Anyone but Trump

During the 2016 presidential campaign, faced with a corrupt proto-fascist, and not sure what it really stood for, the Democratic Party ran on a simplistic, fearful platform — “anybody but Trump.” Few remember now what else Hillary Clinton campaigned on — much less actually believed in, because her views on everything from abortion, gay rights, criminal justice, immigration, and trade had all “evolved” and it was difficult to untangle Clinton the Candidate from Clinton the Goldman-Sachs speaker — or Clinton the peddler of influence from her $2 billion family foundation.

After her stunning loss the corporate media began pushing the message that Democrats had been too focused on “identity politics” — that concern for gays, women, minorities, and immigrants had robbed the party of its rightful win.

Then, as now, Republicans whined about identity politics (knowing full-well that white privilege itself is the most toxic example), called Democratic safety-net programs “socialist,” railed against “political correctness” and lied about the basic science behind human gestation and environmental warming. And Democrats took the bait, wishing they had appealed more to the mythological unicorn — the fabled white swing voter.

Now, as the 2020 presidential campaign begins, faced with the same corrupt, and now much more dangerous proto-fascist — and still unsure of what they really stand for — Democrats have again trotted out the same simplistic platform — “anybody but Trump.” And this time around, it looks like it will be up to a white candidate to appeal to the white swing voter.

At least fifteen of the twenty Democratic contenders will never survive the primaries. As of May 13th, the leaders were Biden (39.8%), Sanders (16.3%), Warren (8.3%), Harris (7.7%), and Buttigieg (6.8%). Not one candidate of color is running in double digits. Two Democratic candidates (Sanders and Warren) are progressives — idea people who want to fix a long list of economic, social, and criminal justice wrongs. They and Tulsi Gabbard are also the only candidates to question American militarism. But this year the Democratic Party is not interested in grand ideas — not even those diametrically opposed to the President’s. “Anyone but Trump” is their only idea. Sadly, Sanders and Warren’s campaigns are dead out of the gate.

Instead, the Democratic Party leadership sees Biden and Buttigieg as the best shot to appeal to White Middle America — by turning their backs on progressive agendas Sanders and Warren and some of the newly-elected House representatives have championed. In Las Vegas this week Pete Buttigieg dropped the hammer on identity politics. This was a tip of the hat to MAGA America and a slap in the face to minorities. Polls show that Buttigieg has the support of 18% of South Carolina’s voters and 8% of the state’s Democratic voters. But among African-Americans that percent is a well-deserved zero.

Among millennials and young black voters Biden is doing relatively well in the polls for the moment. Unless the septuagenarian suffers a health crisis, he looks to become the next Anointed One. But young people are unreliable voters. And so are dispirited and disrespected voters. As Charles M. Blow pointed out in the New York Times, “there is part of the Biden enthusiasm, and to a lesser extent the energy around candidates like Bernie Sanders, that focuses too heavily on the fickle white, working-class swing voters and is not enough focused on the party’s faithful.”

For Blow the Anointing of Joe Biden is an insult to loyal black voters. “Democrats want to hold constant their support from women and minorities even as they chase the votes of people hostile to the interests of women and minorities. What does it say that the Democrats lust after disaffection rather than rewarding devotion? Democrats tell their base that this must be done, that the prodigal [white] children must be brought home, as if that is their only path to victory. It is not. That is a lie. And, it’s a lazy lie.”

Not only is it a lazy lie, it’s a crazy one as well. White swing voters, who in 2008 and 2012 voted for Obama and Biden and then flipped to Trump in 2016, just aren’t going back anytime soon. Not only are these voters unicorns; the fervent hope that Democrats can win them back is a delusion.

The other path to power, as Blow hinted, is Steve Phillips’ New American Majority, an idea he developed in his book Brown in the New White. The idea is neither new nor very difficult math. If you add up white progressives and progressives of color you’ve got a numerical majority that can beat Republicans — not in 2040, when whites will be a numerical minority, but right now. The gotcha, says Phillips, is that the Democratic Party needs to start offering better reasons for registered African-Americans voters to show up at the polls — like representation, support, and money. Anointing Biden, then, is just a prescription for another electoral loss.

So for the moment it looks like it’s going to be Biden in 2020, and if it is — then Democrats are going to lose. 2020 could have been about ideas and programs to truly make this country a better place. Instead, it seems to be contracting into a referendum on replacing one set of hair work and dental veneers with another.

MA House says No to transparency

Yesterday the Massachusetts House voted overwhelmingly against three House rules amendments which would have required legislators to actually read bills before voting on them, and which would have published roll call votes and testimony so the public knows how representatives vote. While the amendments were sensible and democratic, the votes against were a bitter reminder of one lobbyist’s remark: “Don’t mistake what happens in [the Massachusetts State House] for democracy.”

The lobbyist quoted was Phil Sego, who penned a piece in Commonwealth Magazine last month deeply critical of a loyalty-based spoils system in Blue State Massachusetts that could just as easily be run by Mitch McConnell as Robert DeLeo. The amendment votes were strikes against transparency, to be sure, but they were also intended to preserve Robert DeLeo’s grip on the House.

Another Commonwealth article that appeared on the 30th pointed out that Democrats with cherished committee assignments voted to keep things as-is, while freshman legislators were put in the awkward position of having to vote with Republicans for a change in The Way Things Work.

In addition to the transparency votes, the House voted 43-113 against a proposal to impose term limits on Speaker Robert DeLeo.

Today Progressive Massachusetts (PM) published the results of the votes on three of the amendments:

  1. 72 hours to read the final language of any bill the House is voting on;
  2. 30 minutes for the House to read any amendment submitted on the floor to be voted on;
  3. publication of hearing testimony and roll call votes

Click the images of vote tallies below to see how your representative voted — and feel free to give him or her an earful:

Amendment #1 – 72 hours to read text of a new bill

Amendment #2 – 30 minutes to read floor amendments

Amendment #3 – publication of testimony and roll-calls

New Senate legislation

The Massachusetts Senate is open for business and a whopping 2,202 pieces of Senate legislation await co-sponsorship, dismissal, or eventual votes. It’s a daunting challenge to be well-informed on new legislation. Please look at this list I’ve put together and let me know your thoughts on particular bills.

You can’t claim to live in a democracy if it doesn’t have strong and widely-observed civil liberties. What we have instead is overwhelmingly a police and prison state sitting atop a playground for Capitalists. Many of the bills before the Legislature concern criminal “justice” reforms, including decarceration, treating substance abuse in jail, parole and probation reforms, and more accountability for guards and police. Not everybody behind bars is an animal, and not everybody with a badge is a saint. With a shocking 50% of all American families affected by prison, probation, parole, or the cruel stigma of prior incarceration, this and white supremacy are the top crises now afflicting America — not the lack of a border wall.

Speaking of which. Civil liberties don’t stop at the border. Over decades American “interventions” have created the human rights abuses, the collapse of democratic governments, and the economic and political chaos that asylum-seekers from Central America are now fleeing. We’ve had racist immigration and border patrol polices for generations and, to be honest, I’d much prefer to throw Trump and his tax-cheating, wife-cheating, white supremacist buddies out of the country — instead keeping hard-working Central Americans who may be here “illegally” but actually pay taxes and contribute to the Social Security system I depend on. And I don’t want to pay for my racist county sheriff to get to play ICE agent on the state dime. It turns out that by supporting the re-filed Safe Communities Act we also strengthen everyone’s Constitutional rights.

Over time I’ve noticed that the police and military seem to be the only constituency of importance to some legislators — mostly Republican, but some Democrats as well. These guys file bill after bill that scream — Blue Lives Matter! Khaki Lives Matter! To hell with teachers, garbage men, and anyone else who provides an essential service. This year’s Senate bills include legislation to make harming one of them a more serious offense than harming any other citizen. Some bills unfairly move vets to the front of the hiring line or eliminate training and age requirements for them. Or they give away state tax money for awards and allowances for federal military service.

Well, I’ve had it with the veneration of all things militaristic. It’s time to say no to all this legislation. The phrase “thank you for your service” has become a completely hollow slogan. Do we ever ask about the nature of the actual service rendered by a mercenary army or its true value? Does an unemployed or aimless guy who heads over to the local Army recruiter bear any responsibility for war crimes he wittingly or unwittingly participates in? Did he ever question what he was signing up to do? Does anyone really believe that a generation of wars and invasions has kept us safe? Are we not in fact guilty of destabilizing much of the Middle East and creating much of Europe’s refugee crisis? In the face of such weighty questions, these giveaways must be seen for what they really are — blood money.

The Massachusetts House has not published the text of any of its legislation, though only a week remains during which you can urge your representative to co-sponsor the mystery bills. As with so much that is wrong with the Massachusetts House, I’m inclined to blame it all on Bob DeLeo.