The ugliest, most appalling spectacle in American politics

Members of North Carolina student chapters of the NAACP. Photo credit: Geery Broome/Associated Press)
Members of North Carolina student chapters of the NAACP. Photo credit: Geery Broome/Associated Press

By Eugene Robinson

Every once in a while, the curtains part and we get a glimpse of the ugliest, most shameful spectacle in American politics: the Republican Party’s systematic attempt to disenfranchise African Americans and other minorities with voter-ID laws and other restrictions at the polls.

If you thought this kind of discrimination died with Jim Crow, think again. Fortunately, federal courts have blocked implementation of some of the worst new laws, at least for now. But the most effective response would be for black and brown voters to send the GOP a message by turning out in record numbers, no matter what barriers Republicans try to put in our way.

The ostensible reason for these laws is to solve a problem that doesn’t exist: voter fraud by impersonation. Four years ago, you may recall, a Republican Pennsylvania legislator let slip the real reason for his state’s new voter-ID law: to “allow” Mitt Romney to win the state. In the end, Romney didn’t. But Republicans tried mightily to discourage minorities, most of whom vote Democratic, from going to the polls.

Now, thanks to documents that surfaced in a lawsuit, we have an even clearer and more egregious example of attempted disenfranchisement, this time in North Carolina. As The Post reported, the documents show “that North Carolina GOP leaders launched a meticulous and coordinated effort to deter black voters, who overwhelmingly vote for Democrats.”

The article continued, “The law, created and passed entirely by white legislators, evoked the state’s ugly history of blocking African Americans from voting — practices that had taken a civil rights movement and extensive federal intervention to stop.”

The Washington Post

What Does Black Lives Matter Want?

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By Robin D. G. Kelley

On August 1 the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), a coalition of over sixty organizations, rolled out “A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom & Justice,” an ambitious document described by the press as the first signs of what young black activists “really want.” It lays out six demands aimed at ending all forms of violence and injustice endured by black people; redirecting resources from prisons and the military to education, health, and safety; creating a just, democratically controlled economy; and securing black political power within a genuinely inclusive democracy. Backing the demands are forty separate proposals and thirty-four policy briefs, replete with data, context, and legislative recommendations.

But the document quickly came under attack for its statement on Palestine, which calls Israel an apartheid state and characterizes the ongoing war in Gaza and the West Bank as genocide. Dozens of publications and media outlets devoted extensive coverage to the controversy around this single aspect of the platform, including The Guardian, the Washington Post, The Times of Israel, Haaretz, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Of course, M4BL is not the first to argue that Israeli policies meet the UN definitions of apartheid. (The 1965 International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the 1975 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid define it as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.”) Nor is M4BL the first group to use the term “genocide” to describe the plight of Palestinians under occupation and settlement. The renowned Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, for example, wrote of the war on Gaza in 2014 as “incremental genocide.” That Israel’s actions in Gaza correspond with the UN definition of genocide to “destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” by causing “serious bodily or mental harm” to group members is a legitimate argument to make.

The few mainstream reporters and pundits who considered the full M4BL document either reduced it to a laundry list of demands or positioned it as an alternative to the platform of the Democratic Party—or else focused on their own benighted astonishment that the movement has an agenda beyond curbing police violence. But anyone following Black Lives Matter from its inception in the aftermath of the George Zimmerman verdict should not be surprised by the document’s broad scope. Black Lives Matter founders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi are veteran organizers with a distinguished record of fighting for economic justice, immigrant rights, gender equity, and ending mass incarceration. “A Vision for Black Lives” was not a response to the U.S. presidential election, nor to unfounded criticisms of the movement as “rudderless” or merely a hashtag. It was the product of a year of collective discussion, research, collaboration, and intense debate, beginning with the Movement for Black Lives Convening in Cleveland last July, which initially brought together thirty different organizations. It was the product of some of the country’s greatest minds representing organizations such as the Black Youth Project 100, Million Hoodies, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Dream Defenders, the Organization for Black Struggle, and Southerners on New Ground (SONG). As Marbre Stahly-Butts, a leader of the M4BL policy table explained, “We formed working groups, facilitated multiple convenings, drew on a range of expertise, and sought guidance from grassroots organizations, organizers and elders. As of today, well over sixty organizations and hundreds of people have contributed to the platform.”

The result is actually more than a platform. It is a remarkable blueprint for social transformation that ought to be read and discussed by everyone. The demands are not intended as Band-Aids to patch up the existing system but achievable goals that will produce deep structural changes and improve the lives of all Americans and much of the world. Thenjiwe McHarris, an eminent human rights activist and a principle coordinator of the M4BL policy table, put it best: “We hope that what has been created carries forward the legacy of our elders and our ancestors while imagining a world and a country profoundly different than what currently exists. For us and for those that will come after us.” The document was not drafted with the expectation that it will become the basis of a mass movement, or that it will replace the Democratic Party’s platform. Rather it is a vision statement for long-term, transformative organizing. Indeed, “A Vision for Black Lives” is less a political platform than a plan for ending structural racism, saving the planet, and transforming the entire nation—not just black lives.

Boston Review

Father of deceased Muslim soldier to Trump: “You’ve sacrificed nothing”

Khizr Khan, father of deceased Army Captain Humayun S. M. Khan, spoke Thursday at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Captain Khan was one of 14 American Muslims who died serving the United States in the decade after 9/11.

Sanders wins concessions in Dem draft platform

 Photo credit: Greg Nash
Photo credit: Greg Nash

By Ben Kamisar

Bernie Sanders won a handful of concessions in the Democratic National Committee’s platform, with the party lining up behind his vision on the minimum wage, financial regulation and other issues.

A draft version of the platform was released Friday, amid an ongoing battle to get Sanders to end his presidential campaign and endorse presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

The platform explicitly calls for a $15 minimum wage, a position long espoused by Sanders.

“Democrats believe that the current minimum wage is a starvation wage and must be increased to a living wage,” the text reads.

“We believe that Americans should earn at least $15 an hour and have the right to form or join a union. We applaud the approaches taken by states like New York and California. We should raise and index the minimum wage, give all Americans the ability to join a union regardless of where they work, and create new ways for workers to have power in the economy.”

The Hill

Ralph Nader: It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over for Bernie Sanders

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and his wife Jane Sanders arrive at a campaign rally on Monday, June 6, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and his wife Jane Sanders arrive at a campaign rally on Monday, June 6, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Quo Vadis, Senator Bernie Sanders? For months Sanders has scored higher in the national polls against Donald Trump, than Hillary Clinton, highlighting some of her drawbacks for the November showdown. Yet, with one primary to go next Tuesday in the colony known as the District of Columbia, the cries for him to drop out or be called a “spoiler,” are intensifying. Don’t you understand that you have been vanquished by Hillary? You must endorse her to unify the party.

No, Bernie has other understandings beyond his principled declaration in speech after speech that his campaign is going all the way to the Democratic Party Convention. Between the June 14th D.C. Primary and the July nominating convention, lots can happen. As Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” (The run-up to the primary is a perfect time for Sanders and Clinton to forcefully advocate for DC Statehood.)

Maintaining the solidarity of Bernie’s voters increases the seriousness with which his drive to change the rules, rigged against insurgents, in the Democratic Party, led by the unelected cronyism of the Superdelegates, comprising nearly 20% of the total delegates. Sanders’s triad of protections for workers, students and patients, coupled with squeezing the unearned profits of Wall Street for a wide public works program, needs more visibility. Political Parties should be about serious subjects. Voters want to replace some of the tedious convention hoopla with some authenticity. Perhaps Senator Sanders could also urge Hillary Clinton to choose a running mate who would be more substantive and not just a tactical choice or an obeisant person. The pundits marvel at his ability to reject PAC money and raise millions from a large pool of small donors, with contributions averaging around $27—self-imposed campaign finance reform. The Chattering Class should also be impressed with how strongly Sanders’s message has resonated with the electorate.

There are still lessons that Sanders can teach the decadent corporate Democrats for whom this 2016 campaign may be their last hurrah. It is called political energy. It is the lack of political energy that explains why the Democratic Party, year after year, cannot defend the country from the worst Republican Party, on its own record, in Congressional history. It is political sectarianism that explains why the Democratic Party, with majoritarian issues at hand, has not landslided the Republican Party that votes for many bills which often register support under 30% in the polls. It is this absence of political energy, seduced by big money in politics, that the Sanders youth movement is aiming to topple. The Sanders people understand that breaking the momentum breaks the movement. That is why the longer range rebound of Bernie Sanders, right after Labor Day, must be mass non-partisan civic mobilization rallies driven by reforms and redirections that are for the people at large. That such class-levelling, peace-waging, freedom to participate in power for a more just society may benefit the Party’s electoral prospects is a collateral benefit from a galvanizing civil society.

TIME

Majority of Democrats Want Sanders to Stay in Race

From “Vast Majority of Democrats Want Sanders to Stay in Race: Poll”

Despite pressure from party establishment on Sanders to drop out of the race, most Democratic voters want the senator to keep running

A cheering crowd greeted Sanders at a Pennsylvania rally in April. (Photo: Penn State/flickr/cc)
A cheering crowd greeted Sanders at a Pennsylvania rally in April. (Photo: Penn State/flickr/cc)

By Nika Knight

A new poll released Wednesday found that a majority of registered Democrats want presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders to stay in the race.

The national survey of 2,001 voters by Morning Consult found that 57 percent of all Democrats polled want Sanders to keep running, while 33 percent want him to drop out. Ten percent have no opinion.

The findings contradict the pressure from prominent Democratic politicians and centrist pundits on Sanders to drop out of the presidential race—some of whom even argue that he’s already lost—despite the fact that several states (including delegate-rich California) and U.S. territories have yet to hold their primaries. (Polls also show Sanders and Clinton in a dead heat in California, which votes on June 7.)

Common Dreams

Bernie Sanders Declares War

“Bernie Sanders just declared war on the Democratic establishment”

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders Photo credit: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders
Photo credit: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post

By Chris Cillizza

If you want to make a politician really, really angry, endorse their primary opponent. That’s exactly what Bernie Sanders did Saturday to Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

“Clearly, I favor her opponent,” Sanders said in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper set to air today. “His views are much closer to mine than as to Wasserman Schultz’s. Let me also say this, in all due respect to the current chairperson: If [I am] elected president, she would not be reappointed chairwoman of the DNC.”

That puts Sanders on the side of Tim Canova, a former Capitol Hill staffer who has enjoyed considerable fundraising success — he’s raised more than $1 million — thanks to an anti-establishment message in his primary challenge to Wasserman Schultz.

And it ensures that the nastiness between Sanders and his supporters and Wasserman Schultz and the mainstream Democrats she represents will now surge into a full-blown battle.

You can be certain that Wasserman Schultz has spent the past 12 hours making sure that every one of her colleagues is aware of what Sanders has done. If he is willing to do this to me, don’t fool yourself into thinking he won’t do it to you too, she’ll argue. Yes, that’s a fundraising ploy. But, it also speaks to the very real threat that a free radical like Sanders presents to the established order.

That’s exactly how Sanders likes it. His brand is shaking up the establishment — just as he has done in the presidential race against Hillary Clinton. His supporters will love that he is willing to put some political capital on the line against Wasserman Schultz, who many of them believe is rigging the race for Clinton behind the scenes.

The Washington Post

Big Union Leaders Betray Sanders and Workers

 Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders waves as he marches with supporters in the Labor Day parade. (Photo: AP/Jim Cole)
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders waves as he marches with supporters in the Labor Day parade. (Photo: AP/Jim Cole)

By Ralph Nader

Around a conference table inside the large Washington headquarters of the AFL-CIO, a furious exchange occurred between labor union presidents. It was late February and up for decision by the Executive Council was whether the country’s principal labor federation was going to make a primary season endorsement of Hillary Clinton as favored by the leaders of the largest unions.

According to insiders, tempers flared when smaller unions challenged the Hillary-endorsing big unions such as AFSCME (public employees), the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, the Service Employees (SEIU) and the Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). These large unions came out for Clinton in late 2015 and early 2016 before they sensed the growing rank and file workers’ preference for the lifetime advocate for workers and union backer, Bernie Sanders.

Listening to the nurses union head speak out for Sanders’ strong pro-labor history, Lee Saunders, president of AFSCME, interrupted her, exclaiming: “I will not allow you to do a commercial for Sanders.” She retorted, “You mean for the only candidate who has a 100% labor record?”

A union leader of postal workers charged the unions backing Hillary as being “completely out of touch with their workers.” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka then cut off their microphones.

All over the country, the observation by the postal workers’ leader rings true. Even as Lee Saunders read the names of the Democratic presidential contenders at a large Washington state AFSCME membership meeting last October, “only Sanders’ name brought loud, sustained applause,” according to Bloomberg News.

Few union leaders allow a worker referendum to make the endorsement decisions. The 700,000-member Communications Workers of America (CWA) does, and the result was a “decisive endorsement of Sanders,” reported Rafael Navar, the union’s political director. Whether it is the level of enthusiasm, campaigning to get out the vote or talking up their candidate’s record on such issues as minimum wage increases, abolition of public university and college tuition, full Medicare for all (single payer system) and credibility in standing up to Wall Street, Hillary’s votes and statements do not come close to respecting the working families of America compared to Bernie’s consistent 30-year record.

Common Dreams

Hillary Clinton’s Link to a Nasty Piece of Work in Honduras

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign event at Hillside High School in Durham, N.C., Thursday, March 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign event at Hillside High School in Durham, N.C., Thursday, March 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

By Marjorie Cohn

A critical difference between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton is their position on whether children who fled violence in Central American countries, particularly Honduras, two years ago should be allowed to stay in the United States or be returned.

Sanders states unequivocally that they should be able to remain in the U.S.

Clinton disagrees. She would guarantee them “due process,” but nothing more.

By supporting the June 28, 2009, coup d’état in Honduras when she was secretary of state, Clinton helped create the dire conditions that caused many of these children to flee. And the assassination of legendary Honduran human rights leader Berta Cáceres earlier this month can be traced indirectly to Clinton’s policies.

During the Feb. 11 Democratic debate in Milwaukee, Clinton said that sending the children back would “send a message.” In answer to a question by debate moderator Judy Woodruff of PBS, she said, “Those children needed to be processed appropriately, but we also had to send a message to families and communities in Central America not to send their children on this dangerous journey in the hands of smugglers.”

Sanders retorted, “Who are you sending a message to? These are children who are leaving countries and neighborhoods where their lives are at stake. That was the fact. I don’t think we use them to send a message. I think we welcome them into this country and do the best we can to help them get their lives together.”

In the March 9 debate in Miami between the two Democratic candidates, Sanders accurately told moderator Jorge Ramos of Univision, “Honduras and that region of the world may be the most violent region in our hemisphere. Gang lords, vicious people torturing people, doing horrible things to families.” He added, “Children fled that part of the world to try, try, try, try, maybe, to meet up with their family members in this country, taking a route that was horrific, trying to start a new life.”

The violence in Honduras can be traced to a history of U.S. economic and political meddling, including Clinton’s support of the coup, according to American University professor Adrienne Pine, author of “Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras.”

Pine, who has worked for many years in Honduras, told Dennis Bernstein of KPFA radio in 2014 that the military forces that carried out the coup were trained at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly called the U.S. Army School of the Americas) in Fort Benning, Ga. Although the coup was supported by the United States, it was opposed by the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS). The U.N. and the OAS labeled President Manuel Zelaya’s ouster a military coup.

“Hillary Clinton was probably the most important actor in supporting the coup [against the democratically elected Zelaya] in Honduras,” Pine noted. It took the United States two months to even admit that Honduras had suffered a coup, and it never did admit it was a military coup. That is, most likely, because the Foreign Assistance Act prohibits the U.S. from aiding a country “whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.”

Truthdig

The American Fascist

(Photo: Matt Johnson/flickr/cc.)
(Photo: Matt Johnson/flickr/cc.)

By Robert Reich

I’ve been reluctant to use the “f” word to describe Donald Trump because it’s especially harsh, and it’s too often used carelessly.

But Trump has finally reached a point where parallels between his presidential campaign and the fascists of the first half of the 20th century – lurid figures such as Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Oswald Mosley, and Francisco Franco – are too evident to overlook.

It’s not just that Trump recently quoted Mussolini (he now calls that tweet inadvertent) or that he’s begun inviting followers at his rallies to raise their right hands in a manner chillingly similar to the Nazi “Heil” solute (he dismisses such comparison as “ridiculous.”)

The parallels go deeper.

As did the early twentieth-century fascists, Trump is focusing his campaign on the angers of white working people who have been losing economic ground for years, and who are easy prey for demagogues seeking to build their own power by scapegoating others.

Trump’s incendiary verbal attacks on Mexican immigrants and Muslims – even his reluctance to distance himself from David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan – follow the older fascist script.

That older generation of fascists didn’t bother with policy prescriptions or logical argument, either. They presented themselves as strongmen whose personal power would remedy all ills.

They created around themselves cults of personality in which they took on the trappings of strength, confidence, and invulnerability – all of which served as substitutes for rational argument or thought.

Common Dreams