Podcast: Party’s Over – Democratic Debate Recap

Keaton and Russell give their thoughts on the September 12 Democratic debate in Houston.

And listed below:

Totally Non-Partisan Debate Round Up

by Russell Dobular

Amy Klobuchar: “I’ve sponsored or co-sponsored over 100 bills, all of which were innocuous enough to get past Mitch McConnell. This included landmark legislation like my Nazis Are Bad resolution and my bold Kiddie Porn Shouldn’t Be A Thing Act. So if you want the kind of President who focuses on the fruit that’s hanging so low that even a GOP Congress will take no exception to it, I’m your gal.”

Julian Castro: “Joe, did you just pee yourself?! He peed himself! I can’t believe he peed himself! And now he’s denying it! There’s like a thin stream of old codger urine right there behind the podium! Did you forget you peed yourself already?! (Under breath) Yep, that outghta do it. Top tier, here I come.

Cory Booker: “Yes, I’ve been compared a lot to Obama. But I think that’s only because we all look alike to the white pundits who make these shallow observations. Hell, they couldn’t even tell Obama and Kamala apart until she shit the bed in the last debate. If you’re black and speak in complete sentences its like that Shazam movie, only instead of a superhero, you turn into Obama.”

Beto O’Rourke: “They tell me I can’t drop the F-bomb tonight, so let me just apologize to everyone who bought a T-shirt. As to why I won’t get out of the race and run for Senate, I’m not supposed to talk about this, but Warner Bros. is currently in pre-production for an Addams Family prequel which is going to be a kind of young Lurch origin story. And guess who’s up for the lead?”

Pete Buttigieg: “There’s a war going on in this country right now. And it goes beyond red states and blue states, Republicans and Democrats. The war I’m speaking of is between the wealthy donors who keep pouring millions of dollars into my campaign and the millions of voters who don’t think speaking Norwegian is a qualification. Well, let me just say to those people, with America imploding and the yuan collapsing, who do you think is going to lead? The Norwegian century is clearly at hand. You heard it here first.”

Andrew Yang: “You get a thousand dollars! And you get a thousand dollars! And you . . .”

Bernie Sanders: “Venezuela, Jorge? Really? Venezuela? I thought the DNC decided not to do a FOX News debate. But in all seriousness, I know your people, generally speaking, have had a rough history with far left-wing governments. But you’ve also had a rough history with CIA backed-coups, and right-wing dictatorships supported by the US. So why aren’t you asking about what my administration would do to avoid another Pinochet, instead of trying to tie what you surely know are commonplace European-style social programs to Venezeula? I ask because I think a lot of Democrats assume that Univision doesn’t have the corporate agenda of the English-language media, in spite of the fact that you personally prove that false on a regular basis.”

Kamala Harris: “Trump! Trump! Trumpity-Trump-Trump! Hahahahahahahahahahaha! (Pause) Autopsy photos make me sad. (Beat) Hey Joe, let’s try “Yes we can.” Shit, nothing? That killed in rehearsals. Listen people, I’m working with a handicap here. Being an undiagnosed sociopath, I know my sense of propriety can be strange and off-putting. Hence all the weird tonal shifts and disconcerting affect. Nobody on the San Francisco cocktail circuit seemed to notice the empty void at the core of my being, but TV is an unforgiving medium.”

Joe Biden: “Did you know that three dogs fighting can . . . it can make Arianna Grande . . . and also, Maduro has a small wooden box. I’ve seen it! Furthermore, I just want to say to my friends on stage here . . . there’s nothing like what my father used to say, which is . . . Ozymandius, King of Kings, look on . . . and also, buy records. And I also want you to know that I used to have a Dodge truck with a mango scented air-freshener.”

Elizabeth Warren: “Having a background in bankruptcy law, I’d like you all to stop for a second and do the math. Bernie is loathed by the party establishment and as we know from 2016, those folks don’t play fair; Biden is like Jack Nicholson at the end of Cuckoo’s Nest, and Harris is creepy as fuck. And barring an asteroid hitting Washington and wiping out all four of us at the same time, no one else on this stage stands a chance. All that to say, yes, this is happening. Warren 2020, baby. Its real.”

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Podcast: California Bernin’, Trump Voters vs. Democrats, Online Discourse, & More – w/Kristoffer Hellén

Kristoffer Hellén, activist, volunteer, and creator of the online group “Alliance against Democrat Establishment Hypocrisy,” joins us to discuss his campaign efforts and experiences as a fellow online independent media creator.

**Thank you for reading! You can support this blog & podcast for just a dime a day and get exclusive content at our Patreon page! You can also follow this blog by entering your email address in the field on the sidebar (computer screen) or below (phone), and/or by liking/following us on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for your support!**

Warren Isn’t the New Hillary, She’s Obama 2.0 (and that’s not a compliment.)

by Keaton Weiss

A recent Monmouth University poll showed Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren tied atop the 2020 Democratic field at 20 points apiece. Warren’s rise in the polls over the summer has prompted, and in some cases revived, a debate amongst progressives as to who exactly she is. To some, she’s the best suited to further the progressive agenda and enact progressive reforms. To some, she’s a close second to Bernie; to some, a distant second. To others, she’s a fraud; a neoliberal wolf in a progressive sheep’s clothing.

The latter group cites Warren’s silence throughout much of the 2016 primary campaign and her eventual endorsement of Hillary Clinton as one reason, among many, why she can’t be trusted. Warren’s recent affirmation that she met with Clinton to discuss a VP slot on the 2016 Democratic ticket has made many progressives wonder if she hadn’t been angling for that role all along, which would explain her reluctance to endorse Sanders in the primary, despite his policy set being much closer to hers than Clinton’s. A recent flurry of reports that Warren is working behind the scenes to reassure the Democratic establishment that her campaign is not a hostile takeover of the party has bolstered the convictions of Warren’s harshest critics and has further raised the eyebrows of her skeptics.

Warren’s cozying up to the Clintons in 2016 and her courting of the Democratic elites in 2020 has earned her the “new Hillary” moniker in certain progressive circles. I’d argue, though, that Warren’s 2020 candidacy has more in common with Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign than either of Hillary’s failed runs for the presidency. Her campaign model is more of an Obama update — Obama 2.0, if you will. And to call that “marginally better” would be an overstatement.

Elizabeth Warren, like Barack Obama in 2008, is running as a progressive alternative to the Clintonian Democratic establishment. Obama won the 2008 primary in large part by both out-lefting his opponent, a Clinton herself, on major policy issues, most importantly, at the time, the Iraq War, and by making vague, rhetorical appeals to boldness and idealism. Warren is doing the exact same thing this time. She’s staking out left positions on healthcare, student debt, and regulatory policy, while also expressing a more general appeal to broad-based reform. Obama said “Yes We Can,” Warren says “Dream Big, Fight Hard.” Obama sold us “Hope and Change,” Warren is promising “big structural change.”

In case the parallels still aren’t obvious to you, I’ll refer you to the recent CNN.com opinion piece by President Obama’s Chief Strategist David Axelrod, in which he writes, “Warren has put critics of her grand plans on the defensive in much the same way Barack Obama put Hillary Clinton on the defensive in 2008…Warren is positioning herself as Big Change vs. the status quo. Yes We Can vs. No We Can’t.”

So you see, Axelrod himself sees Obama’s strategy in Warren’s campaign.

“But wait,” you say, “Elizabeth Warren is running far to the left of Barack Obama, and she’s come out with a litany of detailed, researched ‘plans’ to implement her policy goals. So this isn’t really a fair comparison.”

And you’d certainly be correct to point out that she is running to the left of Obama, and she has been more specific in defining her agenda and explaining much of the fine print. But then again, doesn’t she have to? After all, you can’t sell the same bullshit twice. So if Obama was able to excite the progressive wing of the party with sweeping reform rhetoric that was light on specifics, and Elizabeth Warren is now trying to appeal a similar swath of progressive voters who are disillusioned with the moderate, business-as-usual Democrats, it stands to to reason that she can’t simply parrot the Obama campaign, because too many progressive voters have already seen that movie, and its disappointing ending is still fresh in their minds. In other words, if an Obama 2.0 candidate were to come around, he or she would have to sound just like Elizabeth Warren; they’d need to dial up the reform rhetoric and refine the specifics, otherwise their message wouldn’t sell again.

Remember, Obama’s message of “Change” won out in the 2008 primaries against the stale, uninspiring Hillary Clinton, and we progressives thought we had won an earth-shaking victory. Surely, we thought at the time, as Obama himself put it, “Change has come to America.”

Then, Obama staffed his government. It has since been revealed via Wikileaks that Obama filled his administration with cabinet members from a list of names pre-approved by Citigroup in an email their executive Michael Froman had sent the campaign three weeks after the financial crisis hit, and just a month before the November election. Let’s just briefly review what this “Change” we’d been promised had come to look like.

  • Vice President: Joe Biden, who now, eleven years later, is the Democratic front-runner for president, running on an explicit anti-change message.
  • Attorney General: Eric Holder, US Deputy Attorney General under President Bill Clinton, and Citigroup’s first choice for the position.
  • Secretary of Defense: Robert Gates, a holdover from the Bush Administration, whose foreign policy Obama had won the presidency by running against. Also Citigroup’s pick.
  • Secretary of the Treasury: Timothy Geithner, a central banker who had served in the Clinton administration’s Treasury Dept., one of Citigroup’s three preferred candidates for the job.
  • Secretary of State: On this, Obama defied the Citigroup list. They wanted John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic nominee for president. Instead, Obama picked…that’s right, Hillary Clinton herself, who, once again, he had campaigned against, and defeated, with his message of “Change.” After the first Obama term, she left the job to prepare for her second ill-fated run, and Obama appointed, of course, John Kerry, Citigroup’s first choice to begin with.

And that’s just the half of it. Janet Napolitano, Rahm Emanuel, Arne Duncan, and Susan Rice were all on Citigroup’s wish list, and they all got top jobs in the Obama administration. This was hardly “change we could believe in,” but rather a giant bait-and-switch.

In the case of Elizabeth Warren, we’re already seeing recent history begin to repeat itself. She’s positioning herself as the progressive firebrand within the party, emphasizing the word “progressive” to primary voters while emphasizing the word “within” to the Democratic establishment, in order to assure them she doesn’t pose the same kind of threat to their power structure as Bernie Sanders. Jonathan Martin writes in his recent column for The New York Times:

“She is signaling to party leaders, that, far from wanting to stage a ‘political revolution’ in the fashion of Mr. Sanders, she wants to revive the beleaguered Democratic National Committee and help recapture the Senate while retaining the House in 2020.”

He continues later in the piece to assert that Warren “is taking steps within the party to make clear that she does not want to create a competing power base should she become president.” This is a very revealing insight, and is yet another hint that we may be getting, in Warren, Obama 2.0.

Warren, while stopping well short of Sanders’ “revolutionary” rhetoric, has recently expressed her intention for starting and sustaining a grassroots movement that would help elect her president, and, ostensibly, push her agenda through a dysfunctional Congress. Given the kinds of assurances she’s made to party leadership behind closed doors, however, this seems like an especially dubious idea. And we can once again look to the Obama presidency for context.

Barack Obama, during the 2008 primaries, had created an unprecedented grassroots organization that he wanted to nurture and grow through the general election and into his presidency. This became known within the campaign as Movement 2.0. This would-be grassroots organization that Obama was set on building was going to be an alternative “power base” to the Democratic National Committee. It was for this reason that Democratic Party insiders shunned the idea, and the Obama team then obediently abandoned the effort. This story is documented extensively in a great piece in The New Republic called “Obama’s Lost Army.” In it, journalist Micah L. Sifry explains why Democratic insiders rejected the creation of such a movement. He writes:

“It seemed, the Obamaites and their tech wizards wanted to disrupt the Democratic Party, diverting money and control from the DNC into an untried platform, while inviting “input,” and possibly even organized dissent, from Obama’s base…What if Obama’s base didn’t like the health care reform he came up with, and rallied independently around a single-payer plan? Besides, grassroots movements, no matter how successful, don’t reliably yield what political consultants want most: money and victories for their candidates, with plenty of spoils for themselves.”

The article also cited a Wikileaks release of an email from Democratic consultant Paul Tewes, in which he writes, regarding Movement 2.0:

“As both of you know, I have many concerns about this….. as a lover of “Party” I really don’t like this.

I think the decision needs to be made and discussed on “this vs. party” or “this and party.” The discussion should focus on—What is best for Barack Obama, his politics, his agenda and his future.

If the first step is to move outside the party with your organization, the political ramifications and “future” ramifications need to be thought through. Further, a discussion should be had of party over this—why and why not?

Marching into this seems premature and secondly creating something before hand (before e-day) has appearance problems in my opinion.

I would ask that we postpone any of this till after the convention and do a little gathering where we can discuss. Please.”

So given the party’s staunch aversion to any kind of grassroots organizing that doesn’t toe the party line, and given that this “party line” is decidedly to the right of Warren’s agenda, how can we square Warren’s “big, structural change” rhetoric with her assuring party insiders that she’s willing to play ball? The two seem irreconcilable, and that’s because they probably are. The recent example of Obama’s 2008 campaign sure lends itself to this understanding, as does Bernie Sanders’ call for a “political revolution.”

Bernie isn’t an independent for no reason. He also doesn’t call for “revolution” for no reason. He’s existed for decades outside the two-party duopoly because he understands that a system, especially one as powerful as the Democratic Party, cannot be fundamentally changed on its own terms. And it certainly cannot be transformed in any meaningful way with the express written permission of its most entrenched bureaucrats.

In other words, if Elizabeth Warren is successfully wooing the Democratic Party establishment, it’s most likely because her calls for “dreaming big and fighting hard” will prove as empty as Obama’s line that “Change [had] come to America.” Whereas Hillary Clinton overtly made mainstream Democratic Party orthodoxy the selling point of both her presidential campaigns and promised no structural reforms whatsoever, Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren have both presented themselves as bolder, more exciting, more ambitious, more aspirational candidates, while still playing nice with the Clintonian party hierarchy.

Again, we’ve seen this movie before, and we know how it ends. Warren isn’t the new Hillary, she’s the new Obama. And that’s not a compliment.

**Thank you for reading! You can support this blog & podcast for just a dime a day and get exclusive content at our Patreon page! You can also follow this blog by entering your email address in the field on the sidebar (computer screen) or below (phone), and/or by liking/following us on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for your support!**



Podcast: Why Bernie’s Called “Old and White” Instead of Jewish, and Other 2020 Talk

Keaton and Russell discuss the “Jewish Question” as it pertains to Bernie Sanders, and other 2020 developments.

Listen below:

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Podcast: Ilhan Omar: Friend of the White Working Class – w/Domenica Ghanem

Domenica Ghanem, journalist and media manager at the Institute for Policy Studies, joins us to discuss her Newsweek Op-ed about Ilhan Omar’s courage and policy battles.

**Thank you for reading! You can support this blog & podcast for just a dime a day and get exclusive content at our Patreon page! You can also follow this blog by entering your email address in the field on the sidebar (computer screen) or below (phone), and/or by liking/following us on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for your support!**

Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar Deserve Our Full Support. And Zionist Democrats Deserve to Squirm.

by Keaton Weiss

Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar recently held a press conference after being banned from entering Israel and the West Bank. In her opening statement, Omar stated that their intended trip had been planned in order to “highlight the human cost of the occupation” by speaking not just with Palestinians, but also “to meet directly with members of the Knesset and Israeli security along with Palestinian civil society groups.” She went on to note that “all the activities on my trip had been done by members of Congress in the past, including a nearly identical trip a few years ago led by the very same Palestinian organization leading this trip.”

Tlaib then stepped up to the mic. She spoke emotionally about her experience traveling from the United States as a young woman to the occupied territories to visit her grandparents and family members. She recalled, holding back tears, watching her mother “go through dehumanizing checkpoints, even though she was a United States citizen and proud American.” After reciting several other personal stories of how she and her family had been affected by the Israeli occupation, she iterated, once again, that the purpose of their trip was one of “exposing the truth the only way I know how…by humanizing the pain of oppression.” She continued:

“Our delegation trip included meetings with Israeli veterans who were forced to participate in military occupation. They also desperately want peace and self-determination for their Palestinian neighbors. They could have shed light into injustices of raids, shootings, demolitions, and child detention. The delegation would have seen first hand why walls are destructive, not productive.”

Each of the Congresswomen’s opening statements make abundantly clear why President Trump suggested that they be barred from entering Israel, as well as why Prime Minister Netanyahu acted upon his recommendation. The combination of their identity as Muslim women, their fame and notoriety as members of the high profile “Squad,” and their mission as peacemakers and soothsayers committed to human dignity and international human rights, combine to pose a serious political threat to the nationalist, xenophobic agendas of both the Trump and Netanyahu governments.

What’s less clear is why the Democratic Party has been so sheepish in its defense of its two freshmen members. While congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have both expressed their disappointment with this travel ban, they’ve both done so using the mildest, most conciliatory language possible, and neither of them have affirmed or validated the humanitarian mission of the trip in question. Their responses were as follows:

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Worse yet was Senator Chris Murphy, who serves on the Foreign Relations Committee:

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“I don’t like the way these members often talk about Israel.” Is that right? Well I’d be curious to get a response from Chris Murphy to the aforementioned press conference held a few days after he published this tweet. What does Chris Murphy make of Tlaib’s personal testimony to the plight of her Palestinian family members? And what role does he feel Israel should play in mitigating the suffering that continues to this day as a result of their occupation and apartheid-like treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories? We haven’t gotten clarity on these matters from any Democratic leaders.

In fact, just yesterday, Jerry Nadler took to Twitter to once again browbeat Omar and Tlaib for sharing a supposedly anti-Semitic cartoon in which the two Congresswomen are shown being silenced by Trump and Netanyahu. The cartoon in question is listed below, followed by Nadler’s response.

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“Vile underlying message?” Why? Because it contains the Star of David? If it hadn’t contained that imagery, could it have been said to have an “underlying message” of anti-Semitism? After all, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib were silenced by Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu. That much is indisputable. So if the invocation of Jewish symbolism is the problem here, perhaps I, a Jewish man, should remind Jerry Nadler that Israel is a self-proclaimed Jewish state, and insists on being recognized as such. In Netanyahu’s own words, Israel is “the national state, not of all its citizens, but only of the Jewish people.”

And if that’s their attitude, then it ought not come as a shock that Jewish imagery is invoked when critiquing their postures and policies. Furthermore, the sharing and forwarding of these images and messages by these two Muslim Congresswomen ought not invoke the wrath of the leadership of their own party, which, at every opportunity, flaunts its openness to diversity and multiculturalism. Rather, a party truly committed to these ideals should be fully and unequivocally supporting Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. Because the reality is that they were silenced, and they were silenced by the self-proclaimed Jewish state. Such an observation is not a statement of anti-Semitism, but simply a statement of fact. And if Israel and their allies are uncomfortable being spoken about in that way, then it is completely within Israel’s ability to say that they are not an exclusively Jewish state, but rather a truly democratic one, and to treat all of their citizens in a way that reflects such a commitment to democratic ideals. Until then, they can spare us their indignation, and so can their staunchest allies in the Democratic Party.

This dilemma that Zionist Democrats find themselves in, stuck between Trump, Netanyahu, and the Squad, is just reward for their weakness and short-sightedness. You could argue that Bill Clinton is largely to blame for this trend, as he campaigned against George H.W. Bush from the right on the Israel-Palestine issue. Bush threatened to withhold $10 billion in loans from Israel if they didn’t curb their settlement expansions. Clinton argued that Israel ought not be subject to such pressures, and it seems the Democratic Party has mostly adopted that attitude ever since.

Fast forward a bit to AIPAC’s 2018 conference, where Chuck Schumer made headlines with this shockingly bigoted statement:

“Of course, we say it’s our land, the Torah says it, but they (Palestinians & Arabs) don’t believe in the Torah. So that’s the reason there is not peace.”

You could easily dupe unsuspecting people into believing that those are the words of Netanyahu himself, not the Democratic Senate Minority Leader from New York. In 2018.

Setting aside how the party of “diversity” could elevate such cretins to its leadership positions in the first place, it’s worth asking how a party so proud of its tolerance, inclusiveness, and worldliness could be caught so flat-footed in this current moment. Surely, Democrats understood the inevitability of people like Omar, a Somali refugee, and Tlaib, of Palestinian heritage, running for office, and winning, as Democrats. Surely they could have anticipated the ascent within their party of people with a different experience of Israeli policy. Perhaps they took for granted that when such people got elected, they’d have compromised themselves and their principles the way their Democratic predecessors have. I mean, historically, it’s been a pretty safe assumption that Democrats would sell out in that way, so it’s understandable that party leadership would expect such subservience from their incoming freshman class.

Unfortunately for them, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar have made it clear that’s not how they roll. They have demonstrated a courage, a conviction, and a commitment to human rights that not only deserves, but commands, our complete and unwavering support. And we must demonstrate to their Democratic colleagues that we expect that same support from them. The party bosses’ conundrum at this moment is the product of having taken an anti-democratic, anti-humanitarian position decades ago, and having grown all too comfortable with it. We should be grateful to Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib for guiding them out of their comfort zones and onto the right side of history.

**Thank you for reading! You can support this blog & podcast for just a dime a day and get exclusive content at our Patreon page! You can also follow this blog by entering your email address in the field on the sidebar (computer screen) or below (phone), and/or by liking/following us on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for your support!**

Podcast: w/Brett Story – Mapping Carceral Power Across Neoliberal America

Author and filmmaker Brett Story discusses her book “Prison Land: Mapping Carceral Power Across Neoliberal America,” as well as her documentary film “The Prison inTwelve Landscapes.”

**Thank you for reading! You can support this blog & podcast for just a dime a day and get exclusive content at our Patreon page! You can also follow this blog by entering your email address in the field on the sidebar (computer screen) or below (phone), and/or by liking/following us on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for your support!**