Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Political Soul of the Nation

                                                                               March 27, 2016

K.C. Shepherd

The battle for the political soul of the nation will not be fought in the general election.  Rather, it is being fought right now in the Democratic nominating process.

That the Republicans are morally bankrupt is beyond dispute.  Their escalating antics speak for themselves.  It is not only Trump.  The Republicans overall might as well live on another planet.  They are so stuck in stale and failed ideology and religious rhetoric that they have outlived any relevance they may think they once had.  The personal insults and foul behavior of Trump and Cruz are already a tremendous embarrassment.  If there are any honest Republicans left, they ought to be ashamed that their party has sunk so far to the gutter.

Here are a few issues that illustrate the contrast between the Sanders and Clinton campaigns.

Social and Economic Justice:   Sanders represents substantive institutional change.  Clinton represents incremental change and the status quo.  Sanders is supported by more than 6,000,000 private donations of around $27 each.  The Sanders campaign has raised over $140,000,000 this way, something never before done in the history of United States elections.  Clinton has raised most of her money via Super PACS and the support of the very institutions that are poisoning our political process and our planet:  Wall Street, Big Banks, Pharma, Private health insurance, Extraction, Armaments, Private Prisons, Media and Corporations.  How can Secretary Clinton express intention to crack down on these institutions while taking their money?

Foreign Policy:  Ironically, foreign policy may be Secretary Clinton’s area of greatest vulnerability.  She claims strength in foreign policy due to her experience in that area.  However, it is not only experience but judgment that counts.  In 2002, Bernie warned that an invasion of Iraq would lead to civil war and chaos.  Senator Clinton voted to empower George W. Bush to invade Iraq.  Now ISIS, an unholy alliance of religious opportunists and former Saddam Hussein Baathist army remnants has filled the vacuum.  We see also in Libya that the Clinton policy of regime change can have the unintended consequence leaving behind a failed state and yet another vacuum to be filled by jihadists.  Clinton’s hawkish foreign policy views more closely resemble Republican views than the considered caution of Sanders.

Climate change:  As Secretary of State, Secretary Clinton traveled the world speaking to the benefits of fracking.  Sanders is opposed to fracking.

Civil rights:  Bernie Sanders marched with Martin Luther King, Jr.  He fought for housing desegregation in Chicago.  Sanders was a champion of civil rights before it was a popular idea.  In Chicago, he was arrested for his activism.  Bernie is appalled by and in opposition to the mass incarceration (disproportionately of people of color) that shamefully exists in America today.  Secretary Clinton claims to oppose the mass incarceration, yet she accepted the money of private prisons and in the 1990’s supported Bill Clinton’s crime bill.  That bill and mandatory minimum sentences were a big mistake; even Bill Clinton now admits that.

The contrasts in the Democratic campaigns are numerous and vast.  Differences in issues of the two campaigns are as wide as or wider than used to be the case between Democrats and Republicans.

The establishment of the Democratic Party is willing to give Secretary Clinton a pass on her campaign donors.  They are willing to go along with a hawkish foreign policy which has been a clear failure, destabilized the Middle East, and unintentionally created conditions ripe for the rise of ISIS. 

Perhaps this establishment is clinging too hard to the myths of Clinton inevitability and electability in the general election.  Consider these observations:  Clinton draws crowds of 4000 to 5000.  Bernie filled Safeco Field in Seattle and regularly draws crowds in excess of 10,000.  Even Trump does not draw so well.  Clinton may claim more votes cast in the nomination thus far.  However most of this majority is in the deep south where no Democrat is expected to win in November. Polling shows that Bernie is the only candidate in either party with positive approval and trust ratings by the American people.  Moreover, polls continue to demonstrate that Sanders does much better in a general election against either Trump or Cruz.

The important question to ask in this battle for the political soul of the nation is this:  Do we want and need significant structural change in America or will incremental change be sufficient?  An honest look at the state of the nation and of American politics will  answer that question.