Monday, June 06, 2016

Fear and Loathing in the Year of the Yang Fire Monkey #2: Lessons of 2000 and 2008

Evelyne Axell -- Angela Davis II (1972)

“Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors, and U.S. senators and congress members. So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over." -- Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Thom Hartmann Show, 7/28/15

"There used to be a quip that the United States was a one-party state with a business party that had two factions: the Democrats and Republicans—and that used to be pretty accurate, but it’s not anymore. The U.S. is still a two-party state, but there’s only one faction, and it’s not Democrats, it’s moderate Republicans. Today’s Democrats have shifted to the right," -- Noam Chomsky, RT, 10/9/13

Fear and Loathing in the Year of the Yang Fire Monkey #2: Lessons of 2000 and 2008

NOTE: For many weeks, I have told myself I need to write you another post about this election cycle, but every week, I have put it off again, hoping somehow that the narrative would change, and I could offer you a different take on it all. But the cycle will soon be moving into a new phase, so the time has come to say something about where we find ourselves at this juncture. There will likely be two or three more posts before the election. It depends on several factors. The narrative is still developing. There are some wicked plot twists coming, perhaps even some mind-blowing ones.

Meanwhile ...

There are some profound lessons to be drawn from two previous presidential elections, 2008 and 2000.  It is vital that you consider these lessons before you make a decision about November.

Lessons of the 2008 Election

In 2008, Senator Clinton ran as if she was the presumptive nominee. But when her weaknesses as a political leader and as a communicator became undeniable, her campaign was overtaken from behind by that of Barack Obama. Of course, Senator Obama was successful because he could operate in two worlds at once, yes, on the campaign trail he could speak with authenticity to disenfranchised multitude (particular young voters) in a way that inspired hope, while at the same he was able to reassure the Party establishment and its Wall Street donors that he would not allow the uprising to get out of control, i.e., he was a centrist who could effectively deliver a populist message. Obama seized the nomination, wisely chose Joe Biden as his running mate and went on to defeat McCain/Palin.

I have a list of bones I would pick with POTUS in an exit interview (e.g., his administration's policies on Darfur, and its treatment of national security whistle-blowers), but in truth the sum total of the bones I would pick does not outweigh the sum total of what Obama-Biden was able to accomplish in spite of Zombie Death Cult control of the House and the Senate for most of the last eight years.

What accomplishments?
  1. Genuine U.S. support for the COP 21 Climate agreement arrived at in Paris late last year. 
  2. Blocking the Keystone XL Pipeline. 
  3. The Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare), which, although it is not Medicare for all (which is what we must evolve toward), has nonetheless provided allowed tens of millions of poor and low income citizens to get authentic health insurance, and could have been even more successful if it had not been thwarted by Zombie Death Cult control over states like Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Texas and New Jersey. 
  4. Not only avoiding war with Iran, but negotiating an agreement that should result in thwarting Iranian nuclear weapons program,  if left in place and not undermined by factions in Tehran or Beltwayistan. (This deal would not have happened if either McCain or Hillary Clinton had been elected President in 2008. She wanted that conflict, as her Margaret Thatcher moment. Furthermore, this deal would not have happened if John Kerry had not replaced Hillary Clinton as Secretary.) 
  5. In February 2015, Obama's FCC adopted his recommendation (made in November 2014) to "reclassify Internet service providers as common carriers under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, treating them as public utilities, like phone service," and thus enshrining the essential principle of Net Neutrality. Well, at least until the next President appoints her or his own FCC
  6. Two worthy SCOTUS appointments, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. And, as a result of Scalia's death, Obama could potentially secure a third SCOTUS seat, throwing the Court back to a 5/4 SANITY edge if a lame duck Senate (or a new Senate controlled by Democrats) decides it would rather confirm Garland than gamble on whoever the next President nominates. The death of Scalia and the potential of a power shift in the Senate would mean end to the madness of treating corporations as persons and money as speech.
  7. Normalizing relations with Cuba. 
  8. Consider this extraordinary moment, the first African American woman Attorney General of the United States striding up to the microphone to commit the full weight of the United State Justice Department in defense of transgender persons in North Carolina:  US Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Transgender Law North Carolina May 9, 2016
NONE of these eight positive steps forward would have been taken in a McCain/Palin or Romney/Ryan administration, arguably some of them would not have been taken by Clinton (in particular, scuttling XL Pipeline and negotiating an agreement with Iran). It is also important to note that some of these accomplishments (in particular, COP 21, XL Pipeline and Net Neutrality) were carried through in response to strong pressure from an engaged and growing progressive base. But a McCain/Palin administration would have been impervious to such pressure. Whatever Clinton does or doesn't do if elected, she will be answerable to the engaged and growing progressive base, as she looks ahead to re-election in 2020. If Trump is elected, he will be answerable only to the Zombie Cult and its Death Eater Overlords, IF to anyone at all.

So please don't tell me there is no difference between the two parties. It is a foolish statement.

Diego Rivera - Night of the Rich (1928)
Unfortunately, it is increasingly unlikely that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will be able to do in 2016 what Barack Obama did in 2008, i.e., take down the Clinton juggernaut from behind. Not because Sanders doesn't have the popular support, or is any less effective a communicator. But because Sanders has only half of Obama's winning combination on his side. He has the popular support and the populist message. But he does not have the behind-the-curtain establishment support, he is not a candidate that could or would reassure Wall Street and the lobbying class on the down low. Because Sanders actually is a progressive populist. Which means that the Super Delegates won't be won over by him. They won't defect. Even if/when Sanders wins the California primary. They will stick with Clinton, because she will not chase the money lenders from the temple, e.g., she will not bring back the Glass-Steagal Act. And so Sanders is at a distinct disadvantage in the Byzantine realm of delegate aggregation, and Clinton will probably survive, in spite of her political weaknesses.
Diego Rivera - Night of the Poor (1928)

Bernie Sanders Has Already Won

But whatever happens in July or November, Bernie Sanders has already won. He has raised up a movement, given it language, and framed it historically, and hopefully it will move on beyond his candidacy to drive us toward the great shift we must undertake if we are to survive the deepening challenges that confront us.

Consider the crowds he has drawn on the campaign trail.

"Despite the mainstream media’s repeated assertions that the Bernie Sanders movement is now a thing of the past, enthusiasm from his base only seems to be growing, based on the overwhelming number of people who flocked to his rally in Sacramento this Monday night. Supporters lined up for over four hours to see Senator Sanders outside Bonney Field — some of them even longer. The following video by Our Voice Media shows the massive scope of the line, as the videographers take several minutes to drive from one end of the line to the other. Somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 people were estimated to have been packed inside the stadium, with more than 10,000 more continuing to wait outside." -- Nathan Wellman, U.S. Uncut, Media Silent as Bernie Sanders Packs California Stadium Beyond Capacity. 5/11/16

Consider the strong progressive voices he has forced on to the Platform Committee.

"Sanders has won a sufficient number of delegates—and a sufficient opening in the debate—to influence the shaping of that agenda. And his representatives on the convention’s newly selected platform-writing committee share a commitment to make it profoundly progressive. Take the issue of climate change, as an example. Sanders has secured a place for author, activist, and co-founder Bill McKibben, on the 15-person Platform Drafting Committee—which is responsible for outlining the platform that will eventually be approved at the party’s late-July convention in Philadelphia ... The Sanders selections are all noted progressives: Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Keith Ellison, academic and activist Cornel West (the author of the groundbreaking 1994 book Race Matters and a leading member of Democratic Socialists of America), Native American activist and former Tulalip Tribes Vice Chair Deborah Parker (a key advocate for reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act), and Arab-American Institute President James Zogby (a veteran of many conventions who was an adviser to the campaigns of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Vice President Al Gore and President Obama)." -- John Nichols, Democratic Platform Committee Now Has a Progressive Majority. Thanks, Bernie Sanders. The Nation, 5/24/16

The Sanders campaign has framed the progressive agenda for a new generation, THE transformational generation, AND in the process an authentic movement has begun to take shape, a movement on the right side of history, poised to push in the direction of sanity and survival as we teeter here on the cusp between renewal and oblivion.

"I like the idea of saying, 'We can do much more,' because we can," [Vice President] Biden told The New York Times in an interview ... Sanders' critics -- most notably surrogates for his primary opponent Hillary Clinton and the candidate, herself -- often question how realistic his proposals are, but Biden dismissed that concern. "I don't think any Democrat's ever won saying, 'We can't think that big — we ought to really downsize here because it's not realistic,'" Biden said. "C'mon man, this is the Democratic Party! I'm not part of the party that says, 'Well, we can't do it.'" -- Joe Biden praises Bernie Sanders for 'thinking big', CNN, 4/22/

Lessons of the 2000 Election

What lesson does the election of 2000 hold for us today? The most important lesson of all. The one many of you don't want to hear again. But it is more timely than ever before.

I spent the 1990s defending the Clintons from the "vast right-wing conspiracy" (yes, she was spot-on). And whenever anyone raised an issue concerning one of the Clinton administration's corporatist moves, e.g., so-called "Welfare reform" or NAFTA or the Telecommunications Act of 1996, I would say, "We'll fix it later." But of course "later" never came. Gore never got a chance. Significant sabotage was undertaken in the state of Fraudida, and then Supreme Injustice kicked in and Bush and Cheney were installed as _resident and VICE _resident by a ruling that was tantamount to a judicial coup d'etat (read None Dare Call It Treason).

Yes, yes, but what does this have to do with 2016?

In the final weeks of the 2000 presidential campaign, the shell of a man formerly known as Ralph Nader went around the country saying that there was "no difference between voting for Bush or Gore." No difference. He was unequivocal. He spent some time in the final days of the campaign, in Florida, repeating this axiom over and over: "no difference between voting for Bush or Gore." Seriously. Well, allegedly, the election ended in a electoral college dead heat, and it all came down to Florida, and we were supposed to believe the two campaigns were fighting over just a few hundred votes. There is much more to this story. And I have written about it on this blog, and others have documented it in various ways. But all that's important here is that tens of thousands of Floridians bought into lie being perpetrated by the shell of a man formerly known as Ralph Nader (he is too intelligent for it not to be a willful lie). If even half of those who voted for the shell of a man formerly known as Ralph Nader in Florida in 2000 had voted for Gore instead, Rove, Baker, Scalia et al would not have been able to steal that election. Seriously.

Which would have meant certainly no mad invasion of Iraq, certainly no malign neglect of the city of New Orleans in the hours before or the days after Hurricane Katrina, certainly no gutting of the budget surplus for a tax cut skewed to the richest among us, certainly no abandonment of the Kyoto Accords and therefore no lost eight years in the struggle to come to grips with the Climate Crisis, and very probably no slaughter of the innocents on 9/11 since Clinton-Gore were already prepping a hit on Bin Laden's lair, and Gore would not have IGNORED the national security council staff and CIA analysts who were warning of imminent attack, nor would Bin Laden have been allowed to escape Tora Bora unchallenged, and on and on and on, no PATRIOT Act, no sanctioned violations of the Geneva Accords, NO TORTURE, no shredding of the Bill of Rights, and on and on ...

Edward S. Curtis - Mohave Water Carrier (1903)
So please don't tell me there is no difference between the two parties. Even now, even if this contest comes down to Trump vs. Hillary Clinton with her neoliberal economics and her neocon geopolitics. Seriously. And I am not asking you to heed me, I am asking you to wait and see for yourself what Sen. Bernie Sanders does should he lose the nomination. What stand will he take? What will he encourage you to do? If you are truly #bernieorbust shouldn't you consider what he has to say before you sit it out or throw away your vote?

And while you are waiting for what Sanders has to say after the Democratic race is decided ...

Consider what the indomitable Angela Davis recently said in the starkest, simplest terms:

Famed activist and academic Angela Davis on Friday urged voters to “do whatever is necessary” to avoid a Donald Trump presidency, Fusion reports. Davis, who is Distinguished Professor Emerita of History of Consciousness at U.C. Santa Cruz, was speaking at the Brooklyn Museum in New York on Friday, where she was recognized for her commitment to advocacy. Davis cautioned against allowing GOP candidate Donald Trump to take the election in November. “We talked about the emergence of new movements, but what we haven’t referred to is the extent to which racism has been revealed and in ways that many of us, who are seasoned activists, had thought to be consigned to dustbin of history,” Davis told a rapt audience. She cautioned against allowing “apathy” to permit “incendiary” people like Trump to seize power. - Bethania Palma Markus, Legendary radical activist Angela Davis: ‘We have to do whatever is necessary’ to stop Trump, Raw Story, 6/3/16

Consider too the sage advice of the great Noam Chomsky, also put in the starkest, simplest terms:

Noam Chomsky has been casting this year’s presidential election in life-or-death terms for the human species. The famed linguist and political scientist last week gave a pair of interviews that painted a dire picture of U.S. politics — which he said had been warped by a Republican Party bent on risking nuclear war and environmental devastation. “The fact of the matter is that today’s Republican Party qualify as candidates for the most dangerous organization in human history,” Chomsky said in an interview with Democracy Now. The former professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said electing Donald Trump, the likely Republican presidential nominee, could put the future of human existence at risk with his policies — whatever they might be. “It’s hard to say because we don’t really know what he thinks, and I’m not sure he knows what he thinks,” Chomsky told The Guardian. “He’s perfectly capable of saying contradictory things at the same time.” “But there are some pretty stable elements of his ideology, if you can even grant him that concept,” he continued. “One of them is: ‘Climate change is not taking place.’ As he puts it: ‘Forget it.’ And that’s almost a death knell for the species – not tomorrow, but the decisions we take now are going to affect things in a couple of decades, and in a couple of generations it could be catastrophic.” Chomsky, who has praised Bernie Sanders’ policies, again repeated his assertion that he would vote against the Republican candidate. “If I were in a swing state, a state that matters, and the choice were Clinton or Trump, I would vote against Trump,” Chomsky said. “And by arithmetic that means hold your nose and vote for Clinton.” -- Travis Gettys, Noam Chomsky: Trump as president would be ‘almost a death knell for the species,’ 5/23/16

I do not support Hillary Clinton, and I will not. She is wrong on many vital issues, for example, fracking, and she is a tone-deaf campaigner. But I will vote for the Democratic Party nominee, whoever it is, because I understand the difference between the parties, the difference for example between the institutionalization of misogyny versus the funding of Planned Parenthood. But there is much road ahead before we get to the conventions in July, and so much more road beyond that before we get to the November election. There are several plot twists yet to come.

So stay awake. Heed the wise council of Chomsky and Angela Davis. Wait on word from Senator Sanders on the other side of the nomination process.

AND please remember the lessons of 2000 and 2008.

Oh, yes, and I will give the last word to Mac Stipanovich, an actual Republican Party operative who, in this op-ed piece, proves himself to be above all a patriot:

On a personal level, Trump is a boor, a bully, a carnival barker, and an embarrassment. Politically, by intent or instinct, he is a neo-fascist — a nativist, an ultranationalist, a racist, a misogynist, an anti-intellectual, a demagogue, and a palingenetic (sorry) authoritarian to whom clings the odor of the political violence he encourages. He appeals to our fears, preys on our anxieties, and exploits our ignorance. A worse candidate to sit in the Oval Office for the next four years cannot be imagined.
And he is our responsibility. We spawned Donald Trump; now we must stop him. We must deny him the presidency by not voting in the presidential election at all or voting for Hillary Clinton if conscience permits. A drop of a few percentage points in the Republican vote for Trump will be enough, which is why the pressure to conform, to toe the Party line, will be enormous. We cannot depend on our elected leaders to lead us. They, for the most part, will fold like cheap lawn chairs, cowed by fear and fueled by ambition. It’s up to us. Each one of us is being tested, and the choice each of us makes matters, for ourselves, for our grandchildren. As bad as the cure for Trump’s Caesarism will be for the Party and for the country, it will not be bad as the disease, and both will survive. So if anyone asks you, “Et tu Brute?” answer proudly, “Damned right.”Mac Stipanovich, An open letter to my fellow Republicans, St. Petersburg Blog, 5/4/16

See also Fear and Loathing in the Year of the Yang Fire Monkey #1: Of Trump, Snowden and Sanders 

-- Richard Power 

Richard Power is the author of eleven books, including most recently, "Cauldron Yoga, Gaian Poetics and the Way of the Ancient Future," along with the other four volumes of his "Primal Reality" series, all of which are  available in both softcover and Kindle versions via

For information, visit his Amazon author's page.