Archive for the ‘Bernie Sanders’ category

Democrats Taking Stock

July 30, 2016

The Democrat National Convention closed Thursday night, Hillary Clinton and Vice President nominee Tim Kaine have set off on a campaign bus tour across Pennsylvania, and now it is time to assess how effective the DNC had been. In a few days the “official” polls will begin to trickle in and the media will breathlessly report them as hard fact, even if they are contradictory. That’s the American way.

For sure, the DNC stage management and presentation was hands down superior to the Republican convention. Points must also be conceded to the Democrats for handling the forced resignation of Debi Wasserman-Schultz professionally and without any short term blow back. And for sure Bernie Sanders deserves an award for being a first class adult in the room..

The DNC also sported some great speeches (and better than the RNC). Michelle Obama, President Obama, Khizr Kahn, Michael Blumberg, and General John Allen to name a few. But what about Hillary Clinton herself?

In comparison to the doom and gloom Donald Trump speech, Hillary’s was full of sunshine and optimism. Hillary was workmanlike, very positive, and on target for the already converted. Hillary supporters loved her speech.

Hillary explained to Americans why Donald Trump would be an unsafe choice for President and why he should not be elected. She said it 50 different ways. She then went on to explain what she would do as President, point by point by point. The electricity seemed to drain out of the air.

So the real race for President has begun. Donald Trump says he will fix everything without any indications how. Hillary Clinton says she will help the middle class by creating good jobs and suggests how. Hmmm.

The Clinton promises are questionable for two reasons. (1) The adverse impact of globalization may yield only to long term systemic changes resulting in worker’s improved  skills and education.  Hillary’s short term solutions may simply not produce results in the short term.  (2) Clinton’s proposals may require Congress’ legislative support, and what makes anyone think that the GOP members will say anything other than “no”?

IMO, previous Donald Trump supporters will be unchanged and polls will reflect the same numbers for him. For Hillary, her main, logically believable case, is that Donald Trump cannot be taken seriously and is totally unfit on foreign relations issues. In other words she is saying, “I might not be who you would like as President, but Trump is so bad I look great.”

Yet to come will be the debates, gaffs by either candidate, and the ever possible calamity either domestically or internationally which could galvanize Americans to take a chance with Trump or retreat to safety with Hillary. Time will tell.

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The Person Or The Principle?

July 27, 2016

Listening to disheartened Bernie Sanders supporters who say they will not support Hillary Clinton, one hears the unthinkable. “I was not for Bernie, I was for what his campaign championed”. Hmmm.

I wonder what principle Bernie represented? Was it “free” college education? Or, was it “free” healthcare? Or, was it just the idea of breaking up the big banks or raising the minimum wage? Some say Bernie was just the face and voice of “progressivism” and that there was many more ideas to come. Hmmm.

Thinking about this, one might wonder whether America is an island, separated from the rest of the world and free to undergo any political and social experience it chooses (and remain worldwide competitive)?

For sure there are some everyday conditions which Americans ought to regret if not be ashamed of. For example,

  • Basic healthcare – not available to every American
  • Income inequality – trending even larger and far greater than 40 years ago
  • Uncontrolled drug prices – pricing at what the market will bear
  • Unaffordable higher education – resulting in personal debts of over $100,000
  • Minimum wage below a living wage – leaving little or no room for upward mobility

I am sure Bernie Sanders knew that while each of these situations were worthy of improvement, that all were not possible with the stroke of a pen.

In addition, it is important to know that a progressive like, left of center agenda does not include denying women the right to choose, respecting the rights of all individuals regardless of religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Even centrists do not support tax cuts, especially for the wealthy.

So why would it not make sense to ensure no steps backward and hold the potential to move in a more progressive direction?

George W Bush was elected (with Supreme Court help) with out winning the majority. What role did the principled, but spoiler oriented Ralph Nader play in Al Gore’s loss?

IMO, Hillary represents progressive leanings but well anchored in the center. One might say a Hillary victory will reinforce “Regaining The Center”.

A Lull Before The Storm?

July 12, 2016

Next week the political party conventions kick off with the GOP visiting Cleveland. The next week, the Democrats will meet in Philadelphia. Barring something out of the blue, the GOP will break its mold and nominate Donald Trump while the Democrats will pass over its mold breaker, Bernie Sanders, and nominate a traditionalist, Hillary Clinton. Is the GOP action dysfunctional and the Democrats sensible, or could it be that the GOP is ahead of the curve and the Democrats have missed a chance to keep with the mood of the country?

Globalization has changed everything. For low wage, well organized countries (like China), a domestic miracle has taken place though the fruits of export manufacturing. China has amazingly pulled forward millions of peasants raising their standard of living while propelling China’s GDP growth over the double digit range for 10+ years.

The other side of the China success coin is the rest of the world and in particular the US. The China wage rate has set the world standard making goods manufactured elsewhere uncompetitive unless much lower local wages are used. In the US, gone are the traditional high wage, middle class jobs in industries such as automotive, textiles, and associated parts. The US downward wage pressure has spilled over into public sector workers, education, and the broader entry level jobs.

Until this year, both political parties have overlooked the globalization “fairness” aspect and conducted their Presidential campaigns on other issues. During this 20+ year period, the annual renumeration of business executives have risen markedly while the average worker’s pay has stagnated.

Even more in your face has been Wall Street’s hedge fund managers and “too big to fail” bank CEOs. (In 2015, the average business CEO receive $20 million in pay, while hedge fund leaders received billions or the better part there of).

For the average American, globalization is a fog. For them what is certain is that their pay is fixed as long as their job exists. Gone is the prospect of pay increases which exceed cost of living increases. They also keenly observe that the corner office is doing much better.

This situation makes the voting population very open to nationalistic rhetoric. “Those people” are taken your jobs (regardless of the fact that the jobs are less desirable and low paying). “Those people” are freeloading off your tax dollar (while overlooking citizens who are unemployed, homeless, or deep in poverty). “Those people” are not welcome (insert your own reason why, for example, don’t look like us, don’t worship like us, don’t speak English).

Donald Trump understands this and has structured his campaign to gain these disenchanted Americans’ support. Bernie Sanders, like the blind pig who found an acorn, put out a message which inherently appealed to the economic aspects of disinfected Americans.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is a candidate for everyone. Her message says she will work for everyone’s interests. Hmmm.

Many political analysts are writing that Donald Trump will change the Republican Party, in essence, save it. These analysts point to a large, disenchanted, group of voters who in the past were Republicans, Democrats, or Independents and now might unit behind a candidate who appeals to their concerns. This group is uninterested in repealing Obamacare, curtailing women’s right to choose, or even reducing the size of government. This group wants a better future for themselves and their families, however that is defined.

Given the economic fundamentals, this disenchantment is not likely to recede unless a President Trump or President Clinton were to magically return growth (and ever increasing “good” jobs) to the economy.

A question is which candidate will get the chance to be President, and a bigger question is how large will this disenchanted group be in 2020 if the 2016 winner fails to deliver.

The Donald Trump Risk

July 1, 2016

Pundits are telling us daily that Donald Trump will “pivot” to a more “presidential” manner and will put GOP fears to ease. No sooner have these words been said and the Donald comes out with another outlandish statement. So, the question might be, is Trump ever going to act “Presidential”?

Most pundits are as so fixated on a certain method of presentation and display of strategic thinking that they are incapable of seeing Trump in any other way than as a narcissistic, vane, and shallow person who uses bullying tactics and fear to arouse his supporters. Is understanding Trump that easy?

First, pundits need to understand that most Americans are thoroughly disgusted with the behavior of government and their elected officials.  No one seems understand the economic burden (stagnated wages, lack of good paying jobs openings) so many Americans are facing, and even worse, do not seem to care. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, however, spoke to these feelings.  These groups represent a lot of voters.

Second, Trump gives  no indication he has a strategic vision.  Trump might better be viewed more as an opportunist. In Trump’s world, an entrepreneur picks a field and then enters with out much delay. Once in the field, like building golf courses or buildings, Trump knows that the bigger the project the bigger the cut he can get. Trump does not care about details but does make sure he has an escape (sometimes bankruptcy, sometimes by selling the project and his name to someone else). So there is no likelihood that reporters will ever elicit a thoughtful strategic response from Trump on any subject.

Third, Trump has jungle instincts and knows they work especially well when the opponent is playing by a traditional, more moderate set of rules and behaviors. The Donald will avoid discussions of policy easily by making one outrageous, slanderous claim against his opponent after another. The news media will, as Pavlov predicted, react to the slander and overlook the substance.

Fourth, near the conclusion of the race, especially if the polls are shown favoring his opponent, Trump will adopt a much more congenial tone and reach out to which ever group or groups (such as moderate Republicans, disenchanted independents) with more dire predictions or far reaching promises intended to encourage these groups to vote (and not stay home) for him.

Fifth, in a race such as this year where there is such a large number of disaffected voters (hard core Trump and Sanders supporters) and with Hillary Clinton facing a large block of voters who do not trust her and would prefer anyone else, Donald Trump could sneak across the wire the winner. And then what?

Sixth, America would wake up with an amazing head ache. Like the Brexit aftermath, the bulk of Trump’s promises would be walked back or exposed as too dangerous if implemented. The Donald Trump presidency would begin with a sense of Americans haven been conned. No one will know or have a hint how a President Trump will respond to a foreign or domestic crisis.

Americans, like most other people, want to hear what they would like to hear. Over the years, Americans have sorted through wild political rhetoric and in the end, the majority speaks and seems to make the most logically correct choice. It may appear now that Hillary Clinton is pulling away from Donald Trump and will win in a walk. It is far too soon, however, for Democrats to take this position.

Trumps’s policies, even if he adopts the GOP platform need to be evaluated and illuminated. If this is done and the majority goes for Trump, so be it.

If Trump is able to keep the reason spot light off his agenda, America will get what it deserves and Americans will soon learn his promises were not what they were said to be.

When Small Thinkers Lead The GOP

June 6, 2016

Over the weekend, presumptive GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump stirred up another hornets nest. Trump called for Judge Gonzalo Curriel, who is presiding over the “Trump University” fraud trial, to recuse himself. Asked why, Trump said because he was Mexican and with Trump’s promises to build a wall between the US and Mexico, Trump felt the Judge was not being “fair”. Hmmm.

Defendants call for Judges to recuse themselves all the time. So what’s the big deal?

Most defendants call for recusals within the trappings of courts and legal procedures, not the spotlight of television interviews. But, the choice of venues is not the main issue.

Trump’s already well established prejudices against Mexicans (and probably Hispanics in general) and Muslims make his statements against Judge Curriel not news. Trump was just being Trump.

The real news is the spotlight which is now showing how small and “not ready for prime time” that GOP House and Senate leaders really are.

Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is narrowly focused upon maintaining GOP control of the Senate and will make whatever deals and concessions necessary to build large enough coalition of loyal voting Republicans. As a consequence, the GOP is willing to panders to a diverse collections of factions and themes, like the NRA (guns without restrictions), evangelicals (forcing their views on others), tax cuts (which benefit the wealthy who do not need the cuts), neoconservatives (who brought us the Iraq invasion and occupation), and privatization of Social Security and Medicare (safety net for senior citizens).

House Speaker Paul Ryan while less obvious in his deference to these groups, never the less has found it necessary to also pander albeit in a more thoughtful way. Ryan speaks of building a strong economy but proposes solutions, including repealing Obamacare, which could devastate the most vulnerable while rewarding those best off.

For McConnell and Ryan, their legislative agendas should be enough to mortally wound the GOP Presidential standard bearer. The refusal to allow the Senate to act upon President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee was just another manifestation of a Party totally adrift from custom, the Constitution, or the best interests of the majority of Americans. It’s all about now.   Hmmm.

Following months of rejecting the Trump candidacy (in favor of some other candidate representing some minority faction within the GOP), McConnell and Ryan have both endorsed Trump and vow to support his election as President. In doing so, McConnell and Ryan have made clear that they are not about thoughtful governance. Instead they are about expedience and letting the future take care of itself. For the average American, this should be a lonely message.

Trump has placed both McConnell and Ryan in a difficult position.  Regardless of what they really think, both have made calculations that unless Trump does well in the general election, the GOP will do poorly in general.

Trump has found little value in pandering to each of the GOP minority factions and has delighted in antagonizing Hispanics, Muslims and women. When McConnell and Ryan announced their Trump endorsement, over arching principles, what little of them existed, went out with the bathwater.

Most analysts have observed that the success of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump signal a desire by a large and growing segment of Americans to see government do more about income inequality (more better paying jobs). The 2008 and 2012 GOP Platforms could not be more out of step with US demographics and only fantasy towards narrowing income inequality. Sweeping Platform changes are sorely needed for the 2016 Platform but it appears it will be same old, same old.

I guess that’s what you get with small thinkers.

Looking For The Silver Lining

May 26, 2016

The 2016 Presidential race has developed a dark picture of American life for the next several decades. Donald Trump’s, Hillary Clinton’s, and Bernie Sanders’ campaigns each have shined a dim light on the size and shape of this elephant but have neither defined the real dimensions of the problem nor proposed comprehensive remedies. Many voters are reacting in ways which aggravate rather than contribute to a positive path forward.

Donald Trump is the most disingenuous of these candidates, but in many regards is the most appealing. His campaign dialog is carefully constructed to raise fear and anger without specifics or genuine solutions. Everyone but “us” (presumably the crowd he is speaking to) is either the “problem” or sympathetic to the forces causing the “problem”. And foreign countries and foreigners in general are the central forces creating the “problem”.

Bernie Sanders has described the “problem” broadly as income inequality and targeted banks, Wall Street, and large corporations as the villains. One might reasonably question whether income inequality is the problems or the symptom. Campaign rhetoric, however, is not the best place to explore this difference. Sanders speeches are as divisive as Trump’s but split the “us” between the wealthy and the middle class.

Hillary Clinton has campaigned in a more classical partisan way. Her message is that the GOP is the wrong direction especially if you are middle class, gay, Hispanic, or a woman. She expands her message to a broader range of domestic issues and a more rational set of foreign policies. Clinton is the personification of a traditional Presidential candidate which Americans have seen for years.

So why the dark clouds?

There is income inequality and no candidate has proposed any rational steps which would lead to wages distributions similar to the good old days of the 60-80’s.

The Republican party, which is paralyzed from its coalition nature, lumps together deeply held but demographically losing ideas, has added xenophobic, hate baiting standard bearer in Donald Trump. Tax cuts for the wealthy represent a mighty leap of faith for one to connect them with a boom in “good paying” jobs creation. Globalization combined with the current American skill base does not suggest tax cuts will suddenly change the jobs picture.

Sanders’ vision of breaking up banks, restricting corporate campaign donations, and taxing the wealthy even more, while seeming fair if one is middle class or lower in income, does not suggest any reason that “good paying” jobs will suddenly reappear.

Cooler heads must step back and consider whether corporate America’s decision to outsource jobs and pay their senior executives many more multiples than the average worker is leading to a better place. It is hard to see how globalization can suddenly be made to look like it doesn’t exist, the world is a global market.

The globalization consequence reveal there are a lot of Americans who are now unskilled to take on higher paying jobs. Corporate America needs to wake up that at the current pace of average wage stagnation, there will be a shortage of consumers soon who can afford to buy what corporate America makes (or sells).

Which candidate do you think can engage in such a conversation with corporate America?

The dark clouds are not the repeal of Roe v Wade or Obamacare even though both would be serious social disruptors. The American people are not going to return to a no abortion world nor are the health insured going to give up coverage willingly.

The dark clouds are not tilting the Supreme Court back to a conservative outlook nor turning loose the neoconservatives to conjure up another WMD country to invade. America’s social momentum is not going to turned back by some religion pandering decisions, and even if there would be another foreign invasion, the all volunteer Army, where few Americans have skin in the game (like enlistment or tax money), will fare no better than “W’s” venture.

The dark clouds are only dark in comparison to other country’s dark clouds. If American leaders keep in mind that a country can’t grow its economy if all it depends upon are citizens who have no (or too little discretionary) money themselves.

Embargoes and tariffs will not cure the problem because for each dollar received with tariffs, the trading partners will reduce their US purchases equally or greater. Job training and government spending can work temporarily but to have a lasting impact, far more workers have to acquire new skills which in and of themselves demand “good pay”. Which candidate carries that message?

Americans who now support Donald Trump are not bad people and they are not that unusual. Globalization is complicated and there is little reason why these Americans should believe the greedy heads of corporations understand or care.

Trump-type supporters can be found around the world, particularly when a country’s key industries and their associated jobs have become redundant. Trump-type leaders, however, have been time after time seen as ineffective.

It is only May and the general election does not take place until November. The silver lining, if there is one, is that there is still time for even the most emotional American to realize of the three candidates, only Clinton has a chance at improving their lot in like.

This race may end up picking the lesser tarnished of the two evils but so doing may be the smartest choice.

Bernie Nader?

May 18, 2016

Bernie Sanders stubbornness and refusal to call it a day in the 2016 Democrat Presidential primary calls to mind Ralph Nader’s decision to run for President in 2000 when it was clear he could not win and would most likely be a spoiler for Democrat Al Gore. Nader got enough votes to enable George W Bush to win with less than 50% of the popular vote. Will history repeat?

Bernie apparently feels the delegate selection rules are rigged against him (or at least in Hillary Clinton’s favor if not against him personally). The Democrat selections rules are the same ones which lead to Barack Obama’s upset win over Clinton in 2008. Hmmm.

Sanders’ hangup falls to the “super delegates” who are not elected with a pledge to any candidate. Rather they are often political regulars who “get rewarded” by being a “super delegate” and tend to vote with the Party’s preferred candidate. Hillary has many more pledged super delegates than Sanders.

Bernie, like Nader, is passionate about his socialist beliefs. He has made a strong impression on many voters, especially the younger ones. The math, however, seems to be fixed in Clinton’s favor and she will get the Party’s nomination and Sanders will not. Why not graciously bow out and wish her well?

Bernie may be thinking his strong showing will help mold the Democrat Platform (if he cannot gain the nomination) to more robustly reflect Sanders’ views on breaking up “too big to fail” banks, reigning in big money (like Wall Street and the Koch Brothers), and making a real change in income inequality. Almost certainly, Sanders will insist upon something like that for him to endorse Clinton.

History is a good teacher but unfortunately voters are not always good students. Nader was equally passionate about the evils of big business and environmental destruction. The point is not what Sanders’ beliefs may be, rather it is about the prospects of a GOP President and what that might mean to so many other values Sanders, Clinton and Democrats may hold in common. In other words, Sanders must correctly assess when he has mad his point and when it is time to withdraw and bring his supporters together with Clinton’s so that his party can win the general election.

In 2000, there was not a ground swell of popular enthusiasm for either George W Bush or Al Gore. Getting out the vote was a real task. When the election came down to Florida, the Supreme Court weighed in and enabled a narrow GOP victory. Enhanced interrogations, the Patriot Act, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, Katrina, and the near repeat of the great depression followed.  Hmmm.

Once again?

None of us know what “tit for tat” is going on between operatives for the Sanders and Clinton campaign staffs. Presidential elections are highly charged and not an environment for the weak of heart. At some point, however, the adults in the room must take charge and insist the juvenile behavior end. Democrats stand for something more than breaking up Wall Street regardless of whether this is a worthwhile goal. Think about the GOP quest to reverse human rights (for gays and lesbians), expel immigrants, grant tax cuts to the wealthy when we already have a deficit budget, roll back Obamacare while putting millions in the position of no healthcare insurance, and get out the sword and rattle it towards other countries (needlessly endangering other people’s children).

Bernie needs to get a grip on himself quickly. If Clinton’s people are stiffing him, he needs to make that known. (Shame on them if that were the case.)

Sanders may, of course, have made a great President. That is not the question. Instead, the subject is who can get elected and which party will that person be from. Clinton may (or may not) be the best choice for the Democrats. What really counts is making the best case to the American voters and accepting their choice. Before American voters can choose, the parties need to nominate a candidate. Driving a wedge between members of a party will make the final election problematic.

Come on Bernie, don’t be Bernie Nader.