The Problem With a Single Issue Candidate

During this election cycle an idea has been thrown around that a certain presidential aspirant is a “single issue” candidate. While functionally silly the notion is rather enjoyable as a fine example of an artful smear. Obviously no serious presidential contender is running on a single issue platform, but the idea does point to an underlying theme within the American political system. If there is a single issue, then it is one of representation and control. Below are five topics which illuminate this terrifying reality.

 

Health Forum

Healthcare and Big Pharma

  • Polls (2015)
    • ‘Drug prices are unreasonable’ — 73% Agree
    • ‘More regulation on drug manufacturers is needed’ — 53% Agree
    • ‘View of the pharmaceutical industry’ — 35% Positive
    • ‘Single-payer healthcare’ — 51% Support
  • Industry Campaign Contributions 2008-16: $161,403,282
  • Industry Lobbying 2008-15: $1,929,077,759

For the richest country in the world the health care system of the United States is, quite simply, a debacle. On average Americans pay 250% more for their health care than those in other ‘developed’ nations, and between 2 and 6 times as much for prescription medication. One may be under the impression that higher costs translate into a higher caliber of service but unfortunately quite the opposite is true. A pertinent example — In a recent study of the quality, access, efficiency, and equity of health care among 11 nations the United States finished dead last (behind the UK, Switzerland, Sweden, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, France, and Canada).

In reality the high costs come not from a high quality of service, but rather from legislative machinations. Unlike other ‘developed’ nations the United States does not have drug price controls in place to keep the cost of crucial medications affordable. Patent and trademark policies allow drug companies to monopolize the market for 20 years or more before generics can be introduced to drive prices down. Many states have mandatory vaccination policies, guaranteeing a market for certain “medications”.  And of course the labyrinth of red tape and administrative tomfoolery in the healthcare system as a whole results in a painfully inefficient and costly apparatus. Additionally, important governmental positions are often held by representatives of the pharmaceutical industry. For example the next Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Robert Califf, has for years drawn a salary from four separate pharmaceutical giants.

And to venture beyond the pure statistical inadequacy of the health care system is to wade into tragedy. Every day, seniors in the United States have to decide between food and medication. Each year millions of people go bankrupt due to medical bills, and, staggeringly, tens of thousands die due to a lack of access to health insurance. As the polls listed above illustrate, this fiasco does not operate in the shadows, but rather within the full light of conscious disapproval. Sadly this is but one of many examples in which the operation of the government exists in direct contradiction to the will of the electorate.

 

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Financial Industry

  • Polls
    • ‘Banks haven’t taken adequate measures to prevent another financial crisis — 62% Agree (2013)
    • ‘Stricter regulation on Wall Street’ — 67% Support (2014)
    • ‘Wall Street companies should be held accountable for practices that caused the financial crisis’ — 79% Agree (2015)
  • Industry Campaign Contributions 2008-16: $2,351,409,385
  • Industry Lobbying 2008-15: $3,842,825,478

 

…………..

Click here to read the rest of this article at the Progressive Army headquarters!

 

 

-Nigel Clarke 

 

orwell1

twitter@Nig_Clarke 

 

 

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The Kitchen Sink

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I have always had a bit of a soft spot for the ‘bad guy’. As a child watching professional wrestling the one getting booed the loudest, that was my guy. As an adult I often say that I enjoy watching a good scam in action. This is not to say that I savor the infliction of pain. At my core I believe in and promote the constructive goodness of human beings. But there is something subconsciously compelling about a delectably evil ruse in action….

In the fall of 2015, as the presidential campaign of progressive hero Bernie Sanders began to gain surprising popularity, excitement swept over me. The majority of the commotion in my progressive soul came from having a true champion of the cause at the highest level of the political discussion, and from witnessing the enthusiastic response of a purportedly ‘center-right’ population. But I admit there was a darker side to my enthusiasm. As Sanders preached a message of Wall Street greed, a rigged economy, and a corrupt campaign finance system I felt a ravenous anticipation towards the impending response from the establishment. Usually the power structure brushes away challengers as one might a pesky mosquito, but it quickly became evident that this was no regular challenge. While attendance at Sanders’ rallies grew rapidly from the hundreds into the thousands, the sound of the gears of the mighty oligarchy machine beginning to turn became deafening in my ears.

After winning the New Hampshire primary in a landslide Sanders said in his victory speech that he expected the establishment to “throw the kitchen sink” at him. No shit. Up to that point if they had not already thrown the kitchen sink, they had certainly thrown the dish rack and the cutting board.

In anticipation of what is to come, let us examine the majesty of that which has been thrown at Bernie Sanders thus far. As I said, I love a good ruse…

 

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The first and most overtly effective tool of establishment manipulation comes from the corporate media. While presented as a ‘free press’ the reality is that 90% of American media is controlled by only six companies who together put forward a very specific version of reality which fits their narrative  It is through this narrative that democratically elected foreign leaders are turned into tyrannical dictators, activists turned into thugs, and questions dismissed as conspiracies. As George Orwell might say — “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength”.

At the onset of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign the corporate media response was to simply ignore him in hopes that he would go away, the strategy of a child who thinks the world disappears when they close their eyes. A telling example–Throughout their 2015 election coverage nightly news spent nearly 4 hours talking about Donald Trump, and nearly 2 hours talking about Hillary Clinton, compared to only 10 minutes talking about Bernie Sanders. But rather than disappear, support for Sanders only grew stronger thanks to enthusiastic proselytizing by his supporters on social media and in their communities.

 

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When ignoring Bernie Sanders failed the media turned to a more proactive approach.There is a reason that Reporters Without Borders ranks America as 46th in the world in ‘press freedom’. When their interests are challenged the media is happy to shamelessly abandon any semblance of journalistic integrity in order to further their agenda. In the case of Bernie Sanders, his message against corrupt campaign financing and corporate greed was a direct challenge to the modus operandi of the massive corporations which own and control the media. And thus journalistic neutrality was aggressively discarded in favor of a message which has been at best massaged, and at worst a plethora of audacious lies. The examples are too numerous to list in detail here, but I’d like to examine a few of the more egregious cases.

 

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I am not even going to bother talking about CNN. Their loaded debate questioning and transparently slanted coverage amounts to little more than cheerleading from the station affectionately known as the ‘Clinton News Network’. Rather let us first focus on MSNBC, ironically advertised as the station “progressives have been waiting for”, and their amusing host Chris Matthews. Apparently months of biased pro-Hillary ‘reporting’ was not enough to satiate this circus clown in a suit and tie. The day after the Iowa caucus turned out to be not quite the coronation Hillary Clinton and her corporate sponsors were expecting Matthews unleashed a tirade of belligerence in which he threw out such gems as;

“The only person standing between a confirmed socialist who is calling for political revolution in this country winning the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party is (Hillary Clinton).”

“A revolution of promises, really.”

“Look, the history of the Democratic party– (Hillary Clinton’s) party, not Bernie Sanders. He’s not a Democrat.”

“Can the Bernie people be taught—not him, he can’t be taught—can the kids behind him be told that this is how it works in our system? You can call for a revolution but it ain’t gonna happen. There isn’t going to be a revolution.  You don’t have to have logic any more. We’re going to have a revolution and pay for anything.”

It may be surprising to see this type of condescending, biased, and provocatively non-factual commentary presented as journalism, especially from a source which advertises itself as ‘progressive’. That is until you remember that Chris Matthews makes upwards of $5 million per year and is representing a multinational corporation with assets north of $160 billion. Add in that Matthews’ wife Kathleen has worked closely with the Clinton Foundation and is being backed in her run for Congress by the same donors which are backing Hillary Clinton’s run for President and it becomes clear that the opinions of Chris Matthews carry about the same level of integrity and legitimacy as the opinions of your drunk uncle on Thanksgiving.

 

bezos

But enough about MSNBC. What about the Washington Post? Surely the newspaper that broke the Watergate scandal and constantly receives criticism for supposed left-wing bias would take a more even handed approach to the Democratic primary.

Wrong.

Days before the Iowa caucus the paper published an editorial board op-ed (that is to say – a piece articulating the opinion of the newspaper) entitled “Bernie Sanders’s Fiction-Filled Campaign”. This piece of slanderous propaganda contained lines such as;

“Mr. Sanders is not a brave truth teller. He is selling his own brand of political fiction”

“Mr. Sanders’ success does not show the country is ready for a political revolution”

“Here is a reality check. Wall Street has already undergone a round of reform significantly reducing risks big banks pose to the financial system”

Interesting. In the opinion of the board of the Washington Post Bernie Sanders was a liar, his success did not indicate a hunger for a political change in the United States, and, contrary to the opinions of most economists, the risks posed by Wall Street had already been sufficiently reduced. You may be inclined to weigh these opinions as those of an authority on the subject, until you realize that they represent the board of a newspaper worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and and owner, Jeff Bezos (pictured above), worth $50 billion. While Mr. Bezos may rank just outside the top 15 richest people in the world he did manage to finish first in another metric. In 2014 he was named “world’s worst boss” by the International Trade Union Confederation. Personally I don’t usually get opinions on progressive politics from someone who according to the ITUC “represents the inhumanity of employers who are promoting the American corporate model”.

I could continue but I will stop there. When even the so-called “left wing” media ignores then attacks a progressive champion like Bernie Sanders they do so because he represents a threat to the existing power structure of which they are a part. In this context there is no right-wing and left-wing, there is only up-wing and down-wing. But the attempted media sabotage of Bernie Sanders reeks of fear. And it should.

 

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The ideal of American democracy is much like the ideal of human rights. Both are presented as fundamental and inalienable but in reality are bestowed by the establishment power structure in a tightly controlled manner. In running for President Bernie Sanders has faced not only media manipulation but the diabolical subversion of the democratic process, most specifically through the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and their very own Sheriff of Nottingham — Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

The first way that this manifested itself was through the debate schedule. While in the 2007/08 Democratic primary there were 26 debates, this time around there was to be only 6. Compounding the issue was that these debates were scheduled on weekends, a well understood wasteland for viewership. This of course was criticized loudly by not only the Sanders campaign, but by Martin O’Malley as well as other political organizations as an attempt to prevent the public exchange of ideas and stack the deck in favor of Hillary Clinton. It certainly did not help that Wasserman-Schultz, who as DNC Chair was setting the debate schedule, had herself run the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign in 2008. As if to confirm this bias the DNC did eventually add 4 additional debates, but comically did so mere days after Bernie Sanders had caught or surpassed Hillary Clinton in the polls of multiple early primary states.

 

NGPVANclinton2

Much as the corporate media took a more proactive approach of attack when ignoring Bernie Sanders did not stem the tide of his popularity, so too did the DNC when their contrived debate schedule failed to discourage the dissemination of his ideas. The first major offensive came in the form of the bizarre firewall breach hoax. Mere days after Bernie Sanders surpassed 2 million individual campaign donations and received one of his most consequential endorsements, and the day before the final debate of 2015, his campaign was accused of improperly accessing voter information from the DNC database during a software glitch which removed the firewall between each campaign’s data. Rather than deal with the apparent problem internally and impartially Debbie Wasserman-Schultz appeared on multiple corporate news outlets to loudly condemn the Sanders campaign. It was announced that the punishment would be a suspension of the Sanders campaign from access to the DNC database, including to their own information, while the issue was examined. For an essentially totally grassroots campaign without the benefit of hundreds of millions of corporate dollars behind it an indefinite suspension of days or weeks from crucial information was a not so subtle attempt to stamp out Sanders. However in less than 24 hours almost 1 million petition signatures and emails had been sent to the DNC on Sanders’ behalf, a lawsuit had been filed by his campaign, and the DNC quickly scurried away from the light of public scrutiny and restored access to the information.

If this is where the story ended it would perhaps be remembered as a rather mundane piece of campaign tomfoolery. But it is the depth of the hoax that is the true meat on this bone.

First, a similar firewall glitch had happened months prior to this event and was pointed out to the DNC and the vendor which handled the software by the Sanders campaign. Tip to criminals — If you are planning on robbing a bank do not go into the bank a month before and explain to them the glitches in their security.

Secondly, in addition to the lawsuit against the DNC the Sanders campaign also demanded a full third-party inquiry into the situation. This demand for an inquiry was deferred and brushed aside by the DNC. It is a peculiar thing to have the accused demanding a full investigation and the accuser refusing, unless of course the accuser is actually the guilty party.

Third, and most mouthwatering, is the history of the vendor which provided the apparently glitchy software — NGP VAN. This is a company founded by Nathaniel Pearlman, who was the chief technology officer of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2007/08. Their current CEO, Stuart Trevelyan, a man who hilariously shares a surname with a James Bond villain, worked for the Bill Clinton campaign in 1992. The company has also worked closely with the Ready For Hillary Super PAC during this election cycle, even going so far as to take a company “fieldtrip” to the Ready For Hillary headquarters. If you proposed this as a James Bond storyline it would be rejected as too obvious of a hoax.

 

iowachair

“Something smells in the Democratic Party” -Des Moines Register, Feb. 5, 2016

By the time the first votes were finally ready to be cast Bernie Sanders had caught or passed Hillary Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire polls and was closing fast nationally. As the results of the Iowa caucus came in it became clear that, much as the polls had predicted, the race would be very close. Hillary Clinton appeared before the votes had been fully counted and proclaimed victory, while Bernie Sanders called it a “virtual tie”. The corporate media presented a tie or narrow Clinton victory as a signal that the ‘political revolution’ which Sanders had been promoting was over. Forget that Clinton had once been leading by upwards of 60 points in Iowa. Everyone go home, nothing to see here.

But a then a pungent stench began to emanate from the Iowa “results”. In the hours and days after it became clear that the caucus had been, as the Des Moines Register put it, a “debacle”. Ignore Hillary Clinton’s miraculous 6/6 record in coin flips which earned her 6 extra delegates (or the lunacy of coin flips determining results in a democracy). Ignore the fact that the Clinton campaign brought in out of state precinct captains to oversee caucus groups, shamelessly disrespecting the idea of ‘local’ politics. Even ignore the fact that these captains were provided with a phone app to instruct them how to maneuver Clinton supporters around so as to make Martin O’Malley viable in caucuses where he otherwise wouldn’t have been, blocking his supporters from joining Bernie Sanders. While unapologetically unethical these shenanigans are all legal. Rather I would direct your attention to a few of the more nefarious situations on record;

In Woodbury County #43 the only caucus goer was a man named Keane Schwarz. He voted for Bernie Sanders. Final vote count; Bernie Sanders -1, Hillary Clinton -0, Martin O’Malley-0. However a check of the DNC results shows that Hillary Clinton was awarded the delegate.

In Knoxville County #3 the final vote count was Sanders-58, Clinton-52. Delegates were rightfully recorded as 5-4 for Sanders but in the DNC results appear as 5-4 for Clinton.

Additionally there were multiple instances in which the number of votes recorded did not equal the number of voters registered at the start of the caucus. In another situation a video surfaced of a Hillary Clinton precinct captain reporting a vote total which they had not counted, and then lying and saying they had counted when there was a discrepancy in results.

Perhaps worst of all was that the final results were missing counts from 90 precincts. In a vote which was “decided” by less than 0.05% to miss approximately 5% of the total votes is ludicrous.

Individually, these examples may each be seen as something between trivial and frustrating. But when combined together, and this certainly is not a comprehensive list, they appear to be part of a more coordinated plot. It does not help the situation to consider that the chair of the Iowa Democratic Committee has been driving around for years with a licence plate which read “HRC 2016”. At best, Iowa was a miscarriage of democracy. At worst, intentional and flagrant voter fraud.

 

comicspig

A campaign which attacks the existing political spoils system is bound to bring out of the woodwork in defense those politicians who have grown the most corpulent on spoils. Hillary Clinton constantly brags about the vast array of political endorsements she has received, seemingly tone-deaf to the growing rejection of establishment politics going on around her. And if early polls led to fear in these pigs at the trough, the results in Iowa led to outright terror. Endorsements for Hillary Clinton quickly turned to public attacks of Bernie Sanders.

Take Gerry Connolly, a Democratic Congressman from Virginia who said he believed the election of Bernie Sanders “could have real serious down ballot consequences”. This is the same Gerry Connolly who has been one of the leading fighters in favor of the TPP, and has supported military intervention in Syria. The same Gerry Connolly whose top five career campaign donors include two financial institutions and two defense contractors.

Or what about Scott Peters, a Democratic Congressman from California who said he was “not comfortable at all” with Bernie Sanders. Yes this is the same Scott Peters whose political career has been mainly funded by two financial institutions. In fact this is the same Scott Peters who is married to Lynn Gorguze, a woman worth over $100 million due to her position as CEO of Cameron Holdings, a financial institution.

Or finally, how about the sad case of Claire McCaskill, the Democratic Senator from Missouri and purveyor of some of the most vicious public attacks against Bernie Sanders. Early in her political career McCaskill was somewhat of a people’s champion, fighting for increases in minimum wage and against Wall Street power. But she soon grew fat within the political spoils system as many do, her transformation likely helped by her marriage to real estate tycoon Joseph Shepard, a man worth north of $30 million. Nowadays when you hear about Senator McCaskill it is likely due to her being accused of hiding assets, taking advantage of government subsidies for personal gain, conducting audits in which she has a conflict of interest, or, more comically, using taxpayer money to pay for her private jet then turning around not paying her taxes on said plane.

As in other sections the examples could essentially continue indefinitely. What should be clear is that when these individuals speak they do so not as representatives of the people trying to educate their constituents, but as the corrupt defending corruption.

 

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Even after the “virtual tie” in Iowa it would have been hard for Hillary Clinton to foresee the carnage that awaited her in New Hampshire, a state which she had dramatically won from Barack Obama in 2008, and in which Bill Clinton had proclaimed himself “the comeback kid” during the 1992 primary. But the 22 point drubbing which prompted the “kitchen sink” speech from Bernie Sanders was only the beginning of the problem for Clinton.

After enjoying an enormous fundraising advantage throughout 2015 thanks to her corporate donors, Clinton was actually out-raised in January 2016 due to the incredible procession of small donations to the Sanders campaign. And in the 24 hours following the New Hampshire primary Sanders raised an incredible $7 million. This prompted yet another backlash from the DNC and their want-to-be tyrant Debbie Wasserman-Schultz as they rolled back restrictions on campaign contributions from lobbyists and PACs. This maneuver to help Hillary Clinton’s floundering fundraising efforts seemed to totally disregard the political climate which got her into trouble in the first place. But the DNC could apparently not envision a world in which regular people had a similar monetary clout in the political system as corporations. It is the beauty of being an organizer in a rigged system; if the game isn’t working for you, simply change the rules.

 

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I am not a religious man. But there is something awe inspiring about watching a real life battle between David and Goliath. American democracy descended so gradually into oligarchy that it was hard to notice. And yet, here we are. The gravity of the message of Bernie Sanders is so monumental that it is almost incomprehensible.

I have often read about revolutionary periods in history and wondered; How did the oppressed people do it? How did the power structure fight back?

Will the movement around Bernie Sanders be able to ‘do it’, to succeed in fundamentally restructuring their existence? I do not know the answer. But I do know that watching the power structure fight back with every tool at their disposal is glorious.

 

-Nigel Clarke 

 

orwell1

twitter@Nig_Clarke 

 

 

 

 

Bernie Bros, Women, and the 2016 Election

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There is a myth floating around surrounding something called the “Bernie Bro”. The idea is that Bernie Sanders’ supporters are predominantly young white males, “Bernie Bros” if you will, who cannot bear the thought of a female President, and who thus aggressively support Sanders to the detriment of Hillary Clinton. In reality this myth is patently false. Bernie Sanders has built his campaign, and for that matter his entire 30+ year political career, speaking in a way other politicians refuse to on issues of poverty, race, and gender. This has resulted in extensive and passionate support for Sanders which crosses the lines of age, ethnicity, and, yes, gender. While purveyors of the “Bernie Bro” myth see themselves as defenders of women and anti-sexism crusaders the reality is quite the opposite. In distributing such a categorically untrue fiction they insult the millions of women and people of color who so enthusiastically support Bernie Sanders.

On the opposite end of the spectrum of generalization is the idea that women are somehow universally obliged to vote for Hillary Clinton because she is a woman. The misogynistic undertone of this assertion is that women are not appropriately engaged in the process to make a decision based on the issues, that they are obligated to, as Susan Sarandon put it, “vote with (their) vagina”.

Of course there is absolutely an inherent value which would come from having the first female President. To see them shaking hands with other world leaders, or sitting behind the desk in the oval office would certainly be symbolically beneficial to all women, as well as to the ideal of American equality. But it is up to each woman to decide for herself how much weight to give to this symbolism against the weight of policy position when casting their vote.

In this context it is understandable that support for Hillary Clinton is much stronger among older women than younger. Those who have been in the trenches of the fight for gender equality for decades may understandably put a greater weight on the symbolism of a female President. For someone who is younger, a proportionately more equal society has simply been part of their existence. It is interesting to think that the next President of the United States will almost certainly be female, Jewish, or Hispanic (or Donald Trump), or that arguably the second most powerful leader in the world is a woman, Germany’s Angela Merkel. This is not to suggest that the battle for gender (or racial) equality is over, far from it. Rather the suggestion is that when considering the weight of symbolism consider also the environment in which equality is being discussed.

In presenting Hillary Clinton as the default candidate for women there is also an implication which goes beyond symbolism. This is the subconscious suggestion that a President Hillary Clinton would not only be symbolically beneficial for women but also more substantively beneficial through policy than Bernie Sanders. However this is not necessarily the case. The topic of ‘women’s issues’ is one where subconscious assumption does not necessarily meet truth, where perception does not automatically meet reality.

Consider the following issues:

Pay equity-

It seems ludicrous to think that more than 50 years after the Equal Pay Act was passed that women still only earn something like 78 cents to a man’s dollar. Seeking to rectify this embarrassment both Sanders and Clinton support the Paycheck Fairness Act. Seen as an extension of the Equal Pay Act this legislation puts the burden of justification on employers to explain why someone is paid less, and allows workers to sue for wage discrimination.

But an area regarding wage where the candidates disagree is minimum wage. Bernie Sanders supports raising the minimum wage to $15/hr, doing so through both words and physically participating in “Fight for 15” rallies, while Hillary Clinton supports raising the minimum wage to $12/hr. Why is minimum wage a women’s issue? Because in America approximately 2/3 of minimum wage earners are women. The extra $3/hr means almost $500 more per month, which would greatly improve the lives of millions of Americans, and especially women, across the country.

Social Security-

Before the enactment of Social Security, nearly 50% of senior citizens lived in poverty in the United States, a number which has dropped to only 10% today. This is a success which is especially poignant for women as more than twice as many elderly women live in poverty than men.

Hillary Clinton observes the success of Social Security and admirably states she will defend it from attacks by Republicans who seek to cut funding to the program, reduce cost of living adjustments, or raise the retirement age. Bernie Sanders on the other hand focuses more on the number 10, that is the 10% of senior citizens who still live in poverty today. More than defend, Sanders has pledged to expand Social Security benefits by $65/month and increase cost of living adjustments. Sanders proposes to make this possible, and he has introduced legislation on the issue, by lifting the cap on taxable income (a proposal supported by over 60% of Americans). Stated simply, currently a billionaire pays the same amount into Social Security as someone making $118,500 per year. Bernie Sanders proposes to change this so that everyone pays the same percentage of their income into Social Security, allowing him to have a platform of expansion rather than exclusively defense.

Family-

The United States is currently the only ‘developed’ nation on earth which does not guarantee paid leave to workers. This is something which Bernie Sanders has spoken out against aggressively and repeatedly throughout his career. He cosponsored the FAMILY Act while in the Senate and has made it an important part of his campaign platform. This piece of legislation would provide 12 weeks of paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, or a family medical emergency. Hillary Clinton supports the idea of paid leave more vaguely, while specifically opposing the FAMILY Act. Worth noting is that Bernie Sanders also supports the Healthy Families Act, which would provide workers with 7 days of paid sick leave per year, as well as an increase in funding to the WIC Program, which provides nutritional assistance to low income mothers (a program which he has fiercely championed and defended in the Senate). Hillary Clinton does not mention either of these points in her campaign platform.

Reproductive Rights

This is where things start to get a bit muddy. While both candidates have a career 100% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America, not much is universally publicized about Sanders’ history with the issue, while Clinton is presented as a great champion of reproductive rights. In truth the candidates do differ both rhetorically and functionally, but perhaps not in the way you might imagine.

The area of reproductive rights is one where Bernie Sanders has in fact, through his words as well as actions, been a progressive among progressives. Over the years he has used his position in Congress and the Senate to co-sponsor the Women’s Health Protection Act, to vote to allow interstate travel for abortions, vote to increase access and funding for family planning, vote against defining life as beginning at conception, among many other examples. Additionally, he has openly stated that as President he would only support new Supreme Court Justices that support Roe v. Wade.

On the other hand Hillary Clinton has taken a decidedly different approach. She has long been a purveyor of the position that abortions should be “safe, legal, and rare”. As per her Methodist faith she believes the potential for life begins at conception which leads her to “respect those who believe there are no circumstances under which any abortion should ever be made available” and call to find “common ground” with pro-lifers. Contrasting with Sanders’ hard-line approach to women’s reproductive rights Clinton has endeavored to “create conditions where women have other choices”.

The conciliatory ‘other choices’ and ‘common ground’ approach by some pro-choice politicians has resulted in various states passing laws increasing bureaucratic and procedural hurdles to abortion. These include laws requiring women to wait 72 hours before receiving an abortion (including in cases of rape or incest), to endure mandatory counselling discouraging abortion, or laws requiring parental consent for minors (again, including in cases of rape/incest).  Hillary Clinton is pro-choice, this is a documented fact and is not up for debate here. Unfortunately over 40 years after Roe v. Wade the issue of abortion and women’s reproductive rights do, extraordinarily, appear to be up for debate in the United States. Clinton and Sanders are both pro-choice candidates. It is simply up to voters to decide how firm they would like their advocate for women’s reproductive rights to be.

Foreign Policy-

It is a well advertised point that Hillary Clinton proclaims to seek making the promotion of women’s rights around the globe a pillar of her foreign policy. This is certainly an admirable goal as women in the United States undoubtedly enjoy a level of equality greater than many women across the globe. Unfortunately, as in many advertisements, what is broadcast does not always meet actuality, position is not necessarily operation.

For Hillary Clinton this manifests itself quite blatantly in her record. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, have over the years donated tens of millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation. Related or not, as Secretary of State Clinton oversaw the sale of billions of dollars of weapons to these countries, representing an incredible 143% increase from the (W.) Bush administration. These countries are some of the worst violators of women’s rights in the world. Providing them with weapons quite literally provides them with the tools to oppress. Additionally, both supporters and detractors portray Hillary Clinton as a war hawk and it is not difficult to understand why. She supported the Iraq war, military intervention in Libya and Syria, escalation of the war in Afghanistan, as well as increased drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere. War, tragically, has a disproportionate effect on women and children, who make up nearly 80% of the casualties in war, and 80% of the world’s refugees. Women in war zones also suffer other grotesqueries such as rape and abduction into slavery. To propose to promote women’s rights across the globe while selling weapons in enormous quantities to the most oppressive of regimes, and escalating military conflict at every opportunity is quite simply a direct contradiction.

Conversely, Bernie Sanders has presented a platform which is not ripe with rhetorical fervor, but rather is based on a career long history of opposition to the wanton use of military force. This is a history which includes being one of the only voices speaking (and voting) against the Iraq war, and opposition to many other military excursions. In contrast to every other presidential candidate from either political party Sanders advocates a course of action which focuses on diplomacy, the de-escalation of conflict, the increase of aid, and the promotion of education. In reality, this is the type of platform which promotes women’s rights around the world.

Equal Rights Amendment-

When the founding fathers stated that “all men are created equal” they of course meant that all white, land owning men in the United States were equal to white, land owning men in England. Eventually this became codified to include all white men, and finally all men regardless of skin color. Incredibly, despite all of the gains towards gender equality, in 2016 the United States Constitution still only recognizes men as those who were created equal, to the exclusion of women. This is what the Equal Rights Amendment has been trying to rectify for nearly a century.

Perhaps this is merely symbolic. But in an election in which the symbolism of potentially having the country’s first female leader is a large part of the conversation it is something which should not be ignored. Interestingly there is only one candidate who has made the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment a part of their campaign platform, and it is not Hillary Clinton. Rather it is Bernie Sanders who has pledged to fight to pass the “long overdue” amendment and finally codify women as human beings who are created equal.

 

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There is little doubt that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton differ greatly across a wide spectrum of issues. While Sanders has made campaign finance reform a fundamental cornerstone of his platform, Clinton leads all presidential candidates in Super PAC contributions. While Sanders has spoken aggressively about the need to break up and reign in the unchecked power of Wall Street, Clinton has received millions of dollars in speaking fees and campaign donations from financial institutions and has presented a much more delicate approach in her platform on Wall Street reform. While Sanders has fought openly for 25 years against a criminal justice system which incarcerates the most people of any country in the world and has inexcusably decimated African American communities, Clinton spoke strongly in the 1990’s in favor of her husband’s disastrous crime bill which led to many of these problems, and received private prison industry campaign donations until only a few months ago. While Sanders strongly promoted LGBT rights in the 1980’s as Mayor of Burlington, in the 1990’s in Congress, and in the 2000’s in the Senate, Clinton vocally opposed these same rights as First Lady and as a Senator before finally coming to support them in 2013.

This is not meant as a specific critique of Hillary Clinton. In reality Clinton merely represents mainstream establishment politics in the way they are rendered almost exclusively today. Conversely Bernie Sanders represents a uniquely progressive voice across a broad spectrum of issues. As seen above, even on the topic of women’s issues Sanders presents, symbolism aside, a far more comprehensive and progressive platform.

It is an absolute inevitability that there will be a female American President, and probably sooner rather than later. Elizabeth Warren is one of the most prominent Senators in the United States, Nancy Pelosi was recently the influential Speaker of the House, Senator Nina Turner is a rising star in the Democratic party, and of course Hillary Clinton herself was recently Secretary of State. The point is that the idea of women in positions of power is no longer opposed by any moderately intelligent individual. What is not as inevitable however is the prospect of having a truly progressive President. As the political process continues to be increasingly manipulated and controlled by big money interests the possibility of genuinely inclusive and progressive policies diminishes. This is likely why women like Senator Warren and Senator Turner support Bernie Sanders.

There is an opportunity in this election for the symbolic achievement of electing a woman as President. But understand that the battle for gender equality does not end with the election of Hillary Clinton any more than the struggle for racial equality ended with the election of Barack Obama. However in Bernie Sanders there is an opportunity to fundamentally alter the political discussion in the United States and, most crucially, who is included in this discussion. And that is historic.

 

-Nigel Clarke 

 

orwell1

twitter@Nig_Clarke 

Bernie & Trump Debate The Issues

bernnoticemotherfucker

I had a dream last night that Bernie Sanders was debating Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. Now usually when Donald Trump appears in a dream, or in real life for that matter, it is more of a nightmare, but in this case it was more sketch comedy than anything.

Below is a transcript of the exchange.

Donald Trump:

“I’m going to ban all Muslims from entering the country! Then I’ll build a wall on the border with Mexico to keep the Mexicans out! These immigrants are terrorists and rapists and criminals!!”

Bernie Sanders:

“It is interesting to me that you appear to be so anti-immigrant considering that your mother, much like my father, was an immigrant to this country. It also appears that you are confused as to the statistics surrounding Mexicans coming to the United States. Research shows that from 2009-2014 over 140,000 more Mexicans left the United States to go back to Mexico than came into the country. Finally, while xenophobia is effective at whipping up some supporters, your fear-mongering misses the point. The majority of terrorist attacks in America are carried out by white right-wing radicals rather than Muslim immigrants.”

“Perhaps rather than spouting bigotry against refugees, America should stop creating the war zones that these refugees come from.”

Trump:

“You’re weak! You’re against the military! I will destroy ISIS! I love veterans and veterans love Donald Trump!”

Bernie:

“You appear not to realize how many service men and women you insulted with your comments on John McCain, denying that he was a war hero and saying ‘I like people that weren’t captured’.  Speaking of Senator McCain, I worked closely with him on the Veterans Affairs Committee for years, a committee which I chaired by the way, fighting for veterans through legislation such as the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act. And our great veterans have shown their appreciation for this work by presenting me with various awards such as the VFW Congressional Award in 2015 and the American Legion Patriot Award in 2014.”

Trump:

“Yea, but you’re a communist!” *smug face*

Bernie:

“You seem to be having problems with definitions Donald. To educate yourself I suggest you read this piece by my good friend Nigel Clarke. I am in fact a democratic socialist, which of course is not a communist. The main difference between the two is that democratic socialism lacks the autocratic and centralized nature of Soviet style communism.”

“But what I suspect you are really getting at Donald is a suggestion that my economic policies will be harmful. Aside from the fact that democratic socialism is working beautifully in multiple European countries I find it curious that a man with four bankruptcies on his record presupposes himself to have some sort of divine fiscal ability.”

Trump:

“Well at least I don’t fund my campaign with corporate donations. I pay for this myself so I don’t have to listen to anyone!!”

Bernie:

“It makes me very happy that you do not finance your campaign with those types of donations. I myself have received $0 from Super PAC’s and strongly support campaign finance reform, which I have noticed that you do not. However the reason you are not taking corporate money, also the reason you do not support campaign finance reform, is because you are corporate money.”

Trump:

At this point Trump launches into some sort of adolescent diatribe mocking women, disabled people, or anyone else he should happen to think of.

Bernie:

Bernie responds similarly to the way he did in 1995 when one of his colleagues attacked “homos in the military”.

 

Trump:

“Whatever Bernie you are OLD and you have messy hair!”

Bernie:

“Did 70 year old Donald Trump just say I was old? Either one of us is going to be older than Reagan was when he was inaugurated at 69 as the oldest ever to do it. And my hair? Is Donald Trump insulting somebody’s hair?

At this point Donald Trump has a Megyn Kelly flashback and runs off the stage crying.

 

It has been somewhat amusing to watch Donald Trump bully his way though the Republican primary process, much in the same way that it would be somewhat amusing to watch a sumo wrestler take a shit on a burning tire. But progressives such as myself have been (literally) dreaming of the day when Trump leaves the kids table and enters into the forum of the legitimate exchange of ideas. I don’t usually relish in the humiliation of others, but I think in Donald Trump’s case I can make an exception.

 

-Nigel Clarke 

 

orwell1

twitter@Nig_Clarke