Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Trading One Democrat For Another

Over at Salon (I know, I'm asking for it, but the concept is worth bringing to you to discuss) Bill Curry argues that when the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal passes with Hillary Clinton's support, Democrats will abandon both her and President Obama and turn to Bernie Sanders as the party's populist, anti-Wall Street savior.

After eight years of Obama, I’m not sure Clinton can run that race, or that anyone can. I don’t think she can enlist Wall Street oligarchs and recruit an army of dewy-eyed volunteers. Above all, I don’t think she can spout populist rhetoric without any policy specifics to back it up. Clinton insiders also ingratiate themselves to reporters by dishing about her need to seem more authentic. Someone should tell them it’s hard to seem real when you won’t tell people what you really think.

A bigger problem for Clinton may be that we know what she thinks. Her platform is like Obama’s trade deal; she won’t say what’s in it, but we can easily guess. It isn’t populism and it isn’t reform. The TPP? She never met a trade deal she didn’t like. The minimum wage? She and Obama let McDonald’s get the drop on them. The surveillance state? Her handling of her emails told us all we need to know of her views on transparency. More war in Iraq? For 12 years as a senator and secretary of state she was John McCain’s best friend. If she gets to be commander in chief, get ready to rumble.

She’s weakest on the sleeper issue of 2016: public corruption and the general debasement of politics and government. Voter disgust is so deep even consultants who make their real livings off corporate clients tell their political clients to talk about it. In her speech Clinton vowed to “wage and win four fights for you.” The first three were jobs, families and national security. The fourth was “reforming our government and revitalizing our democracy.” She vowed to overturn Citizens United and fight GOP efforts to disenfranchise the young, the poor and people of color, but then drifted off onto technology and cutting waste. Unlike nearly every Republican announcing for president, she never mentioned ethics or corruption.

Democratic elites don’t want to hear it but Hillary Clinton’s in trouble. It isn’t in all the data yet though you can find it if you look. In a straw poll taken in early June at a Wisconsin Democratic convention she edged out Bernie Sanders by just 8 points, 49% to 41%. In a poll of N.H. primary voters this week she beat Sanders by 41% to 31%. An Ohio poll had her in a dead heat with the likes of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. If Sanders can poll 40% in a Wisconsin straw poll in June he can do it an Iowa caucus in January. Imagine a Hillary Clinton who just lost Iowa and New Hampshire to Bernie Sanders. It’s still hard to picture but it gets easier every day.

You don’t win your next race running someone else’s last one. Trying to do so, Clinton repeats her big mistake of 2008: not sensing the times. There are smaller changes she can make right now: hire better speech writers, including at least one with a sense of humor; put her family foundation under independent management; tell her husband to stop giving speeches or else start talking for free. But her whole campaign model is wrong. ‘Clinton Democrats’ hate to admit there are issues you can’t finesse or that they must ever choose between the middle class and the donor class. Clinton better figure it out now. When the data’s all in it will be too late.

Clinton resists change. Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders is the only candidate in either party who seems to feel the tectonic plates of our politics shifting, perhaps because he’s expected the change for so long. His is still an improbable candidacy, but less improbable than it was a month or even a week ago. If he clears out the second tier, his battle with Hillary could become epic, forcing not just her but the Democratic Party to choose between the middle class and the donor class; between corporate and democratic rule; the battle over trade carried over into a presidential election.

There's a kernel of truth to all of that.  I've taken plenty of swings at the Clinton-era presidency pinata over pro-corporatist legislation that Big Dog signed that 15 or 20 years later served as the base of the implosion of our economy. The Clintons play an ugly game, and they play it to win.  President Obama at times plays that game too and he wins as well, but he's capable of winning as a liberal also and doing the right thing in the process.

At the same time, I can't say that Bermie Sanders doesn't have his baggage either.  I feel about Sanders the way I did about Joe Biden in 2007-2008: a nice guy, a proven liberal with a strong track record, but Delaware remains the US equivalent of a flag of convenience for corporate America and the credit card industry and Biden's record on those issues is pretty glaring.

It's the same with Bernie and Vermont.  It's the whitest state in the nation and Sanders has a real problem with perception of how he addresses black and Latino voters.  As with Biden, I think Sanders would make an outstanding VP.

No, the TPP is not going to cause a groundswell to support Bernie any more than any other issue. Clinton still leads him by 60 points and to pretend otherwise is moronic. Saying there's a hidden well of support for Sanders may or may not be true, but you can't say that and then say "well polls this early are meaningless."

Curry's emoprog tripe is cute, but it's not going to change a thing.


Scopedog said...

"Curry's emoprog tripe is cute, but it's not going to change a thing."

And it is (pardon my language) fucking stupid. I'm sorry, but I've just had it with the constant need for the emoprogs to toss President Obama under the bus all the time, every fucking time, and now it's Hillary, just so they can spew out love notes to Senator Sanders. I respect the man a great deal, but that respect does not come at the price of basically shitting all over the impressive record of President Obama.

Obama managed to get a hell of a lot done despite the obstacles thrown in his way--and yet the emoprogs just brush those things off and engage in stupid name-calling. Add to that Cornell West's recent claim that President Obama is our first "niggerized" President, and you can see why I would rather engage in hippie punching right now.

And not one of Senator Sanders' supporters--including Mr. Curry--has spoken about how to get a possible President Sanders a Democratic-controlled Congress so he can carry out all of the emoprogs' wishes. They really do think that he can just snap his fingers and fix everything.

Horace Boothroyd III said...

Nicely said. I am enough of a sentimentalist to keep up my subscription the The Nation and to skim the offerings at Salon in case anyone (accidentally) has anything interesting to say, but I have seen far too many True Believers gouge out their own eyes with ideological spoons at FireDogLake and the Daily Kos to take anything they say at face value.

If someone has a point, I will give a listen. If someone makes a good argument, I will be convinced. But this persistent and vigorously self deluding practice of throwing President Obama under that bus as a Neoliberal (of all the stupid irrelevant nonsense they might dream up) proves collective mental deficiency of the highest order.

While I do not begrudge the poor simpletons their simple pleasure in fantasies of victory and domination, I am prepared to be disappointed - once again - when their bubble is burst and they set out once again to sabotage yet another election out of rage and spite against the Democrats who they hate even more than the Republicans. Clean up on aisle nine, tears and bile, then back to holding off the racist hordes who want to drag the country back a century and a half. Yes, I know that by doing this - by shielding the hysterical ninnies from the consequences of their bad behavior - I simply encourage them and paradoxically make such bad behavior easier, but unlike kossack Wise Piper (who keeps telling us he will be committing suicide on July 27) I am not cynical enough to inflict Republican levels of harm upon my fellow Americans just to score a few cheap political points.

Odie said...

All of this Obama's not liberal stuff is not based on fact or reality. His record speaks for itself. But I guess if you say it to yourself so many times you start to believe it.

Scopedog said...

I'm afraid you're right. It beggars belief that one can look at the man's many achievements in helping the country and come away thinking that a) he's a Republican or b) he's to the right of Nixon.

Horace Boothroyd III said...

Or look at President Obama's disciplined measures to contain the demons unleashed when the Neocons blew up the Middle East and conclude that c) he is a more bloodthirsty war monger than Bush and Cheney.

michael said...

You can call me an "emoprog", or "fucking stupid", I really don't care. I'm proud to say I voted for President Obama twice. I think he has done an excellent job as commander in chief, and that he has a really wonderful family, and I also personally believe that history will look back at him in a very good light. He faces a Republican party, that a week before his first inaugural, conspired to obstruct everything he was willing to work for, and that was truely despicable. Given the current state of our political discourse, he's done quite well.


TPP. I disagree with this specific policy, and I also wrote my senators (Cantwell and Murray), and excoriated my congresscritter (Rick Larson) of the plague that is the TPP. I couldn't disagree more with the president on this terrible "sacrifice" to corporate greed. I could go on about the horrible specifics, and capitulation to the doner class, but I'll digress.

So in passing, you can say "I'm a stupid emoprog throwing President Obama under the bus". In turning the tables, I suggest, you're saying the president can do no wrong, and that his shit never stinks.

Enjoy the bouquet.

Horace Boothroyd III said...

Howdy, stranger, and welcome to the party.

The Emoprogs are the foul tempered leftier-that-thou types who advocate for defeating the Democrats, throwing victory to the Republicans under the delusion that something something VICTORY FOR THE LEFT!!!!11!!1! and a lemonade pissing unicorn for everyone.

If you are not one of them, great! Most people, and all sensible people, are not.

As for any specific policy, there is always room around here for honest people to disagree. I have no strong opinion about TPP either way, but I am pretty certain that NAFTA does not bear responsibility for all the horrors that have been heaped on its name: the deindustrialization of the North was well on its way by 1975, with a short pass through in the South based on their hostility to union labor, and we really can not blame a 1994 North American treaty for the effects of the world wide seismic shifts that broke into the open in 1968.

So, to turn the tables back, I think you shot from the hip because you don't actually understand what you were criticizing.

michael said...

Well, I really don't know what is in the TPP, because I haven't been able to see it. Trade agreements are a double edged sword because you give power to extra constitutional entities that trump local rule. Case in point: country of origin rules that prevent me from seeing where, lets say, American bred beef, versus, is it coming from China? Or Phillip Morris suing Australia and Uruguay for anti smoking campaigns, brought to you by none other than NAFTA. Right or wrong, I listen to the Elizabeth Warren's and the Bernie Sander's when it comes to trade. You can say that I might be a bit naive for listening to them, but I am what I am, and I'm fine with you being agnostic on this issue (but I am not).

I do find myself disagreeing with my democratic representatives at times, but I assure you, it's about the battle and not the war. 2016 is about the Supreme Court period, end of discussion. It's always good to elect better and more progressive dem's if you can, but to spite ones nose just for purity's sake is insane. You can win some battles, and sometimes you have to eat some losses. Sometimes the wins are barely incremental. Democracy isn't easy, and in the end, it's all about the journey.

I do like like this democratic primary, and I like to see the issues debated. But in the end I vote for (D).

Thank you for your gracious welcome.

Horace Boothroyd III said...

Elizabeth Warren is my Senator and I love her dearly, while Bernie Sanders is my neighbor to the North: if we had fifty nine more of them in the upper house, the world would soon be a better place for everyone. The trick is, how do we get them elected?

Perhaps I am too ready to trust my elected representatives in handling the People's Business, precisely because I am represented by such sterling characters. With that stipulation, I truly do believe in Representative Democracy and the idea that - sometimes - "the people's right to know" resides in our duly constituted representatives acting in their official capacity rather than in any individual who wants to sit down at the committee for a look-see. I understand that this approach does carry certain risks, but I believe that at present we have them adequately contained.

I say this because, when I look around, the two fundamental complaints against TPP are that 1) it's being negotiated "in secret" and 2) NAFTA destroyed the American economy and TPP will be NAFTA on steroids. The second point I addressed in my first note: in my opinion, people are too quick to make NAFTA the scapegoat for trends and forces that were already well under way and thus they obscure (perhaps deliberately, perhaps in well meaning ignorance) the serious issues we need to address. The first point, implicit in my preceding paragraph, is in my opinion irrelevant and misleading: the opposite of "secret" is not "any guy off the street can come in and wreck things." I have been on enough committees to know that it takes an ocean of delicate negotiation to put together a multilateral consensus document, and giving access to anyone with an ax to grind is a blueprint for failure.

The overarching point here is that the global regulatory superstructure has gotten pretty creaky. Everybody knows how the Black Bloc routed the WTO in 1999 and how the IMF massacred Argentina in 2001, but once that smoke drifted away from those flashes everyone lost interest in whether the existing framework of agreements would be able to handle the burdens placed on it. This is the day in day out business of the State Department, and if we don't do this correctly there is a real risk that paper inefficiencies will cause real losses in the real economy. Of course, I want to see very strong transnational worker protections and transnational environmental protections built into these agreements; the serious question is, as in the first paragraph, how exactly do we go about building them in and getting international buy in? These are the questions I think we should be discussing on the leftist blogs, rather than (as I see it) shouting empty slogans as we watch our cause go down to inevitable defeat. If we really wanted to win this battle, we needed to be analyzed and organized in 2013. Instead, we spent the past two years doing other stuff.

In closing, I see that many people find the ISDS provisions distasteful. For me, I see that this kind of thing has been going on since the Jay Treaty in 1795 and it has not exactly destroyed Democracy yet.

Thank you for joining us, and I do appreciate the challenge: a sincere clash of ideas has the great benefit of sharpening both minds.

michael said...

I actually sent Elizabeth Warren money because I admire her so much. I truely wish she were my senator, but in Washington state we have some good ones, and I'll be thankful for that.

In my state, we depend on trade due to our geographic location. I personally benefit from trade because my employer is the number one exporter in the US. I really believe in trade, but I don't see the TPP as a trade deal per se, but more as a strategic alignment with asian pacific nations to thwart off what I believe is a growing threat, from what the Obama administration sees, as an increasing influence of the Chinese government in dominating the region. The trade route through the strait of Malacca is of strategic importance and having a trade deal with Malaysia would help us secure this key shipping lane for our trading partners. But Malaysia has such a terrible human rights track record, such as human trafficking, and outright slavery, that this won't be an easy sell. People don't want to reward the Malaysian government, but what can be done? Obama wants this alliance really really bad, and now, how does he sell this. How does he get the buy in?

This pact will greatly affect trade in the area, and alot of big corporations are very weary of rocking the boat with Chinese, so the President had to "sweeten the deal" to get them on board. This is where I am weary of the TPP. Nobody knows the exact terms, but now in a few months we will get to see the specific language of the text, and we will be able to make a truely informed judgment. And we will get to see the exact price that major corporations extracted from the administration.

TPP was never about jobs, and TAA won't help displaced workers, it's just a drop in the bucket, and steals money from medicare to pay for it. Thanks republicans.

Thank you for your response. I really appreciate it.

Horace Boothroyd III said...

All of your points are valid, especially the core issue that TPP (and allied agreements) are not simply about trade. I think of the set as being something like the Bretton Woods Agreements, albeit more intricate because we are dealing with a multitude of independent states rather than a small number of world powers. My experience is with the Cone of South America rather than East Asia, but I think we can agree that the State Department - taking instructions from President Obama and the Congress - has its hands full building such an agreement while you and I have our hands full analyzing what we can glean and what the final public version will contain.

As an aside, this is why I do not fear Fast Track Authority for its major effect is to block amendments that would send the whole agreement back for renegotiation - probably from scratch, which is the way these things go. In or out, thumbs up or thumbs down, that is the way I would like the agreement to be treated. Some people see it as a swindle, an effort to complete the cloak of secrecy, but I do not.

In the larger context (and I do think this needs to be mentioned, for this is what set us off on the wrong foot at the top) I hold that The Left in America has ruptured and is going through a painful slow motion divorce. The issues are not clear, the groupings are not clear, and no one has any idea where this is all going, but the stresses of balancing the partial successes of the Obama Administration in the face of ferocious Republican opposition against the disappointments of those who expected him to be a more charismatically leftist leader have put us into a mightily awkward position.

People like me think that an independent Left Movement would be premature at this time, that we need to work with the Democrats for at least another decade in a United Front against the Republicans - who are by no means as decrepit as some would have you believe - while we build an identifiable movement that has demonstrable public support. It has to be grounded in electoral victories, in mayors and councilmen and Governors and state reps, before we can have a fighting chance at taking on the feds.

Others believe that the Democrats can not be trusted, that they are almost as bad as the Republicans where they are not worse than the Republicans, and that the Democrats will leverage their advantages to coopt any sort of nascent movement that we might construct. If one believes this, then one naturally believes that I am a fool and that my very presence is toxic to the parallel movement that they are trying to construct.

Which leaves us all in something of a pickle, leading to bruised feelings and mutual suspicion. Thus a number of sensitive issues, TPP being a leader, have been adopted as badges of tribal identity. The obvious consequence is that anyone who comes barging in here (no offense intended, remember the bruised feelings) to make trouble over TPP looks like he just wants a fight.

In conclusion, I am happy that you stuck around and we got through the brush because this has been a stimulating exchange. We all know how ugly the internet can turn, and how great it can be to share views with the educated and well informed.

michael said...

Thank you for this discussion. I learned alot and you really make me think. That's a very good thing.

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