Mar 10, 2016

March 9, 2016: From the Jaws of Victory, Cries from the Rustbelt, As If For The First Time

“To date the Democrats have proven adept only at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory”

                       ----from “The Quotations of Chairman Joe”

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this, but something happened on the way to the forum.  After battling Hillary to a dead heat in the Iowa Caucus, Bernie Sanders administered a sharp blow to the ‘Once and Future Queen’ by crushing her in Vermont and New Hampshire.  But, schooled in inspired stupidity, the mossbacks running the Democratic Party erected a ‘firewall’ against any progressive insurgency by first selecting over 700 so-called, ‘super delegates’ composed of elected officials and party big-Whigs, and secondly but creating “Super-Tuesday”, the first of the great primary nights, duly front-loaded in early March so as to insure that the insurgent candidate doesn’t have enough time, should he or she do well in the early contests, to raise enough money and field an effective ground-game operation.  Moreover, this event is concentrated in the deep South, shortly on the heels of the snake pit in South Carolina, a sure fire way to thwart any would-be challenger to the status quo.  Or so it seems.

Emerging from his stunning performance in Iowa, in which the outcome was quite literally decided by the tossing of coin, and his crushing of Clinton in New Hampshire, Sanders had a tough hill to climb in the Southeast, the area of the country that although it benefited greatly from the New Deal has, because of Civil Rights, proven in the last half century increasingly hostile toward liberalism. Here is the bulwark erected by the party apparatchiks to prevent the emergence and nomination of another George McGovern and these primaries have—scheduled as they are in the primary sequence and grouped together into a loose ‘Southern Bloc’, have indeed produced the likes of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, southern political practitioners that have, on balance, proven to be material accomplices in the dismantling of the New Deal.  Carter by introducing and legitimizing the fundamentalist voting bloc, beginning the process of wholesale deregulation, increasing defense spending as a percentage of GDP, taxing unemployment benefits and, most notably calling the progressive tax code a ‘disgrace to the human race’.  Clinton, of course, repealed Glass-Steagall, continued deregulation, ratified Reagan’s destruction of the progressivity of the tax code, as well as committing the country to trade agreements that hollowed out the manufacturing base of the country, balanced budgets on the backs of the working people, began the policy of wholesale incarcerations, and signed off on the telecommunications act of 1996 which created the corporate dominance of the media we have now.  Given when the primaries are held and the order in which they held any would be insurgency from the political left, in either party, risks being snuffed at its inception.   

Accordingly, Hillary, resting her campaign upon her strengths with the African-American community, as well as what is left of the old party machinery, ran up some impressive victories in Dixie, from South Carolina through Georgia and Alabama, all the way to Louisiana.  But Bernie, of late has come back with victories in Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska, those areas that were the hotbed of the old prairie fire that fueled the progressive movement and the New Deal.  But the press, determined to anoint the anointed one had all but written off the Sanders insurgency.  Then came Michigan.

In a sense the press had it right.  Michigan was a must-win for Sanders, for it is difficult to see where he had to go had Clinton won, especially if she had won decisively. If he could not win in Michigan, a state savaged by the economic legacy of the first Clinton Presidency, where could he win?

Then came the cry from the Rustbelt.  Alas, this was not supposed to happen.  “The most recent poll had Clinton ahead by 27 points. The RealClearPolitics average had her winning by 21 points. Even the most optimistic poll had Sanders trailing by 13 points”. (1)  Nate Silber’s much heralded “” was stunned, observing in the aftermath: “to find an upset on the same scale as what Sanders achieved in Michigan, you’d have to go back over 30 years. Those polls that put Illinois and Ohio out of Sanders’s reach look a lot less reliable today. And if Sanders wins in those states, it won’t be his viability as a candidate that is in question.” (2)

Once again, as eight years ago, large segments of the Democratic constituencies are recoiling at the prospect of a Clinton restoration.  And for good reason.  Where were the Clintons in the fight to keep those good paying jobs from leaving the country?  Where were they on welfare reform, on re-regulation, on anti-trust, on a whole host of issues.  Most of what they ‘accomplished’ was either a ratification of the Reagan reaction or ‘improvements’ upon it becoming by degrees material accomplices in the ongoing dismantlement of the New Deal.  And, like their conservative mentors presided over yet another recovery to which the Middle Class was not invited. 

Presented with yet another challenge the Clinton’s go about what they have always done, smearing their opponent.  With Obama it was dog-whistle racial innuendo, questioning his ability to be ‘commander-in-chief’ and lending initial credibility to the ‘birther’ nonsense.  Eight years later, and once again in full-panic mode, they are about smearing an opponent’s record, questioning his commitment to Civil Rights by pointing out that he represents lily-white Vermont.  Here the Clinton’s demonstrate their remarkable political dexterity.  Eight years ago when Obama had locked up the black vote, the Clinton’s were campaigning like George Wallace in order to carry West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. Now, confronted with a challenge from an old white Jew they present themselves as the champion of minorities, denigrating Bernie’s involvement in the Civil Rights struggle.  It hasn’t fooled everyone, Ben Jealous for instance, the former head of the NAACP has endorsed Bernie, but the strategy worked well enough for Hillary to win big victories in the South where blacks represent a much greater percentage of the Democratic vote—especially if the turnout is low—then they represent in the general population.  The other narrative is, of course to paint him as some wild-eyed radical, a hopeless idealist, advocating some ‘pie-in-the-sky’ radical agenda when all Bernie is suggesting is that we restore the New Deal and the tax code of Dwight Eisenhower.  As I remind my Democratic colleagues, most of whom support Hillary, of course we can do it, our ancestors did it back in the day when we believed and therefore invested in ourselves.  This is ‘revolutionary’ only in the original meaning of the term, that is things have gone ‘full circle’.  Past as prelude.  We have made this journey to find ourselves at the point at which it all began, and to see it as if for the first time.

(1). “Why Bernie Sanders’s Win in Michigan is Huge” The Nation.

(2). Ibid.



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