Saturday, May 28, 2016


After my last blog, some responses led me to another thought about the unity needed to defeat Trump. Of course it’s a two way street. The need is for voters who choose between Sanders and Clinton in the primaries to be open to what moved many friends to vote the other way. One has to distinguish serious concerns from personal likes and dislikes, and from Trump’s smears churned out to demonize both Clinton and Sanders. Clearly unity depends on finding consensus on enough to move forward effectively, not on everything. The significant differences between Sanders and Clinton are not as important as the interests that bind the voters and movements that surround each candidate. 

In that regard, media “news” coverage is far from helpful. An article in today's NY Times quotes supposed Sanders demonstrators who demonize Hillary and boast a preference for Trump:

That doesn't represent the view of Sanders or most of his supporters. There is a responsibility to strongly refute such ideas. I wouldn't be surprised  if Trump and the GOP (notorious for "dirty tricks") had a hand in promoting such self-destructive expressions around the edges of the Sanders campaign.

Nevertheless, the Times reporter felt no responsibility of his own for an accurate story. Instead he misled and goaded the public to anticipate that the democratic primaries will culminate in an irreconcilable shoot-out.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


It’s weird and dangerous — more so each day.

The media is focused on giving advice to Sanders: quit now or “his chance to build a lasting legacy may be slipping away.” Why complicate things? Why not just get on with it: Clinton vs. Trump.

The fact is things are complicated, very. For one thing, look at Robert Kagan’s column in the Washington Post: This is how fascism comes to America. On the face of it, this is a bold indictment of Trump and the GOP, one that echoes warnings from many progressive democrats.

Look again. It’s not at all irrelevant that Kagan is the leading voice of neoconservative hawks. He rose to that status after his early service with Cheney in pushing for the Iraq War, continuing as a GOP advocate for more aggressive military interventionism, leading the charge against Obama as “weak” and reluctant to employ US military power. His wife and colleague, Victoria Nuland, was a major figure in Hillary Clinton’s State Department, notorious for recklessly stoking revival of  ‘cold war’ tensions in Europe.

Even before Trump threw his hat in the ring, Kagan accompanied his attacks on Obama with an embrace of Hillary Clinton. He stressed that the neocons would be “comfortable” with her. No surprise, that makes a lot of people “uncomfortable”: those who favor a turn away from the proven risks and failures of superpower militarism and war.

The neocons fear Trump as a 'loose canon', who might not march in rhythm with the particulars of their agenda. But it would be a travesty if some who oppose the neocon hawks were to conclude that Trump is an alternative. There’s no quarrel with sounding the alarm that Trump and the GOP have opened a Pandora’s box of fascist possibilities. And those possibilities — violent nativism, racism, and bullying based on “America First” military power — will never serve peace at home or abroad.

So things are not simple. Beating Trump is the clear and certain priority. But progressives have a lot to ponder and a lot that needs doing.

There is much that the millions of voters for Sanders and Clinton share. That’s the basis for unity that is so urgent no matter who faces off against Trump. But unity has to be dynamic. Agreement on the main priority doesn’t mean that the fight for change should be hidden away or surrendered.

My focus here has been on foreign policy, but the argument could be made with regard to a range of issues that involve the battle against economic and social inequality. At issue is whether the powerful energy brought forward by the Sanders campaign can be a force that is decisive in a landslide defeat of Trump; also, can it emerge from the elections as a new and influential factor opening up politics to the public interest as opposed to control by big money.

So I root for more successes for Bernie’s campaign and will vote for him in the California primaries. A very promising move is his recent encouragement of new candidates at state and local levels. I wish for a Democratic Convention that unites to beat Trump and the GOP. I root for a Convention that recognizes and values the historic contributions of the Sanders campaign. I root for a convention in which the Democratic Party establishment is challenged and more delegates, both office holders and grass-roots participants, are open to changing policies and practices that impede unity and make electoral candidates more vulnerable.

That would make me “comfortable” voting for Trump’s Democratic opponent in November. In any case, the “miracle” of the Sanders campaign holds promise of an effective independent political movement beyond the presidential election. That calls for a concept of unity inclusive of millions on either side of the Sanders-Clinton primary divide.

We choose our priorities and cast our votes. Support may be strong based on a major consideration, but critical or non-existent on other important particulars. In my memory, we have not had a president who didn’t have to be strongly opposed on important policies, often on issues of war and peace. That battle goes on past elections. There is no other option. And sometimes the president has to bend.

Bernie is right to keep going. It won’t be over even when the primaries end. Unity to defeat Trump can be more meaningful to a lot of young people if it’s connected to “a future to believe in”. Just another political insider deal woudn’t pass. 

Monday, May 9, 2016


There’s something ironic about the flailing going on in a GOP in full disarray, something eerily familiar for many on the left to the questions now roiling “traditional” Republicans leery of Trump. Do you go with him after all? Do you vote for the “lesser evil”, presumably Hillary? Do you try to mount a “third party” challenge? Do you just not vote?

For a variety of reasons, one can’t take much comfort from the GOP’s anguish. For one thing, Trump’s rise is not just a freak turn of events. It is testimony to deeply rooted problems in our country, in our society, which the Sanders campaign has targeted. The ultra-Right of “the billionaire class” wields great power within government and the media to exploit fears, insecurity and racist anger. All things considered, one may not rest assured that Trump, the demagogue, can’t win.

Inevitably, as we get to crunch time in the closing phase of the primaries, echoes of old dilemmas surface on the left. If Clinton is the Democratic nominee, as is most likely, vulnerabilities exposed in the primaries are not readily dismissed. There is significant criticism of her uninspiring emphasis on the limits of what’s possible, her questionable relations with Wall Street, her reliance on big money campaign financing, and, most important, there is clear evidence of hawkish differences with Obama and her commitment to an even more aggressively militaristic foreign policy. Her strengths were also apparent. Despite problems dating back to the1990s, she connected more fully than Sanders with communities of color fighting racism and xenophobia in the criminal justice system and in immigration policy. Responding to central issues raised by Sanders, she moved somewhat forward on questions of workers’ rights, trade policy and the minimum wage. She always has been a strong advocate for equality for women and supports gender equality as a matter of principle. It will certainly not be a small thing whenever the USA elects its first woman President.

I believe most supporters of Sanders and Clinton will come together because they recognize what a disaster it would be for us and for the world if Trump or any would-be dictator were to succeed Obama. There are those who would give contrary advice, some with understandable reservations. But I want to take issue with one view sent to me by email yesterday that suggests the left should actually favor a Trump victory. He writes: “… the rest of the world (if not those living in the United States) has less to fear from Donald Trump than from Hillary Clinton.” He actually proposes a strategy that could elect Trump, soliciting support for a letter to Bernie Sanders urging a Sanders-Stein Green Party ticket. Of course, there is absolutely no reason to think Sanders would consider such advice. 

The author of the letter to Sanders has been the source of much worthwhile material on Israel, Palestine and the Middle East. An American who lives in Europe, he can be cavalier about what a President Trump might mean for “those living in the United States”, while he nurses illusions of Trump as a boon to world peace. Millions of Americans have very good reason to fear a Trump regime. In fact, the very best reason to work for a landslide defeat of the GOP would be to register a historic rejection of racism and bigotry.

But supreme folly would be to paint Trump as an agent for peace. Yes, he’s unpredictable and might not feel bound by conventional wisdoms, many of which have proved costly and resulted in failure. But “America First” and “Peace through Strength” are not recipes for non-violence in world affairs. Trump boasts a reputation as a notorious corporate “deal maker”, but that doesn’t make him less of a bully, one who boasts he would use torture even beyond water-boarding, favors nuclear proliferation and justifies our own past and potential use of nuclear weapons. 

The world would have more reason than it already has to fear the arrogant flaunting of US power. In these times, we live with nightmares, none worse than contemplating a megalomaniac as commander-in-chief of the all-too expansive worldwide US military establishment and keeper of the keys to a nuclear arsenal that could obliterate life on earth.

While Trump is most dangerous, it looks like there may be no real peace candidate in 2016, at least not one with a real chance to influence the course of events. Tom Hayden makes this point in his latest bulletin, but then surprisingly blasts Bernie Sanders as a supporter of “regime change” military interventionism. Of course Sanders, whatever may be questionable about some past Congressional votes, is the one who voted against the Iraq war and, in these primaries, has explicitly criticized “regime change” adventurism. He has also had the courage to resist political pressure from AIPAC for support of Israel’s occupation regime and the Netanyahu government’s determination to prevent establishment of a Palestinian state. 

Frankly I don’t understand why Hayden, who originally supported the Sanders campaign, chooses now to direct his fire at Sanders. Perhaps he means to justify his decision to vote for Clinton in the California primary. I certainly agree with his appeal for unity in support of the Democratic nominee to ensure a crushing defeat for Trump (or whomever may still emerge from a chaotic and possibly violent GOP Convention).  But dumping on Sanders is no way to get unity when the movement he has launched is more important than ever going forward to the Democratic Convention and beyond. The movement which has achieved so much so far, which has transformed political consideration of some of our most basic social and economic problems, still has work to do. Not least is to elevate the need for a turn in foreign policy toward peace and coping with climate change. Concern for peace can be a unifying issue for Hillary and Bernie supporters. 

We and the whole world would surely be safer with a peace president committed to less militaristic and provocative pursuits. We haven’t had too many such since the USA became a military superpower. Thus the necessity for a popular movement to push back against the hawks. Even a stubborn loyalist of the military-industrial establishment can be compelled to adjust to reality, to engage more in diplomacy to deal with problems rather than resort to military intervention that yields so many failures and so much peril. 

‘These are the times that try our souls’. And what else is new?

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