The present political reality and the choices for Bernicrats in November and beyond
Currently, we arguably live in an oligarchy. It is described by Wikipedia as “a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people. These people might be distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, education, corporate, religious or military control.” Examples: The Russian Federation, the United States of America.
“A 2014 Study by Martin Gilens, Professor of Politics at Princeton University, and Benjamin I. Page, Gordon S. Fulcher Professor of Decision Making at Northwestern University, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens”, analyzed nearly 1,800 policies enacted by the United States government between 1981 and 2002, and compared them to the expressed preferences of the American public as opposed to wealthy Americans and large special interest groups. It found that wealthy individuals and organizations representing business interests have substantial political influence, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little to none… Gilens and Page apply the concept of “civil oligarchy” as used by Jeffrey Winters with respect to the US. Winters has posited a comparative theory of “oligarchy” in which the wealthiest citizens—even in a “civil oligarchy” like the United States—dominate policy concerning crucial issues of wealth- and income-protection.” (Wikipedia)
Political power must be wrestled from the American oligarchy as it will use every bit of its immense power, including control of corporate media, to maintain its domination. The oligarchy will not leave meekly and gently in the night. Anyone who thinks this will be easy, or quickly done, is seriously misguided, naïve, or delusional. This a war, not a battle, albeit a just cause for those taking the oligarchy on.
There are 244 million Americans of voting age. Some 81 percent of us, about 198 million, are women, millennials, or persons of color. Of the remaining 46 million of us who are white males over the age of 35, a decent number are progressive to moderate in their political leanings. Absent a military coup, the eventual demise of the oligarchy is spelled out in these demographics, if the American People open their eyes and exercise their power in a concerted, sustained, effective manner.
Every political candidate should earn the votes of Progressives through ethical behavior, demonstrated consistency, policy positions that are the closest approximation of voter values and views, demonstrated good judgement, and by running a campaign in a manner that demonstrates respect for voters, an ability to listen, and a recognition that maintaining the status quo in terms of those with extraordinary wealth and/or corporate influence over all levels of government has all but destroyed our Democracy and turned it into an Oligarchy is unacceptable.
There is absolutely no moral, social, or political equivalency between voting for Donald Trump or voting for Hillary Clinton. Nada. Zilch. None.
The Republican/Democratic nominees
I am not a fan of Hillary Clinton. Far from it. She is a product of and the embodiment of the Oligarchy. Let me be blunt: She and her Husband have received over $200 million of influence and access payments masquerading as speaking fees and control a massive self-promotion vehicle supported by $Billions that represents itself as a charitable foundation but spends the vast percentage of its budget on administrative overhead and promoting the Clintons.
Clinton is functionally a pro-choice moderate Republican who will extend the control of the oligarchy over economic policies for four years and will have to be constantly thwarted by an engaged electorate to prevent us from entering into further needless wars. Progressives will have to push, cajole, embarrass, and hem in Clinton – a hard but manageable task – to minimize negative impacts on the working class and our shrinking middle class. It will be a difficult four years with many suffering but the nation and the planet will survive.
Trump is a textbook case of someone with narcissistic personality disorder, a sociopath, bat shit crazy, suffering from the onset of dementia, or some combination thereof. It is clear his decision-making in matters of virtually any policy topic is irrational, ego driven, and inconsistent. If he ran our economy like he ran his businesses, he would start a trade war, a second Great Depression, and quite possibly a third World War. His instability, racism, misogyny, and xenophobia would be a cataclysmically divisive force likely not seen in our nation since our Civil War 150 years ago and potentially result in America becoming a pariah nation. His Climate Change Denial will push us to the edge of environmental extinction.
The best we can hope for if Donald Trump is elected is a quick impeachment and removal. Unfortunately, if Trump were removed from office, he’d be replaced by one of the most rightwing politicians in America – Mike Pence
At the worse, we could see an attempted or successful Military Coup or the Start of World War Three. There is no way Donald Trump should have access to nuclear launch codes. Seriously.
Hillary Clinton is a temporary barrier to Progressives defeating the American Oligarchy. Donald Trump is an immediate existential threat to the survival of our nation and planet. They are not equivalent. It is not a close call. Trump must never be elected President.
This is our Revolution. Yes, we can! Si se puede!
The Bernie revolution
We would have been even worse off if it were not for Bernie Sanders and what I would call “The Great Awakening.” A little known, Independent Socialist Senator from the state ranking 49th in population started a national movement that engaged America’s largest generation (Millennials), generated 13 million votes, made income inequality a widely recognized issue, propelled public awareness of the existential threat of climate change, and shook the oligarchy and political establishment to its core. Bernie and the Progressive Movement have at least temporarily pushed Clinton towards the left on important economic, social, trade, and environmental issues. Bernie achieved far more success than he or most of those of who are his supporters could have thought truly possible at the onset of his campaign. To his great credit, and to the equally great discredit of virtually every other nationally prominent progressive politician in the country, he did what they were too cowardly to do: took on the Clinton Political Machine, Democratic Party power structure, corporate media, and the American oligarchy for the Democratic presidential nomination. Amazingly, Bernie almost won – earning 46 percent of pledged delegates. Arguably, in a straight-up and fair nominating process, Sanders would have won.
Of course, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominating process was not straight-up and fair. The 2016 Democratic presidential nominating process was the most overtly manipulative, unethical, corrupt process in modern American political history. The integrity of the nominating process of two-thirds of Democratic state parties was shattered by fundraising arrangements with the Clinton campaign. The Democratic National Committee was essentially a completely controlled and biased appendage of the Clinton campaign.
Corporate media essentially parroted Clinton campaign speaking points from start to finish. Future historians will write that 2016 was the year corporate media completely forsook responsible journalism and engaged in wholesale and totally slanted propaganda to maximize profits and help determine a presidential race’s outcome. Murrow, Cronkite, Chancellor, Huntley, Brinkley, and Jennings are, no doubt, spinning in their respective graves.
Millions were prevented from exercising their franchise in a purposeful, underhanded, systematic manner. Ongoing investigations and law suits may very well prove actual vote rigging and miscounts in any number of states. Multiple academic researchers have reviewed primary election data and concluded that the results could only been achieved thru widespread vote fraud. Cal-Berkley and Stanford Studies placed the odds that Hillary Clinton won without widespread fraud at only 1 chance in 77 Billion (http://alexanderhiggins.com/stanford-berkley-study-1-77-bi…/).
This is our Revolution. Yes, we can! Si se puede!!
So, what are our options in 2016?
We have four candidates who possess the theoretical possibility of being elected President of the United States this November in that they will each be on enough States’ ballots to win 270 Electoral College Votes and the Presidency.
The “Democratic Party Nominee”, Hillary Clinton, is functionally a Pro-Choice Moderate Republican with militaristic tendencies, who is the clear choice of the Oligarchy.
The “Republican Party nominee”, Donald Trump, as previously stated, is a textbook case of someone with narcissistic personality disorder, a sociopath, bat shit crazy, suffering from the onset of dementia, or some combination thereof. If elected, he has the serious potential to involve us in a constitutional crisis, internal strife not seen since the Civil War, a major economic depression, or even a third World War or a military coup to prevent such a war. A recent poll found one fifth of Republican voters want Trump to drop out.
The Libertarian Party nominee, Gary Johnson, is a former Republican governor of New Mexico and was also the 2012 Libertarian Presidential nominee. Johnson received about one million votes for President in 2012. Johnson’s average support in recent polls in a four-way race is 8.3%. (Real Clear Politics, conducted 8/1-10/16 )
The Green Party nominee, Jill Stein, is a medical doctor and was also the 2012 Green Party Presidential nominee. Stein received about 470,00 votes for President in 2012. Stein’s average support in recent polls in a four-way race is 3% (Real Clear Politics, conducted 8/1-10/16).
This is our Revolution. Yes, we can! Si se puede!
What are Libertarians?
They frequently describe themselves as “socially liberal and fiscally conservative.” I think that is half right—they are fiscally conservative but they are not consistently liberals on social issues. Critics label Libertarians as “Republicans who smoke pot.” Author Christopher Hitchens acerbically described Libertarians this way: “I have always found it quaint and rather touching that there is a movement in the U.S. that thinks Americans are not yet selfish enough.” Libertarians are secularized Republicans without the far right “Christian” moralistic bullshit, in my humble opinion.
David Koch, yes, one of those Koch brothers, net worth $44.2 Billion, was the 1980 Libertarian vice presidential nominee. Koch is hardly a progressive on any issue.
The 2016 Libertarian platform calls “for the repeal of the income tax” and the abolishment of “all federal programs and services not required under the U.S. Constitution.” Their platform also indicates “an employer should have the right to recognize or refuse to recognize a union…” and supports “restoring and reviving a free market health care system…” and “phase out the current government-sponsored Social Security system and transition to a private voluntary system. The proper and most effective source of help for the poor is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.” Libertarians “oppose all government control of energy pricing, allocation, and production…” and “favor free-market banking, with unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types.”
Libertarians maintain “free markets and property rights stimulate the technological innovations and behavioral changes required to protect our environment and ecosystems.” Rather Darwinian and survival of the fittest, these Libertarians, but they’ll let folks smoke pot.
The Green Party really isn’t a national political party at all yet – it’s more of a shell of a presidential candidate nominating process with fragmentary cells of supporters lightly scattered about the country and wrapped around a progressive and enlightened political platform reminiscent of a 21st Century version of Roosevelt’s New Deal. Think of what the Democratic Party platform would look like to a progressive without any corporate warping and distortion and you’d probably have something that would look very much like the Green Party platform. The Green Party is basically a philosophical pure version of the Democratic Party in terms of ideology, if the Democratic Party didn’t have any meaningful infrastructure and was free of all the corporate bullshit, bad influences, tremendous policy warping resulting from said bullshit and influences.
The “Ten Key Va2lues” of the Green Party Are Grassroots Democracy, Social Justice and Equal Opportunity, Ecological Wisdom, Non-Violence, Decentralization, Community Based Economics, Feminism and Gender Equity, Respect for Diversity, Personal and Global Responsibility, and Future Focus and Sustainability. The Green Party Platform includes “A Call to Action”, a Preamble, the “Ten Key Values” and detailed sections on “Democracy”, “Social Justice”, “Ecological Sustainability”, and “Economic Justice and Sustainability.” Most members of the “Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party” and certainly “Berniecrats” would be very comfortable with the 2016 Green Party Platform.
The times, they are a changing, and the Green Party may quickly start to transition from a noble concept to a functional political party with an influx of Sanders supporters abandoning the Democratic Party. Some observers frequently opine that most Sanders supporters will vote for Clinton. Others say Berniecrats are flocking to Jill Stein and the Green Party. Who is right? Well, maybe, in a way, both.
The nuance that most observers seem to miss is that tens of thousands of Sanders activists, the folks who did the grassroots organizing for Bernie, are indeed moving to support Stein and the Green Party. The movement of hardcore activists from the Sanders Campaign to the Green Party isn’t uniform or evenly distributed, but it is significant.
This isn’t to say that Berniecrats are leaving the Democratic Party in masse – they aren’t. Here in Washington State, the majority of incoming Precinct Committee Officers (PCO’s) could accurately be labelled Berniecrats. In my home county, home to the State Capital of Olympia, two thirds of incoming PCO’s are Berniecrats.
Nationally, Senator Sanders and his supporters are creating multiple organizations, including “Our Revolution”, a national network of Sanders activists who likely will heavily influence and frequently run Democratic Party organizations for years to come. Bernie may have been denied the nomination in 2016 but the Movement he catalyzed and changing demographics are converging in a manner that likely will mean Progressives will regain control of much of the Democratic Party in the near future.
But the Democrats likely won’t be the only progressive political party of consequence in America in the near future. The rise of the Green Party, powered by the influx of former Sanders supporters, is imminent.
Will the “Berning of the Greens” be enough to turn the Green Party into a full-fledged, functional Third Party in less than three months? No. Could the Green Party be a full-fledged, functional Third Party in 2020? Yes, but only if they do some serious organizing and get their collective shit together about building slates of candidates for local, state, and federal offices across the country.
The Green Party’s biggest weakness is that it has been almost exclusively focused the presidential elections, only recruiting and running candidates for lower tier races in a very limited number of jurisdictions in a small number of states. This has got change if the Greens want to be taken seriously. People want their pot holes fixed, safe neighborhoods, good schools, and dependable public services. The old saying that “all politics are local” is mostly true and the Green Party and its membership needs to show it can get voters’ garbage picked up and run cities and states before it will be trusted by most folks with leading the Free World and controlling the nuclear launch codes, regardless of how wonderfully progressive they are. For an American political party to be viewed as credible in a nation with 321 million citizens and a $19 trillion economy, it must not only think globally, it must act locally and be able to govern effectively in all the myriad and mundane ways citizens expect. I’m being real here.
I see a certain irony, and a whole lot of karma, in that if Bernie had won the Democratic nomination, it would have revitalized and democratized the Democratic Party, likely locked in Millennials, the largest generation in history, into strongly voting Democratic for decades, diminished the significance of the Green Party, and hastened the demise of the Republican Party as a relevant factor in presidential contests. Control and domination, unfair play and party building, were more important to the corporate wing of the Democratic Party. Consequently, the Democratic Party has alienated, in some cases permanently, large numbers of Millennial activists and other Bernie supporters. The Green Party has an opportunity to achieve a level of national political relevance that has so far eluded it.
This is our Revolution. Yes, we can! Si, se puede!
Who to vote for…
If you’ve read this far, you are probably wondering if this is where Joe says which candidate for president everyone should vote for. God knows damn near every person on Facebook with an opinion on the subject has been telling everyone else who they should support. I’m not going to do that. The reality is if you’re old enough to vote, you’re old enough to make up your own mind and 99 percent of voters are going to go through whatever decision processes they use and do just that. My circle of friends and family is large enough that some will vote for each of the four main presidential candidates and I’m not going to like or love any of them any more or any less based on who they vote for. If the Creator, evolution, or the quantum chance of our being in this portion of the multiverse made free will possible for our species, the rest of us ought to do the same for each other.
I will share who I’m voting for and my reasoning: readers may agree, disagree, or ignore as they wish.
To place my decision in context, in 38 years of voting, I’ve only knowingly voted for a Republican for any public office once in my entire life and I’ve regretted that vote for almost four decades and tried to make amends for that vote. I have voted in nine presidential elections in my life and nine times, I voted for the Democratic Candidate. In the language of politics, I am referred to as a “Strong Democrat” and a “Perfect Voter” (vote every election).
Unless there appears to be chance that Donald Trump might actually carry Washington State and it’s 12 Electoral College votes, something highly unlikely, given all available political information, Washington’s voting history, and current polling data, I am planning on voting for Democratic candidates for all other elective offices and for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, for President of the United States of America.
Donald Trump would be an existential threat to the nation and planet. To avoid that risk, I would force myself to vote for the oligarchy’s candidate and a functionally pro-choice moderate Republican with militaristic tendencies, Hillary Clinton, if Trump were leading or within striking distance of Clinton in Washington when it was time to cast my ballot.
Absent the possibility of a Trump win in Washington State, I will vote for the candidate who, imperfect as she may be, presents both the opportunity to vote for my progressive values and beliefs and the opportunity to send a message to the oligarchy. I will vote for Jill Stein.
Let me be blunt, the oligarchy will win this round in the battle for our future and Hillary Clinton will become the next President of the United States. No objective review of the available evidence and polling data would suggest otherwise. Even the Republican-oriented Rasmussen Reports is projecting Hillary Clinton at 348 Electoral College votes, well above the 270 needed to win the Presidency.
For Jill Stein to have had a chance to win in 2016, she would have had to have most or all of Sanders Supporters pivot their support to her and that clearly didn’t happen. If she had surged above 10 percent in the polls after the Democratic Convention, and progressed to rise to force her inclusion in the Presidential Debates, stellar debate performances on her part would have changed the political equation and she would have had a chance to be truly competitive. That didn’t happen and Stein won’t win in 2016.
However, short of a dramatic change in the polls that indicate Trump could take Washington State, I won’t validate the blatant, systematic manipulation and corruption of the presidential nomination process by the Democratic power structure, corporations, and corporate media with a vote for Hillary Clinton. Absent the existential threat of a Trump victory, I won’t go there.
I will cast a vote for Stein to support the germinating seed that is the Green Party in 2016 and I will work within the local Democratic Party, where Berniecrats have a clear majority, to progressively shape local and state Democratic politics, candidates, and campaigns. Call this an inside/outside strategy.
The second American Revolution continues. We Progressives need to play the long game to defeat the oligarchy and generate a rebirth of true democracy. Success will not occur in one election cycle – neither did getting to the point we are at as a nation. With persistence, hard work, and sustained effort, we will get to a point where we defeat the oligarchy and have two national progressive political parties, a revitalized Democratic Party and a vibrant, fulling formed Green Party. This is our revolution. Stand up, speak out, fight on.
This is our revolution. Yes, we can! Si, se puede!
Joe Nilsson has long been active as a Democrat, holding positions in the Washington State Democratic Party both at the local and state levels.