israeli army's use of arms against Palestinians "disproportionate" and argued that "we have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time."

  • Charles Pierce: Bill Clinton Fundamentally Doesn't Understand What Black Lives Matter Is About:

    But this is the second election in a row in which he is turning out to be one of his wife's clumsiest surrogates. I would make the modest suggestion to him that This Is Not About You. If you want to defend your record, write another massively unreadable book. If you want someone to defend your record ably, ask your wife. She seems to know how to do it best.

    I've long wondered whether Hillary's chances of becoming president wouldn't have improved had she divorced Bill after leaving office in 2001. There are many things I don't look forward to should she win, but he is high on the list. (Of course, she could divorce him then, but I figure she figures at least he's a good earner.) Maybe when The Good Wife runs its course we'll get a tangentially related but expert opinion.

    Pierce also has a piece on Thursday's debate: We Saw Bernie Sanders' Greatest Weakness Last Night: "At leas, that's what the Clinton camp is hoping you'll believe this morning." The "weakness" was that he said something unapproved (and virtually unheard of) about the Israel-Palestinian conflict:

    As somebody who is 100% pro-Israel, in the long run -- and this is not going to be easy, God only knows, but in the long run if we are ever going to bring peace to that region which has seen so much hatred and so much war, we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity.

    As Pierce put it, "In response, HRC went full pander."

  • John Judis: I am worried about Hillary Clinton again: After the debate:

    I don't understand why she can't put the Goldman, Sachs question behind her. I initially assumed that she either didn't have transcripts or that what she said was the usual milquetoast stuff politicians offer up. But her continued refusal to provide transcripts (which I now assume must exist) suggests that there must be something damning in them.

    I assume the transcripts will be anti-climactic. One's first reaction is likely to be: "Goldman Sachs is supposed to be smart about money, but they paid $650k for this?" If I was a shareholder I'd consider suing management. Maybe management could come back and explain that it wasn't just the speech they were buying, it was also a bribe. But wouldn't that make their lawyers a bit uneasy? Not to mention Clinton's lawyers. And doesn't the value of a bribe depreciate real fast when it becomes public knowledge. Perhaps better to say that part of the extraordinary value-added of a Clinton speech is its exclusivity. But why keep it exclusive unless, you know, it's some sort of, uh, favor? Judis goes on:

    I also think her refusal to answer straightforwardly questions about social security caps, carbon taxes, Libya and a $15 minimum wage makes her appear scripted at best. Like the Goldman non-answer, these kind of responses sow doubts about trust and credibility.

    For more along these lines: Anis Shivani: Half-truth Hillary finally exposed: This was the debate where Bernie Sanders changed the Democratic Party for good.

  • Aaron Bycoffe: A Huge Number of GOP Leaders Aren't Endorsing This Year: Partly because so many of the candidates they endorsed early (e.g., Marco Rubio) were rejected by the base voters, and partly because no one wants to be associated with the finalists in the GOP's race to the bottom (well, except for Chris Christie).

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