I thank readers for keeping traffic and comments going while I was juggling tasks this week. The debate on the previous post concerning the Democratic primary is quite remarkable and worth reading. At the risk of alienating some of you, I come down squarely with Soleri regarding Sanders.
I use the clause "at the risk..." because this battle has turned amazingly ugly. Friendships will be lost over Sanders vs. Clinton. Despite being a Democrat only since 2015, the senator from Vermont has the potential to burn the party to the ground if he doesn't get his way — or, because he probably wouldn't pull a Ralph Nader, his supporters do.
The invective hurled at Hillary from social media to my in-box is so over-the-top as to make me wonder, what's going on here? Clinton and Sanders debates have been far more elevated and reality-based than the GOP klown kar. But the Hillary hatred is astonishing. She is never mistaken, or disagreed with, or made some head-scratching bad judgment calls — she is evil, despicable, a "war bitch"... you get the idea. That she was leading the effort to achieve single-payer health coverage when Sanders had only been in Congress for two years merely gets her more contempt from this crowd. The vast right-wing infrastructure has spent nearly 25 years trying to destroy her, mostly with lies. How sad if they get the final inches across the goal line from putative Democrats.
When I drove more often, I used to listen to Sanders on Thom Hartmann's progressive radio show. His views were bracing appraisals of our national situation, especially regarding Wall Street, inequality, and fair play — basically his stump speeches of today. He was preaching to the crowd. Now the crowd is much bigger. Yet he never seemed presidential material.
I understand some of his appeal. He calls it as he sees it — which is often the way I see it, too. He's tapped into the zeitgeist placing neoliberalism on trial — how quickly people forget that liberal politicians such as Bill Clinton and Tony Blair had to position themselves as "new Democrats" and New Labor to have a chance to compete in the political world remade by Ronald Reagan and Margaret "There is no alternative" Thatcher. Sanders is also inspiring and has tapped into the all-important young people, around which all must be focused today (except affordable college, decent jobs, and straight talk). Or so we are relentlessly told.
The implication is that the current chief magistrate is a drab time-server we will be fortunate to be rid of, to be replaced by Sen. Sanders. I realize American attention spans are getting shorter, but 2008 is not that long ago. Then, Barack Obama appeared to be one of the most remarkable leaders to come along in decades, certainly for Democrats. Remember candidate Obama's speech before 200,000 in Berlin? His magnificent speech on race during the Rev. Wright controversy? Since then, Mr. Obama has achieved quite a bit given the vicious and unprecedented Republican deranged opposition. History will remember him well.
Don't forget that Mr. Obama had a great "story," a thrilling vision of unity; it wasn't merely giving good speeches. He attracted an energized base of young people. Compared with Lincoln and JFK, he entered the presidency amid the wreckage left by the Bush administration and with broad-based good will on the part of most citizens. For all this, the GOP and the oligarchy — and perhaps the Deep State — quickly regrouped and left so many progressives disappointed.
To be sure, it was most unfortunate that Democrats never saw 2010 coming; members of Congress were shockingly unprepared for the right-wing counterattack in "town meetings" that summer and fall. Not for nothing did Will Rogers say, "I'm not a member of any organized political party. I'm a Democrat." The Republicans, with their billionaires, infrastructure, and media were under no such disadvantage. And back then it was evil Speaker Pelosi, rather like evil Hillary Clinton.
Remember Jim DeMint — "We will break him"? The united front to destroy Mr. Obama and his agenda was not limited to Republicans controlling Congress (even with Democratic control of the Senate, Republicans were masters of the filibuster; not one voted for ACA). It extended to growing GOP control of statehouses. Governors in Florida and Wisconsin turned down federally funded high-speed rail. Many red states still opt out of Obamacare exchanges. Republicans since 1992 have viewed every Democratic president as illegitimate.
Faced with a similar opposition, which is likely, how would a President Sanders handle things differently?
"A political revolution" is not an action plan unless you are willing to spill blood and kill more of them than they kill of you. Otherwise, one needs an actual political strategy. Actual experience with the intricacies of governing in a complex system. When I hear "political revolution" without a political plan, I think people are being conned.
So if there's another Democratic debate, I'd love to hear how President Sanders would enact far more sweeping and controversial change than Mr. Obama's (Republican-originated) healthcare reform? And how he would do this without control of Congress? And why he isn't working to raise money for down-ticket races?
I can't think of another presidential race like this in modern American history. The Nader third-party candidacy of 2000 was small and predictable — but it, along with the Supreme Court (thanks, Sandy), gave us George W. Bush. This year is far bigger and more unpredictable. We're on a tipping point — and I am unconvinced it is into a land of daisies, sunshine, and social democracy.
Two things I am pretty sure of: Hillary is fatally wounded and [the real-estate developer] or a similarly dangerous Republican will win.
Indeed, 2016 may mark the end of the Democratic Party as a competitive force in even presidential politics. It has already happened at the state level in many places. Hoping for a Republican stumble (again) is not a viable strategy. What emerges may be two or three European-style center- and hard-left parties fighting for scraps from a dominant Republican Party. Because the Republicans will vote, no matter who is at the top of the ticket. In fact, they seem to like [the real-estate developer] better than their chosen ideologues.