Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Progressive Perspectives on Big Tuesday and Beyond

Six states held presidential primary contests today, with Michigan the big prize for Democratic candidates in terms of the number of delegates to be won.

As the results of Big Tuesday continue to come in, here is a compilation of progressive views and analysis on the Democratic presidential race, one currently dominated by two front-runners, Sen. Bernie Sanders and former vice-president Joe Biden.


[In] the Democratic primary, only two [viable] candidates remain in the race. Joe Biden opposes Medicare for All and College for All, is financed by the healthcare industry and union-busting law firms, authored the infamous 1994 Crime Bill, and has repeatedly supported trade deals that depress wages and move jobs overseas. Biden's policies protect the interests of political and economic elites at the expense of working-class people. In contrast, Sanders' campaign has centered on universal public-goods programs and his funding has come from millions of low-dollar donors. Sanders' campaign is founded on representing the working class in all its diversity. So yes, it's true that both are old white men. But the difference between them couldn't be more stark.

The field for Democrats has significantly narrowed over the past month, going from almost two dozen candidates in the beginning of the race to just three: former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and a name that has, at times, been left out: Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Gabbard, despite failing to come in first place in any presidential primary in the country, has stressed she’s staying in the race. She is facing an uphill battle to get to the 1,991 delegates needed to secure a nomination for the first Democratic convention ballot.

When asked by ABC News why she's continuing her bid, Gabbard said this campaign is “an opportunity to speak to Americans every single day about the sea change we need in our foreign policy.”

On the campaign trail she has talked at length about the cost of war, also noting the physical and financial toll of war.

“In Afghanistan right now, we're spending $4 billion of your taxpayer dollars every month,” Gabbard said. “This money could be used here.”

– Beatrice Peterson
Excerpted from “Why Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
Is Continuing Her Bid for President

ABC News
March 7, 2020

Biden is leading Sanders by just under 100 delegates – 670 to 574 – heading into Tuesday's primaries in Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, and Washington. A total of 365 pledged delegates are up for grabs Tuesday, and 1,991 delegates are needed to secure the nomination on the first ballot.

“Bernie Sanders is the safe choice,” pro-Sanders group People for Bernie tweeted Tuesday. “Today is the day to #VoteForBernie.”

Jeet Heer, national affairs correspondent for The Nation, argued in a column Monday that nominating Biden is a risk not only because of his potential vulnerabilities in a general election matchup with Trump, but also because of how the former vice president has promised to govern should he win the presidency.

“Given already low interest rates, a stalling global economy, and the need for new infrastructure (both for its own sake and also to prepare for climate change), this is the ideal time for a president who isn't afraid to argue for big structural changes and to go full Keynesian,” Heer wrote. “But that's exactly the president that Joe Biden would not be. He's running to be a business-as-usual president. Given the real problems facing the world, that's a dangerous risk.”

– WJ Astore
Excerpted from “Progressives Sound Alarm to Democrats:
Biden Is Not the 'Safe' Candidate Against Trump

Common Dreams
March 10, 2020

Just when you thought this political year couldn’t get any weirder, along comes the entire Democratic Party establishment rushing en masse to the cliff’s edge, hurling themselves head-first into the presidential contest. What has spurred this gaggle of political operatives, fat cat donors, and former presidential hopefuls is a collective impulse to unite behind the very worst candidate the party could possibly put up against Donald Trump in November’s election: Joe Biden.

While practically everyone in the political swirl admits privately that Joe’s pretty slow, awfully corporate, and practically bent over double with a bag full of very bad political positions he’s taken during his decades-long career as a Washington insider – his establishment cohorts are now resurrecting his dormant campaign by ecstatically proclaiming that he’s a “winner.”

. . . A “winner”? How enthusiastic will seniors, low-income families, and others be when they realize Biden has spent 30 years (including during his vice presidency) trying to cut spending for the people’s crucial safety net, declaring: “I meant Social Security as well; I meant Medicare and Medicaid; I meant veterans’ benefits… I tried it once… twice… a third time… a fourth time.”

Also, how excited will young voters be to find that kindly old Joe has constantly backed efforts by big bankers to make it harder for students to get out from under their price-gouging loan payments? And how thrilled will hard-hit manufacturing workers be that Biden has been a constant cheerleader for NAFTA and other job-killing, wage-busting trade scams?

At a time when big majorities are clearly sick and tired of business-as-usual politics and are demanding bold policies for grassroots progress, why would Democrats put up the poster boy of corporate-purchased, inside-the-beltway, status-quo-ism? Not only would Biden be uniquely vulnerable to Trump this fall, but he’ll also lose the political future for Democrats by turning off voter turn-out – especially among young people and others who feel abandoned by the establishment.

Cynically, the Democratic Party’s moneyed and political elites have rushed to hug-up Joe Biden, not because he’s the best the party’s got, but because of what he’s not: He’s not Sen. Bernie Sanders. . . . [Yet] what if the people had a candidate in November who was not controlled by big campaign donors, who has the authenticity to stand unequivocally for what he believes in, and who will fight the corporate powers – as Franklin Roosevelt once put it – “to restore America to its own people”? It could be a landslide for progress.

– Jim Hightower
Excerpted from “How Weird Is the
Democratic Party Establishment?

March 9, 2020

Biden has never done well running for president – until these last eight days, when victory in South Carolina led the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to go “all-in” on him. Mayor Pete and Amy Klobuchar conveniently dropped out of the race and endorsed Biden (no collusion here, people!), and other prominent democrats quickly followed suit in singing Biden’s praises. Rumor has it Barack Obama was involved behind the scenes, making phone calls, twisting arms, getting the corporate tools to line up behind his former vice president (not that they needed much convincing).

In a way, it worked too well. Biden vaulted ahead on Super Tuesday and is now the front runner and presumptive nominee. The DNC, and Daddy Warbucks Mike Bloomberg, are pledging undying love and lots of money. Even Kamala Harris, the little girl who was so, so hurt by Biden’s opposition to school integration, is now a big Biden booster. What happened?

The answer is obvious. A cold, cynical, corporate DNC decided Biden was the best man to stop Bernie Sanders. Stopping Bernie and stomping on the progressive base of the Democratic Party is the paramount goal of the DNC. And they are likely to achieve this goal.

What the DNC doesn’t really care about is defeating Donald Trump. Good thing too, since Joe Biden can’t do that, and the DNC knows it. Assuming he’s the nominee, Biden is going to be humiliated in the general election. His weaknesses, which are legion, play to Trump’s strengths.

– WJ Astore
Excerpted from “The Cold, Cynical, Corporate DNC
LA Progressive
March 8, 2020

It's ironic that black folk will provide cover for the moderate/conservative wing of the Democratic Party. The very folk who use triangulation to pass Welfare Reform, to pass the Crime Bill. The very folk that whenever the general election comes they bank right and take black folk for granted.

I don't give a damn if Joe Biden knows us. I want to know what the policies are. I don't want empathy. I don't want folk hugging me. I want policy, policy, policy.

– Eddie Glaude
From an interview on All In with Chris Hayes
March 9, 2020

There is only one choice in this election. The consolidation of oligarchic power under Donald Trump or the consolidation of oligarchic power under Joe Biden. The oligarchs, with Trump or Biden, will win again. We will lose. The oligarchs made it abundantly clear, should Bernie Sanders miraculously become the Democratic Party nominee, they would join forces with the Republicans to crush him. Trump would, if Sanders was the nominee, instantly be shorn by the Democratic Party elites of his demons and his propensity for tyranny. Sanders would be red-baited – as he was viciously Friday in The New York Times’ “As Bernie Sanders Pushed for Closer Ties, Soviet Union Spotted Opportunity” – and turned into a figure of derision and ridicule. The oligarchs preach the sermon of the least-worst to us when they attempt to ram a Hillary Clinton or a Biden down our throats but ignore it for themselves. They prefer Biden over Trump, but they can live with either.

Only one thing matters to the oligarchs. It is not democracy. It is not truth. It is not the consent of the governed. It is not income inequality. It is not the surveillance state. It is not endless war. It is not jobs. It is not the climate. It is the primacy of corporate power – which has extinguished our democracy and left most of the working class in misery – and the continued increase and consolidation of their wealth. It is impossible working within the system to shatter the hegemony of oligarchic power or institute meaningful reform. Change, real change, will only come by sustained acts of civil disobedience and mass mobilization, as with the yellow vests movement in France and the British-based Extinction Rebellion. The longer we are fooled by the electoral burlesque, the more disempowered we will become.

. . . Sanders apparently believed that if he was obsequious enough to the Democratic Party elite, they would give him a chance in 2020, a chance they denied him in 2016. Politics, I suspect he would argue, is about compromise and the practical. This is true. But playing politics in a system that is not democratic is about being complicit in the charade. Sanders misread the Democratic Party leadership, swamp creatures of the corporate state. He misread the Democratic Party, which is a corporate mirage. Its base can, at best, select pre-approved candidates and act as props at rallies and in choreographed party conventions. The Democratic Party voters have zero influence on party politics or party policies. Sanders’ naivete, and perhaps his lack of political courage, drove away his most committed young supporters. These followers have not forgiven him for his betrayal. They chose not to turn out to vote in the numbers he needs in the primaries. They are right. He is wrong. We need to overthrow the system, not placate it.

Sanders is wounded. The oligarchs will go in for the kill. They will subject him to the same character assassination, aided by the courtiers in the corporate press, that was directed at Henry Wallace in 1948 and George McGovern in 1972, the only two progressive presidential candidates who managed to seriously threaten the ruling elites since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The feckless liberal class, easily frightened, is already abandoning Sanders, castigating his supporters with their nauseating self-righteousness and championing Biden as a political savior.

Trump and Biden are repugnant figures, doddering into old age with cognitive lapses and no moral cores. Is Trump more dangerous than Biden? Yes. Is Trump more inept and more dishonest? Yes. Is Trump more of a threat to the open society? Yes. Is Biden the solution? No.

Biden represents the old neoliberal order. He personifies the betrayal by the Democratic Party of working men and women that sparked the deep hatred of the ruling elites across the political spectrum. He is a gift to a demagogue and con artist like Trump, who at least understands that these elites are detested. Biden cannot plausibly offer change. He can only offer more of the same. And most Americans do not want more of the same. The country’s largest voting-age bloc, the 100 million-plus citizens who out of apathy or disgust do not vote, will once again stay home. This demoralization of the electorate is by design. It will, I expect, give Trump another term in office.

– Chris Hedges
Excerpted from “The One-Choice Election
March 9, 2020

Let it be said at once: the treatment received by Bernie Sanders in the leading media in the United States and in Europe is unjust and dangerous. Everywhere on the main networks and the large daily papers we read that Sanders is an “extremist” and that only a “centrist” candidate like Biden could triumph over Trump. This biased and somewhat unscrupulous treatment is particularly regrettable when a closer examination of the facts actually suggests that only a full-scale reorientation of the type proposed by Sanders would eventually rid American democracy of the inegalitarian practices which undermine it and deal with the electoral disaffection of the working classes.

. . . [T]his electoral alienation of the American working classes is so long-standing that it will certainly not be reversed in one day. But what else can we do to deal with it than to undertake a far-reaching re-orientation of the election programme of the Democratic Party and to discuss these ideas openly in national campaigns? The cynical, and unfortunately very commonplace vision amongst the Democratic elites, that nothing can be done to mobilise further the working-class vote, is extremely dangerous. In the last resort, this cynicism weakens the legitimacy of the democratic electoral system itself.

– Thomas Piketty
Excerpted from “Sanders to the Aid of Democracy in the United States
Le Blog de Thomas Piketty
March 10, 2020

As a Christian whose imagination is fed by prophetic/messianic this worldly eschatology, I’ll make no deals with centrist “realism” until there are no other options on the table. For me, to make any easy peace with Joe Biden right now is to agree that the doors to God’s kin-dom (genuine this worldly societal transformation in the direction of justice) can be closed and locked for the remainder of this election cycle (and likely the next four years) … since I’m (mostly) on the inside of those doors. But I can’t get the powerful refrain from Rev. Michael Cobbler’s sermon at Anita Hill’s ordination out of my head. (Anita was ordained to ministry in 2001 in defiance of ELCA policy, which, in good “centrist” fashion, affirmed her worth in the eyes of God, but found her unfit for ministry because she was in a covenanted relationship with another woman.) On that day Cobbler’s booming voice reminded us again and again, “And there are others who are knocking at the door … and there is room for more!” Sanders’ campaign says the same.

Heck, I’ll even toss my religious faith to the side and say that simply as a human being with a visceral longing for justice that includes not just my tribe but all persons (and the rest of the natural world as well — we are one Earth community), it would feel like a betrayal of both conscience and creation to say right now in early March, “I’m good with Joe, let’s just unite behind his tepid vision for a return to what wasn’t really working very well back then anyway.” No, even apart from my faith-driven “lofty idealism,” this chapter of the political season is surely about exercising our imaginations vigorously for the type of world we want. It is far too soon to be ushered by pundits (or by friends) toward settling for the type of the world our keepers prefer to offer. Not yet. Not me. Us.

– David Weiss
Excerpted from “Eschatology and Solidarity:
On Still Feeling the Bern

Full Frontal Faith
March 9, 2020

NEXT: “Let Us All Unite!”

Related Off-site Links:
Boomers! Time to Get the Bob Dylan Records Out and Remember What Being Passionate About Real Change Felt Like – Danbert Nobacon (The Bern Report, March 8, 2020).
Will Big Money Defeat Bernie Sanders? – An Interview with Thomas Ferguson – Paul Heideman (Jacobin, February 19, 2020).
Older People Who Feel Unsafe Seek the Familiar. That's Why They're Flocking to Biden – Robert Reich (The Guardian, March 8, 2020).
The Dangers of Playing It Safe With Joe Biden – Jeet Heer (The Nation, March 9, 2020).
Elite Political Journalists Are Eager to Kick Bernie Sanders on His Way Out the Door – Dan Froomkin (Press Watch, March 10, 2020).

UPDATES: Biden Takes Command of Race, Winning Four States Including Michigan – Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin(The New York Times, March 11, 2020).
With Big Wins for Biden and Sanders on the Ropes, “A Very Dangerous Moment for the Democratic Party” – Jon Queally (Common Dreams, March 11, 2020).
The Democratic Party Surrenders to Nostalgia – Bill Blum (TruthDig, March 11, 2020).
Biden's Primary Success is Undeniable — and Ridiculous – Matthew Walther (The Week, March 11, 2020).
Joe Biden Is a Single-issue Candidate – Bonnie Kristian (The Week, March 11, 2020).
Bernie Sanders Vows to Challenge Joe Biden on Key Issues at Debate After Rejecting Calls to Drop Out – Igor Derysh (Salon, March 11, 2020).
Bernie Not Going Anywhere Until He Has the Chance to Ask Biden Some Vital Questions – and Get Some Serious Answers – on Key Issues – Julia Conley (Common Dreams, March 11, 2020).
The Democratic Primary Isn't Over, and Neither is Bernie Sanders' Candidacy – Bill de Blasio (NBC News, March 11, 2020).
“In a Dark Time, the Eye Begins to See”: The 2020 Bernie Campaign Represents a Fight That Must Continue – Norman Solomon (Common Dreams, March 11, 2020).
Biden Overwhelms Sanders With Florida, Illinois, and Arizona Victories – Kevin Robillard (The Huffington Post, March 17, 2020).
Bernie Sanders Reassessing, But Not Suspending, Campaign After Recent Primary Losses – Rebecca Morin (USA Today, March 18, 2020).
Biden Is Winning, But Sanders’s Ideas May End Up Salvaging the Country – William Rivers Pitt (TruthOut, March 18, 2020).
Tulsi Gabbard Ends 2020 Presidential Bid and Endorses Joe Biden – Emily Larsen (Washington Examiner, March 19, 2020).
A Biden-Trump Election Is a Win-Win for Wall Street and a Loss for Our Democracy – Kenneth Peres (Common Dreams, March 18, 2020).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Marianne Williamson on the Contest Being Played Out by Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders
Something to Think About – March 5, 2020
Bernie Sanders’ “Revolution” is Ultimately One of Values – the Values of Justice, Hope, and Love
Thoughts on the “Sanders Surge”
The Case for Bernie Sanders
Quote of the Day – September 7, 2017
Quote of the Day – January 21, 2017
Quote of the Day – November 9, 2016
Progressive Perspectives on the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election
Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump
Carrying It On
Hope, History, and Bernie Sanders

For more coverage at The Wild Reed of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, see:
Thoughts on the Eve of the Iowa Caucuses
Quote of the Day – February 9, 2020
A Thank You Letter to Marianne Williamson
“A Beautiful Message, So Full of Greatness”
Progressive Perspectives on Joe Biden's Presidential Run
Beto, Biden and Buttigieg: “Empty Suits and Poll-Tested Brands”
Pete Buttigieg, White Privilege, and Identity Politics
Quote of the Day – October 19, 2019
Quote(s) of the Day – February 26, 2019

Image: Michael Zamora/NPR.

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