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The Jerking Families Party’s Not-So-Happy Ending.

by Keaton Weiss

First of all, it’s quite likely that Bernie Sanders actually won the rank and file vote for the Working Families Party endorsement. The party decides upon its presidential endorsement via a “weighted vote,” which is essentially a superdelegate model. In this case, unlike other years, they have decided to withhold the breakdown of “member votes” vs. “leader votes,” sowing doubts as to whether or not the party leadership acted to override the members’ consensus. For a succinct, detailed, and very persuasive analysis of why it’s quite likely that the member vote went for Sanders and that the party leadership voted to alter their decision, I’ll refer you to Matt Bruenig’s excellent piece in Jacobin Magazine.

That aside, let’s just for a moment take at face value the “weighted vote” of the WFP’s endorsement, which went to Elizabeth Warren. This isn’t the first time this ostensibly progressive organization has made the dubious, eyebrow-raising decision to cozy up to power rather than challenge it. They endorsed Andrew Cuomo over Zephyr Teachout in the New York gubernatorial primary of 2014, and Joe Crowley over Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2018. Also in 2018, the party grudgingly gave their party line to Andrew Cuomo after he defeated their endorsed candidate, Cynthia Nixon, in the primary. There was some doubt as to whether Cuomo would have even accepted their general election endorsement after being spurned by them during the primary, but ultimately, the Working Families Party fell in line and made amends with the party establishment – a trend that has obviously continued through this week.

If an organization that calls itself the “Working Families Party” could, in a laboratory, concoct a candidate from scratch, they would create Bernie Sanders. On its own homepage, the Working Families Party, as of this writing anyway (homepages can change, of course), bills itself as follows:

“The Working Families Party is a grassroots, multiracial party of working people coming together across our differences to make our nation work for the many, not the few. We’re electing the next generation of transformational leaders and building durable, independent progressive power in communities across the country. But we can only do this together.”

Substitute “Working Families Party” for “Bernie Sanders campaign”, and the word “party” for “coalition,” and you’d have a statement that’s entirely accurate. Not only does Sanders’ platform represent the most ambitious pro-worker agenda in generations, his movement-based style of obtaining and maintaining political power is precisely the model that the WFP touts, once again, on its homepage. 

So, regardless of whether or not there were any superdelegate-like shenanigans employed to put Warren over the top, we must ask ourselves the equally important question of why a) the vote was close enough to overturn in the first place, and b) why WFP leadership feels that Warren is a better choice than Sanders, who overwhelmingly won the party’s endorsement four years ago.

The answer is that they see Warren as a Trojan Horse, and Sanders as a Bull in a China Shop. They see Elizabeth Warren as a progressive candidate who’s palatable enough to the establishment so as not to make too many enemies and cause too much alarm; someone they can package as a gift to the DNC, and then, once she’s inside the Oval Office, can unleash her progressive agenda upon the halls of power, defeating the establishment from within, the same way the Greeks toppled Troy. Bernie, on the other hand, is more of a blunt instrument. He challenges the entrenched power structure directly and with the brute force of one million volunteers; working people who are ready to storm the Bastille and conquer the neoliberal status quo the old-fashioned way: through revolution.

The latter – Sanders’ strategy – is a giant undertaking, no doubt. It’s a David vs. Goliath battle that will require working people to unite, and against all odds, dismantle the oligarchy to deliver an economic and political order that is truly democratic. It’s a long shot, of course. But the former strategy, the “Trojan Horse” strategy that the WFP sees in Elizabeth Warren, is a straight-up sucker’s bet. For two reasons:

The first is explained by very recent history. Barack Obama tried this exact same strategy in 2008, and was thwarted by the DNC. His campaign sought to build a grassroots army outside the party establishment’s parameters, and was given a hard ‘no’ by the consultant class. Obama’s strategy of challenging party orthodoxy while ultimately agreeing to play by their rules is being duplicated to a T by the Warren campaign. And if Barack Obama, whose policy set is decidedly to the right of Warren’s, was stopped at the gates of Troy, you can only imagine how harsh and swift the political class will come down on any similar effort put forth by Warren, who’s already assured them she’s willing to play nice if she has to.

But secondly, and more importantly, and perhaps rendering reason number one irrelevant, a Trojan Horse is only effective if…wait for it…THERE’S AN ARMY INSIDE OF IT! And there simply is no grassroots working class movement taking shape in Elizabeth Warren’s campaign. According to virtually all available data, Warren’s supporters are disproportionately wealthy, white, and highly educated. However you feel about that, it’s objectively not a “multiracial [coalition] of working people” who are ready to get their hands dirty in pursuit of “independent progressive power.”

Warren’s base of support is firmly positioned within the Democratic Party, and are very comfortable where they are, both politically and economically. What this means is that Warren’s coalition has no real use for the Working Families Party, and has nothing whatsoever to gain from the WFP’s success in building the kind of working class movement they’re supposedly striving to create. Conversely, Bernie Sanders is himself an independent, as are millions of his supporters. These are people in search of a party, or any political organization for that matter, who will welcome them with open arms, and the WFP could have perhaps played that role, while simultaneously fulfilling their own stated mission of creating a diverse, independent progressive power base.

Instead, they once again did what they’ve been known to do throughout their short history: play sheepdog for the Democratic Party. In this way, their endorsement of Warren makes perfect sense. If their raison d’etre is to vouch for left-of-center Democrats on progressives’ behalf, then Warren and the WFP are actually a match made in heaven. Such a match leads me to believe that they were never actually serious about independent working class coalition-building, but rather, creating the illusion of such a movement in order to give working class progressives the idea that there’s a place for them in the Democratic Party. Well, the jig is up. The Jerking Families Party, as the Rush Limbaugh in me has now coined them, has written itself a not-so-happy ending.

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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 help support our independent media project by becoming a Patron on Patreon.com, where for as little as a dime a day you can access exclusive audio podcast & written content! Just click the logo!

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How I Kicked My Corporate Media Habit, and Why You Can’t Kick Yours.

by Russell Dobular

“We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.” – Fight Club

My habit started innocently enough, as it does for so many, with the Nightly News. Growing up, my family watched the 6:00-6:30 local reports over dinner and then adjourned to the couch for the 6:30-7:00 World News Report. ABC was our preferred station, so whitey, whitey, white boy, Peter Jennings, gave me my first impressions of the world outside of then crime-ridden, post-apocalyptic New York (at least if you were to believe the endless accounts of murder, rape, robbery, and just pure madness that the aptly named Roger Grimsby would deliver in a straight monotone night after night).

By high school I had started to dip my toe into The New York Times, and This Week with David Brinkley, feeling very grown-up carrying around the “newspaper of record” in my Daily News-saturated section of Queens, and already developing a deep affection for the uber-WASPy Brinkley. Man, was he fucking suave.

By the time I got out of college, my addiction had progressed to that ultimate expression of bourgeois respectability; the Sunday Times spread out on the coffee table, with by then, Tim Russert on television, explaining the world over breakfast.

And once MSNBC went on air it got completely out of control. I’d get my fix from 6-11 every night, raptly shooting up the whole nightmare, from Chris Matthews straight through to Lawrence O’Donnell. I even read Newsweek on the regular. I guess you could say I hit rock bottom around then.

If you asked me at the time what my political opinions were, you would have had the kind of experience that I now often have when I speak to someone who still considers Chuck Todd a newsman. Which is to say, all the years thinking that staying informed consisted of watching an ancient reptile like Cokie Roberts reminisce about the fabulous Washington parties her family once threw had left me with some very warped perceptions about the world, mainly:

  1. ‘America has its problems, but its still the greatest country on earth, bar none. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a cuckoo radical nutjob.’
  2. ‘The Democrats want to give you health care and higher wages and all the rest of it, but…Republicans! Donors have nothing to do with it. And even if they do, that’s smart politics. You can’t bring a knife to a gunfight and all.’
  3. ‘The middle is where the votes are. Twenty years after Rove and Bush (and two years after Trump) proved that theory completely wrong, that’s still the story we’re going to stick with, all statistical evidence to the contrary be damned.’
  4. ‘There’s no such thing as an economically liberal and culturally conservative, voter. The same people who are against abortion rights are also against a $15 per hour minimum wage. Therefore, you can never win those people over with economic populism. Again, all evidence to the contrary be damned.’
  5. ‘Change happens through slow, bi-partisan compromise, not through mass movements, protests, social unrest and activism. “And next up, tune into our hour-long special on the Civil Rights movement.”’ They never really address that contradiction and most people seem not to notice. I sure didn’t, until I did.
  6. ‘Corporations aren’t evil. They’re our partners in building a better world. Just look at all their programs in Africa. And besides that, all the reasonable people know that if you lean on them too hard, they’ll just fire everybody and move to Mexico and then where will we be? Also: Communism.’
  7. ‘It’s a dangerous world full of dictators and theocrats beyond our borders. We don’t want to bomb the shit out of countries that pose no obvious threat to us, but think of the children. Not the ones we’re bombing, the ones we’re saving from despots by bombing them. Supporting mass murder doesn’t make you a monster, it makes you informed and pragmatic. Y’know, like us.’
  8. And this is the big one, without which none of the others could exist: ‘The media has no agenda. It only reports the news. People who criticize their coverage are themselves biased and therefore their opinions don’t matter. And even more insidiously: Since the opinions the media offers are the “smart, fact-based” opinions, if you don’t share those opinions, you must be stupid, or at the very least, uninformed.’

The increasingly difficult-to-ignore elephant stomping around the spin room these days is the undeniable reality that the corporate media has been catastrophically wrong about every major event in American life for the past twenty years, from WMD’s to the election of Donald Trump, to the Mueller report. This would be fatal in any other industry. If a car company repeatedly made cars that blew up in the driveway as soon as you put the key in the ignition, that company would go bankrupt very quickly. At the very least, some heads would roll with the people responsible being disgraced and driven from their professions. And yet the corporate media keeps on chugging along, with no accountability for its constant industrywide failures, and with no one losing their jobs. The cast of characters that assured you that Donald Trump would never be the President, while at the same time gifting him billions of dollars in free advertising, are the same people offering their “hot takes” now on everything from Syria to the electability of Joe Biden. But alas, these same institutions, that, through their relentless coverage of Trump’s campaign were the single biggest factor in his election (their own fevered attempts to re-focus public attention on Russia aside), have since seen an explosion in viewership and subscriptions, which is kind of like turning to the person who broke your kneecaps for comfort and perspective on your debilitating injury.

So, what shattered my own illusion that what I was receiving from my “most trusted” news sources was actually news? As for many, many people who experienced a similar epiphany around the same time, it was the relentlessly hostile coverage of Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primaries. Without getting into too much detail (that’s a subject that’s been well-covered by some great journalists, most notably Thomas Frank), it was impossible for a Sanders supporter to come out of that experience without feeling like Roddy Piper in the sci-fi classic, They Live, having donned a special pair of glasses and suddenly seeing that everything you ever believed was total bullshit. Of course, for people on the Clinton side in those primaries, nothing much changed. After all, it’s not bias if you agree with it; its just the smart take. But if you disagreed, it was kind of breathtaking in its scope. Sixteen negative articles from the Washington Post in 16 hours; The New York Times retroactively altering positive stories about Sanders; Chris Matthews screaming about socialism so hard his show looked like a FOX News audition tape; even Maddow, our beloved Rachel Maddow, repeating the lie that Sanders supporters had thrown chairs at the Nevada state convention, going so far as to use a clip of chairs being thrown at a wrestling match in lieu of actual footage of the fabricated event. And if the smartest, smarty-pants purveyor of smart takes ever, Rachal frikkin’ Maddow, was lying to us, what did that say about the rest of them? On the upside, this revelation did allow me to avoid wasting two years on Maddow’s charts, diagrams, and “it was Don Jr. in the pantry with an oligarch” coverage of Russiagate. Those are untold hours of many millions of people’s lives that they’re never getting back.

I was honestly depressed for about a month after I realized that I had spent literally decades offering opinions that were not truly my own, and believing things that very obviously made no sense if you just took five seconds to think it over. When you’ve always thought of yourself as an informed, intelligent person, that’s a hard day. But once the stages of grief had passed, I had only one question: why hadn’t I realized this before? Its not like you have to go on some kind of Indiana Jones quest through the jungles of the dark web to figure it out. All you have to do is look at who the advertisers are. For the Sunday morning talk shows in particular, its a virtual comic-book line-up of the world’s most evil corporations, from Boeing, to Monsanto, to BP. All that’s missing is Luthercorp. Its all very obvious, no fevered conspiracy theories required.

I gave a lot of thought as to why so many otherwise intelligent people continue to consume such a blatantly defective product. Why would they trust journalists who had repeatedly fed them disinformation that later blew up in their faces, most recently by promising both implicitly and at times explicitly that the Mueller report would end with Donald Trump in handcuffs? Or that an obvious dufus like Beto O’Rourke was gonna be a thing? I mean seriously, it’s trivial now, but did anyone actually watch him do his messianic table-jumping, arm flailing thing, before anointing him the Great White Hope?

It’s not like the old days, when you had to go to a street corner in Union Square to find alternative media. Reputable alternative sources like The Intercept, Common Dreams, Truth-Dig, and a host of others are available to anyone with an internet connection. Under those circumstances, why would anyone read The New York Times or watch CNN for any purpose other than to keep an eye on them? Who does all of this appeal to at this point? This is what I came up with:

Aside from the elderly, and actual elites, for whom the whole tone and viewpoint of the corporate media, particularly its political coverage, must feel like something akin to reading the hometown paper, right down to the names of people you went to school with being featured prominently in the bylines, the bulk of the audience for corporate media are members of the middle class who have a deep emotional need to see themselves as part of a club that they will never actually be invited to join. Where their European forebears filled their homes with cheaper versions of the kinds of decorations and tchotchkes that might have been found in the palaces of the aristocrats, today it’s regular trips to museums where they pretend to like art produced by an industry that abandoned any sense of accessibility and public utility a hundred years ago, and a house full of fair-trade products made by third world craftsmen. The New York Times and regular viewings of Meet the Press, seen in that context, are a way of checking in on elite tastes and opinions, by way of convincing yourself that you’re one of them, just with a little less money.

In the end, that’s why no matter how many times they get it wrong, and no matter how obvious their biases are, there will always be an audience for what they’re peddling, and for most of their customers, it isn’t news. Corporate media is a lifestyle brand, no different from Goop, or Lululemon. The point of consuming it isn’t to become informed about the world, any more than agreeing to stick a jade egg up your hoo-hah and paying good money for the privilege has anything to do with improving your health.  If it was about becoming informed, there would be a steeper price to pay in viewership and subscriptions for getting it mostly wrong, most of the time. Carrying around The New York Times under your arm and cultivating opinions that align with the its dominant narratives, is a way of telling everyone around you, “I’m in the club.” It’s aspirational. And if you aren’t quite like those twee couples in the investment bank ads, who seem to spend all their time strolling along fabulous beaches in remote areas and hanging out at their rustic cabin, well, with just a little more money in the 401K, you will be. You already have all the right opinions, so it’s just a matter of time.

Along the way you end up absorbing and championing viewpoints that are not only completely contradicted by the facts, but that run counter to your own interests. Health care is a good example. Even with health insurance, a lot of middle class people are only one serious illness away from bankruptcy. And yet many of those same people advocate for slow, incremental change. Why? Because they’ve been told that’s what they’re supposed to think by a media that takes millions of dollars in advertising from drug and insurance companies. A cursory examination of American history will tell you that the core premise behind this argument is a lie: from the union movement, to civil rights, to gay rights, real, structural change has only ever come through mass movements and activism, and never from moderation and slow, patient, incremental reform. But there’s no incentive to question these narratives if your purpose isn’t to hold objectively true opinions, but to hold the “right” opinions.

The good news is, the next generation isn’t buying it, for the most part. For people starting out in life facing grotesque wealth inequality and imminent eco-catastrophe, the soothing tones of Doris Kearns Goodwin and company waxing poetic about the glorious bi-partisanship of the Lincoln White House are about as culturally relevant as Pat Boone. In light of that, it’s hard to imagine that, in twenty years, the corporate media as we know it will continue to exist. But they’re going to do a lot of damage on the way out the door. And no one is going to be less prepared for the consequences than the people who thought they were members of the club, not realizing they were only invited in to do the catering. In the meantime, when you encounter these folks on social media or IRL, and they start calling you a Putin puppet for not sharing their point of view, seemingly oblivious to the ugly history in this country of that kind of thing, go easy on them. As any drug counselor will tell you, everyone’s rock bottom is different. Mine came in ’16. For some, its going to take the evaporation of their retirement savings and the ocean in their front yard before they bottom out.

Thank you for reading! You can help support our independent media project by becoming a Patron on Patreon.com, where for as little as a dime a day you can access exclusive audio podcast & written content! Just click the logo!

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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.

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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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How “The First Jewish President” became “Another Old White Man.”

by Russell Dobular

Bernie Sanders is the Jewish descendent of Polish immigrants who came to America to escape oppression and discrimination at home. The members of his family who stayed behind were wiped out in the Holocaust. And yet, his identity as a Jew and the barrier-breaking significance of his standing in the polls is rarely discussed.

The only other Jew who has taken a serious run at the presidency is Joe Lieberman, and I use the term “serious” loosely. Lieberman never won a single primary or caucus and dropped out of the 2004 race after being crushed in the first five states to vote. Sanders, much to the chagrin of the Clinton campaign and the DNC, made it through every single primary in ’16, garnering 43% of the vote, even in the face of almost universal hostility to his campaign from the Democratic Party establishment and the corporate media. So far in the 2020 race he’s consistently polling at #2 in most national surveys, behind Joe Biden.

Whether he wins the nomination or not, that’s a historic accomplishment for a Jewish candidate. So, why isn’t that a part of the narrative? No one would think of discussing Corey Booker or Kamala Harris without considering their African American identities. Nor would anyone talk about Julian Castro while ignoring his Latino heritage. This is particularly strange in a party that tends to fixate on identity politics to the exclusion of all other ideas that fall to the left side on the ideological spectrum.

So why is Mayor Pete a gay candidate, and Harris a black female candidate, while Sanders’ enemies feel comfortable writing him off as an “old white man?” Part of it is convenience. If you hate Bernie Sanders, as most of the media and party establishment do pretty openly, with one MSNBC commentator recently opining that Sanders, “makes my skin crawl,” although she quickly admitted that she didn’t actually know why that is (hint: check your bank balance), the “old white man” charge is a convenient explanation that conforms nicely to the establishment zeitgeist, which is that progress lies not in enacting the policies that would dismantle oligarchy, but in diversifying the identities of those who manage it.

If Sanders represents a minority, that takes away a line of attack that requires no policy discussion, and that’s their favorite kind. Once you have to start defending American exceptionalism while at the same time trying to explain why Americans can’t have the health care that every other industrialized nation on earth provides to its citizens, things can go sideways on the debate stage pretty fast. “Old white man,” isn’t an invitation to a discussion; it’s a slur. And like all slurs, its designed to go around the brain and right to the worst instincts and prejudices of its target audience.

But there’s another reason that Sanders doesn’t get to be Jewish, and it’s the same reason that people of Irish and Italian descent usually won’t be described as Irish Americans or Italian Americans when they’re running for political office.

While many groups migrated to the United States en masse from the 1840’s to the 1920’s, no others came in nearly the numbers that the Irish, Italians and Jews did. First came the Irish in the mid-19th Century, escaping the potato famine. Then Italians in the 1870’s, largely because of mass poverty at home. And finally, the Jews in the 1880’s, fleeing the pogroms that the Tsar had launched against them in Russia and Eastern Europe. None of these groups were considered “white people” by those who had come before them. Even the Irish, who were closest to being considered “white” in the racial economy of the time, were subject to grotesque cartoon caricatures printed in respectable publications in which they were portrayed as monkeys and apes. At best, these new arrivals were “ethnic white,” a catch-all category for every European who wasn’t a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.

The journey from “ethnic white” to white white began for many at Ellis Island, with the changing of the family name to something more Anglo-sounding. This occurred on both sides of my own family. On my father’s side, Wolinsky became Wolin, and on my mother’s, Dobular was, as far as I’ve been able to ascertain, made up out of whole cloth. If you meet a Dobular who isn’t related to me, let me know.

Later, some Jews and Italians would take Irish names, rather than Anglo ones, knowing that with their lower class urban accents and mannerisms, they were never going to be able to pass themselves off as WASP’s, but they might feasibly be mistaken for being Irish, which was marginally better than being a Jew or a Southern European. Hence, Emanuel Goldberg became movie gangster, Edward G. Robinson, and Anthony Benedetto became singer Tony Bennett, among countless other examples.

But it wasn’t enough to want to be white. In order to truly become full-fledged white people, American society would have to accept them as such. That acceptance didn’t come until after World War II. Having just fought a war against a Nazi regime that took the idea of racial inferiority to its logical conclusion in the mass genocide of Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, and other “out” groups in German society, racism, at least against the “ethnic whites” who had been the principal victims of the Nazi campaign of mass murder, fell out of fashion in mainstream American culture. Just how out of fashion? The answer to that can be seen in some of the cultural products of the time, including the remarkable 1948 film, The Boy With the Green Hair, which features a very young Dean Stockwell as a war orphan who is unjustly discriminated against for his hair color. With the resistance to allowing ethnic whites to move into certain neighborhoods thereby suspended, the large-scale development of suburban tract housing well underway, and the GI Bill providing the necessary down payments for houses, the children and grandchildren of Ellis Island began to empty out of their urban enclaves and assimilate with a vengeance.

For the Jews, this need to assimilate was perhaps particularly acute. With the Nazi atrocities having only recently wiped out two-thirds of the European Jewish population, the potentially horrific results of being considered the “other” had never been made more clear. They not only moved out of the ghettos, but out of the blue-collar occupations of their parents and grandparents, to become middle-managers, professionals, CEO’s and media figures. As a result of this history, today 94% of Jews self-identify as white, and, outside of white supremacist circles, most of society agrees. But self-identification aside, there’s always a cloud hanging over Jews and their relationship to whiteness. There’s a common saying in the community that well sums up the sneaking feeling that it can all be taken away at any time: “I didn’t know I was Jewish, until Hitler told me I was.” This warning to never forget how easily the fate of the highly assimilated pre-war German Jews can befall any Jews, anywhere, perfectly encapsulates the complicated psychological relationship of Jews to their “whiteness,” a whiteness that is always experienced as provisional and of dubious applicability outside the major cities.

Ironically, should Sanders win the nomination, it will be at a moment when the status of Jews as whites is being seriously debated for the first time in several decades. This is partly being driven from the right by the Trump presidency and the way it has emboldened anti-Semites, but also from the left’s abandonment of multi-culturalism, in favor of racial and cultural balkanization.

The Jews present a knotty problem for the latter. In a schema where there are white people who are by definition the beneficiaries of white privilege, and then there are the victims of white privilege (everyone else), where to place a group that doesn’t get followed around by store detectives, but is also on the receiving end of the majority of hate crimes, according to FBI statistics? Are they the oppressor? The oppressed? Some of both? Does this way of looking at the world allow for a group to be both? It gets complicated, most especially for Jews themselves, who suddenly find their hard-won whiteness, increasingly thrown back at them in the form of the neo-slur, “white Jews.”

Right now, this is a conversation mostly taking place among the hard-core Identitarians, and on the pages of online Jewish publications, but should Sanders be the nominee, it’s going to force a debate on these questions the likes of which we haven’t seen since the 1950’s. We know what the right is going to do: burn a swastika and such. Whether the left will accord Sanders the celebratory mood with which they would surely greet the nomination of a member of any other historically marginalized group, or whether they’ll simply update “white man” to “white Jew,” in grudging acknowledgement of some shade of difference, is currently an open question.

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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.

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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.

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