Podcast: No Sleep ‘Til Iowa – What’s at Stake and How to Volunteer

Our last show before the crucial Iowa Caucus! We lay out the extremely high stakes of Monday’s caucus, and give some info and advice on how to volunteer to get out the vote!

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Podcast: Chalkin’ & Talkin’ Bernie in Iowa, and How to Rep Bernie on Caucus Night – w/Kristoffer Hellén

Guerrilla artist and activist Kristoffer Hellén talks his #ChalkBernieToMe project, his journey from California to Iowa, and how to Caucus for Bernie on February 3.

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The Establishment’s Stop Sanders Strategy is to Troll the Race and Invoke the Ugliness of 2016.

by Keaton Weiss

A few weeks ago, as we entered the year 2020, Bernie Sanders’ campaign was surging. Endorsements were pouring in, poll numbers were rising, and the betting markets were starting to respond accordingly, placing Sanders’ chances just 0.6 percentage points behind Joe Biden’s to win the Democratic nomination, as of January 12.

But then, things started happening. That evening, video surfaced of Elizabeth Warren accusing Bernie of “sending his volunteers out to trash [her],” in reference to a phone banking script that mentioned her potential vulnerabilities in a general election. The next day, CNN broke a story that Bernie had allegedly told Warren in a private 2018 meeting that he didn’t think a woman could win the presidency. The following evening, that very network hosted the final Democratic debate before the Iowa Caucuses. We all know how that went. And just this week, Hillary Clinton added her contribution to the Stop Sanders onslaught by doubling down in a Hollywood Reporter interview on comments she had made in an upcoming documentary about herself in which she said, in reference to Sanders:

“Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done. He was a career politician. It’s all just baloney and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it.”

Bernie supporters aren’t known to take these things particularly well, and we didn’t. Hashtags such as #NeverWarren and #CNNistrash flooded the Twitterverse immediately following the debate, and, of course, backlash against Hillary’s comments was as harsh and swift as you’d come to expect from us.

Many progressives are taking these developments as a win for the movement, pointing out that voters by and large didn’t buy Warren’s smears, saw through CNN’s shameful debate performance, and are wishing that Hillary Clinton would just stay out of this primary season altogether. And while those individual claims all seem to be more true than not, the sum total doesn’t seem to me like a “win” for the Sanders campaign, or the progressive movement as a whole.

In the past few days, polling data has shown Biden overtake Bernie for the lead in Iowa, and we’ve seen the betting markets shift rather dramatically in Biden’s favor. How could this be, you ask? I mean, the attacks against Bernie were egregious at best, slanderous at worst, and most people seem to agree with that assessment. So why are we worse off now than we were before?

The answer is that the establishment’s Stop Sanders strategy was never to actually convince a majority of Democratic primary voters that Bernie himself is some closet misogynist who’s out to undermine female candidates and destroy the party from within. They know this is too difficult a task to accomplish, because, contrary to what the corporate media would have you believe, Bernie is actually the most liked of all the candidates in the running. Rather, their approach now is to simply troll the race and create a toxic climate that invokes the memory of the 2016 primary, in the hopes that this alone will scare people off who might now be leaning towards supporting Sanders. The plan is to deter even those who like Bernie from supporting him by simply making them ask themselves if they actually have the stomach to endure a repeat of the Bernie vs. Hillary bloodbath.

In this scheme, Elizabeth Warren’s failing campaign is a perfect proxy for the Clinton campaign of 2016. When Warren played the victim card against Bernie, of course his supporters would react with anger and disgust. When she followed that up with a malicious, slanderous smear about his having made sexist comments to her over a year ago that she all of the sudden decided to bring up out of the blue, we were apoplectic. The fury of the online Bernie supporters then allowed the media to recycle the Orwellian “Bernie Bro” narrative from 2016, which again, only compounds the ire of the Sanders base, which is, of course, the most diverse of any candidate’s in the field.

And we were right to be angry at what had transpired between Sanders, Warren, and CNN, just as we’re right to be angry with Hillary Clinton over her latest injection of venom into our political discourse. The problem, though, is that the Stop Sanders establishment knows we’re right, and they know that most people know we’re right, but they don’t care, because they know most people don’t care either. Because unlike in 2016, when, however ugly it got, voters were stuck with the binary choice of Clinton vs. Sanders, and therefore had to stick it out til the end of that fight and choose one side over the other no matter how turned off they became by the nastiness of it all, this time, they have an out.

That “out” is Joe Biden. And so, by trolling the primary and pouring gasoline on the Sanders vs. Warren fire, and the Sanders vs. The Media fire, and even the Sanders vs. Clinton fire, they hope people will choose to just stay away from Sanders altogether, because his presence alone will be responsible for conjuring up tension and hostility, no matter his opponent, and no matter who’s actually at fault. In other words, fostering a toxic environment around the Sanders campaign, regardless of whether or not people actually blame Bernie for it, could be enough to get people to throw their hands up and say “I don’t have the energy for this, I’m just gonna vote for Biden.”

This puts us in a tough spot. On the one hand, we can’t just let these smears against us and our candidate go unanswered. We have to respond forcefully. On the other hand, the more forcefully we respond, the easier it is for the establishment Democrats and their corporate media allies to scare people away from what they’ll fear could be too bitter and divisive a fight before the all-important general election. So what do we do?

Well, if you agree that the Stop Sanders strategy is to foment hostility between Sanders and all of his opponents, including, of course, the mainstream media, then the best thing you can do is explain this to undecided voters you encounter when phone banking, canvassing, or even just chatting online, or in person with friends or family. Point out to people that these smears against Bernie are first of all, dishonest and absurd on their face, second, have nothing to do with his democratic socialist platform, which, according to the same people lobbing these attacks, is his biggest vulnerability, and, third and perhaps most importantly, are completely unprovoked. The Sanders campaign has been laser-focused on their progressive agenda that speaks to the material needs of ordinary people, which is why they were surging in the first place. None of that has changed on their end. They’re still, in the midst of all of this insidious gossip mongering, trying to take the fight to Joe Biden over Social Security. In other words, those trying to convince you that Bernie Sanders is too toxic and divisive are themselves the purveyors of the very toxicity and divisiveness which they speak. Reassure these well-meaning voters that they have nothing to fear about our campaign. All we’re trying to do is get them healthcare, housing, education, a livable planet, and a secure retirement. Those who oppose us – who oppose those ideals, and therefore smear Bernie and his supporters with slanderous bullshit – they’re the toxic ones.

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Podcast: The Sunrise Movement Fights for Bernie 2020 and a Green New Deal – w/Melissa Hoffmann

Melissa Hoffmann of the Sunrise Movement discusses their plans for declaring a climate emergency, electing Bernie Sanders, and Winning a Green New Deal.

Podcast: Warren Exits Stage Right, Abandons Progressive Movement – Debate Recap

On this episode, we discuss the Iowa Democratic debate, and why Elizabeth Warren is now an enemy of the progressive cause.

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Podcast: Iowa Debate Preview, Gaming Out The Early States, and Ricky Gervais’ Hollywood Smackdown

A preview of the next high stakes debate in Iowa, an analysis of early state primary scenarios, and a salute to Ricky Gervais.

Why The Left Should Disown Hollywood.

by Keaton Weiss

Ricky Gervais’ monologue at the Golden Globes this past Sunday is getting rave reviews, particularly from the right wing media. Greg Gutfeld, Fox News host and closest thing to a real comedian they could find to put on TV, called Gervais’ bit “a dream come true for anyone tired of Hollywood telling you how dumb and racist America is.” Sean Hannity’s website posted an all-caps headline, “RICKY RIPS HOLLYWOOD.” Ben Shapiro hasn’t stopped tweeting about it, and wrote a piece in which he celebrates Gervais’ monologue and piles on the humorless Hollywood elite who “swill from the ocean of self-aggrandizing leftism,” as he puts it.

Gervais himself was a bit puzzled by this praise, as he himself is certainly no right-winger. He tweeted in response, “How the fuck can teasing huge corporations, and the richest, most privileged people in the world be considered right wing?” He has a point. After all, he didn’t attack Hollywood from the right; he attacked it from the left, which is both why his monologue was so good, and why so many in the room hated it so much. Because Hollywood, contrary to what the right wing media would have you believe, isn’t actually “left.” It’s “liberal” – in the most nauseating way possible – and the actual left should renounce it.

Consider Gervais’ first real jab of the evening:

“But you all look lovely all dolled up. You came here in your limos. I came here in a limo tonight and the license plate was made by Felicity Huffman.”

The audience gasped. The camera cut to a visibly shocked and appalled Tom Hanks. To the Hollywood crowd, this joke was just too harsh. Too severe. Too mean. For those who don’t get it, Felicity Huffman was sentenced to jail (which for those who don’t know, is where license plates are made) for her role in the college admissions scandal, which included, among other acts, paying $15,000 to an admissions consultant to fake her daughter’s SAT score. She was sentenced to 14 days in jail, of which she served 11. An actual left wing audience would appreciate this joke, as it all importantly “punches up” at a privileged member of society whose $45 million net worth bought her a laughably light prison sentence despite having committed egregious fraudulent offenses. Not this audience, though. They were mortified.

Then, a few minutes later, Gervais said this:

“Apple roared into the TV game with ‘The Morning Show’, a superb drama about the importance of dignity and doing the right thing, made by a company that runs sweatshops in China. Well, you say you’re woke but the companies you work…Apple, Amazon, Disney. If ISIS started a streaming service you’d call your agent, wouldn’t you?”

That didn’t go over well either. Tim Cook himself was in the audience, and the rest of the crowd didn’t laugh much more than he did. Again, if Hollywood were actually the “ocean of self-aggrandizing leftism” that Shapiro says it is, this joke would have played wonderfully. But it didn’t, and that’s because, once again, Hollywood isn’t really “leftist.”

When it comes to labor, we needn’t even look to Hollywood’s partnerships with companies like Apple and Amazon. Just look at how they treat their own. Show business is as unequal a field as there is – a few celebrities sit at the top of the pyramid and live like royalty, while hundreds of thousands of struggling actors, writers, directors, producers, etc. barely make rent each month. The Screen Actors’ Guild has members like George Clooney and Robert Downey, Jr., each with nine-figure net worths, while only 15% of its members earn enough to even qualify for the union’s health benefits.

To the extent Hollywood projects its commitment to fairness in the workplace, it does so by invoking things like the gender pay gap to expose that Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence received only 7% of the profits from American Hustle while their three male co-stars each received 9%. Jennifer Lawrence would make headlines a few years later when she reportedly negotiated her salary for Passengers to $20 million vs. her male co-star Chris Pratt’s $12 million. This was a big moment for her, and I suppose it was supposed to be a big moment for everyone. After all, isn’t Jennifer Lawrence’s $20 million payday for a piece-of-shit movie no one even saw, a victory for all women everywhere? According to the “woke” liberal culture that dominates Hollywood, it is. According to the actual left, it isn’t.

And so there is one slight correction I’d like to make to something Ricky said in the aforementioned quote. He said, “You say you’re woke, but the companies you work for…Apple, Amazon, Disney…” I get what he’s saying there, but unfortunately, he’s making the same mistake that many amateur political observers make, which is that he’s conflating “wokeness” with “leftness.” The two terms are often used interchangeably, mostly by people who don’t follow politics very closely. On their part, this is an honest misunderstanding. But hyper-capitalist institutions like Hollywood, Apple, and Amazon, on the other hand, consciously project this “wokeness” precisely so they can appear “liberal” without actually having to be “left.” If the line had gone, “You say you’re left wing, but the companies you work for…” then he’d be exposing some real hypocrisy on their part, and this is no doubt how he meant it. But what Gervais himself, clever as he is, doesn’t quite get, is that Hollywood’s woke virtue signaling is what allows them to treat most of their workers like garbage and get away with it. Woke culture and brute capitalism go together by design. To shine a light on their coexistence is not to expose some embarrassing accidental juxtaposition, but rather to reveal a strategic smoke and mirrors act. In other words, they’re not “hypocrites” so much as they are simply outright liars and hucksters.

As the evening progressed, quite a few of the stars had something to say about the climate crisis and its ties to the horrific bushfires ravaging Australia as we speak. Jennifer Aniston read a statement from Russell Crowe in which he said, “The tragedy unfolding in Australia is climate change-based. We need to act based on science, move our global workforce to renewable energy, and respect our planet for the unique and amazing place it is. That way, we all have a future.” Cate Blanchett said “When one country faces a climate disaster, we all face a climate disaster. So we’re in it together.”

Joaquin Phoenix made what I suppose is the “furthest left” statement on this, saying:

“It’s great to vote, but sometimes we have to take that responsibility on ourselves and make changes and sacrifices in our own lives. I hope that we can do that. We don’t have to take private jets to Palm Springs for the awards sometimes or back.”

Even Phoenix missed the mark, though. The solution to climate change does not depend on the rich and famous’ willingness to voluntarily inconvenience themselves in their personal lives by flying first class instead of private. It hinges on the macro-implementation of a Green New Deal, which would be financed through progressive and aggressive taxation of people like Joaquin Phoenix, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Aniston, and Russell Crowe. And I don’t recall any of them advocating for that. Again, their comments were all nice, and good, and liberal – ie, “we’re in it together” – but none of them were left.

And so, to the left, what good is Hollywood? Their annoying self-righteous woke virtue signaling makes them a liability in the culture war, and their reluctance to explicitly advocate against their own personal business interests makes them an enemy in the class war. This is why they’re so widely reviled, and this is why those on both the actual left and actual right took such pleasure in watching them squirm while Ricky Gervais tore them each a new asshole. And so the best we can do on the left would be to wash our hands of them, and disassociate from them entirely. Doing so not only allows us to enjoy a laugh at their expense from time to time, but more importantly, it gives us the opportunity to differentiate our brand of politics from that of the woke liberals. Because it’s their brand of identity politics-based neoliberalism, not “socialism,” that drives most of the country crazy. We might have been able to stomach them if they were meaningful allies in other areas, but they’re not. On economic justice issues, they’re too rich. On climate justice issues, again, they’re too rich. And on criminal justice issues, well…forget about that. They can’t even take a joke about Felicity Huffman.

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