Winter Is Coming. Bernie’s Campaign is the Most Resilient and Battle-Ready.

by Keaton Weiss

It was April, year of our Lord 2019. Spring had sprung. The birds were chirpin’, and the bees were buzzin’, and Joe Biden had just launched his presidential campaign. His announcement video was lauded by the mainstream press as he called for a restoration of the soul of America and assured the good people of this ultimately still-great country that the election of Donald Trump in 2016 was but an aberration, and that order would soon be restored, and that we’d undergo no final, irreversible fall from grace.

Then, he opened his mouth on live television during the first Democratic debate in June, and, well, it’s sorta been all downhill for him from there.

But by then, the media had found its new hero. The senior Senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts via Harvard University, a Cherokee princess by the name of Elizabeth Warren, had begun publishing a series of blog posts on Medium.com. But these were no ordinary blog posts. These were plans. Plans for everything. Every social malady, every economic inequity, every historical wrong that needed righting – she had a plan for it. And as the sun warmed the oceans of the earth over a long, hot summer, Elizabeth Warren’s plans illuminated the minds of the Democratic primary electorate. She skyrocketed in the polls, and had the betting markets convinced that she, not Joe Biden, would be the one to wrest the iron throne from Donald Trump in November of 2020.

But then, in a horrific and unexpected turn of events, she was asked a somewhat difficult question on that same debate stage in mid October about how exactly she would finance one of her aforementioned plans which she hadn’t yet blogged about: Medicare for All. Would she raise taxes on the middle class? She couldn’t say. The team of moderators, led by Anderson Cooper, $11 million-a-year newsman, Vanderbilt heir, and watchdog for the American proletariat, prodded her on this question over and over again, but could elicit no clear response. For the first time on the debate stage, she had appeared evasive and unprepared. And, upon scrutiny of such performance, her momentum was quickly blunted.

By now, a brisk, autumnal chill had fallen upon the American landscape. The leaves were beginning to brown, and as they fell down to earth, so did Elizabeth “Talks In Circles” Warren’s electoral prospects. Who, as the air grew colder and the skies grew grayer, would emerge as the harvest season’s media darling? Enter Pete Buttigieg. For in that same debate in which Warren had faltered, he had changed his demeanor from affable, benign, “pragmatic progressive” small town mayor, to stern, no nonsense, centrist combat veteran who wasn’t going to stand for any of Pocahontas’ bullshit.

And as we speak, just past the peak of foliage season, the mainstream media is swooning over their new knight in shining armor, Mayor Pete. Of course, he’s polling in the low single digits among African American voters, and so, like the pumpkin spiced lattes and Oktoberfest beers the season is known for, his shelf life as a novel commodity will undoubtedly be quite short.

While all of this was happening, however, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders had been criss-crossing the country building a multi-racial working class movement of ordinary people, rallying them around a platform of social, racial, economic, and environmental justice. None of those things ever seem to excite the press very much though, and so his efforts went largely unnoticed. Whenever his campaign was mentioned, it was often done so dismissively, many times even with the suggestion that he give up altogether and drop out of the race. In early October, he suffered a heart attack which landed him in the hospital, at which point his media detractors thought that he was surely done for.

While recovering in his hospital room, however, he received a phone call from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a former bartender from the Bronx who had been inspired to run for office by Bernie’s underdog grassroots 2016 campaign, and who had won the most shocking upset victory in a generation to become the new Congresswoman from New York’s 14th Congressional district. She informed him that in a “moment of clarity,” as she described it, she had decided to endorse him for president and join his campaign. He teased this endorsement at the October debate a couple weeks later, and that following Saturday, returned to the campaign trail with AOC’s support and the largest crowd of any political rally this cycle by any candidate.

Since then, things have been looking up for Bernie and his newly revitalized campaign. As of this writing, he’s polling right near the top of the pack in national polls as well as in the critical early states. And unlike his competitors, who have all undergone honeymoon periods with the press, Bernie has persevered through this campaign and achieved top-tier status despite his age, his health scare, and, most importantly, media coverage that has ranged from non-existent to overtly hostile.

Biden, Warren, and Buttigieg have all been able to successfully ride the waves of fawning media praise they’ve each received during various stretches of this still young 2020 cycle. They also seem to have struggled to maintain momentum once that media coverage either lessens or turns for the worse. Bernie, on the other hand, has never enjoyed the privilege of great publicity, and likely never will. Even now, as he rises in the polls, the cable TV talking heads are still panicking over what his supporters may or may not do when they predict he inevitably loses the nomination. The fact that he’s doing as well as he is isn’t merely a testament to his campaign’s strength thus far, but a sign of its resiliency moving forward into the all-important winter months.

It’s this winter when his campaign surrogates will mobilize on his behalf (AOC is going to Iowa this week, in fact). It’s then that his one million-plus volunteer army will get to truly flex their might (they’ve already made well over a million phone calls). It’s then that his million-plus individual donors will matter most (the campaign has budgeted for $30 million in ad spending for the early state contests). It’s then then the American people get serious about this primary fight, and the Sanders campaign is ready for battle. His opponents have shown certain strengths, no doubt, but they’ve also shown to be glass-jawed paper tigers when met with any real pushback. All the Bernie campaign ever gets is pushback. They know they can handle it, and handle it they will.

And so Biden had the spring, Warren the summer, and Mayor Pete is basking in the hoodie weather at the moment. But there’s still one season left to go before this race kicks into gear. Brace yourselves – or should I say, Bern yourselves – winter is coming.

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Hello, Neuman: Mayor Pete Could Be The Centrist Vote-Splitter Progressives Need.

by Russell Dobular

When this latest edition of the quadrennial shit show we call an American election first started, I was pulling for undiagnosed-sociopath Kamala Harris. Not to win, but to siphon off enough votes from Biden to allow either Sanders or Warren to emerge as the nominee.  But sociopaths are innately creepy and even though Harris’ record is certainly no worse than Biden’s, (and in many ways considerably better in a leper-with-the-most-fingers-contest kind of a way), the voters, in a rare moment of perceptiveness, picked up on her weird vibes pretty quickly. The only person who doesn’t seem to know her campaign is over is Harris herself, which is pretty much what you’d expect, given the tendency towards grandiosity of people with her condition, along with an inability to take responsibility for one’s own failings (Russia is apparently to blame for her collapse, rather than her own miscalculations. Hmmm, where have we heard that before?)

While I can’t deny a certain satisfaction in seeing the arc of the universe bend towards justice for a change with the abject failure of a woman who once argued against freeing prisoners because California needed their labor, it has created a conundrum for progressives.  ‘Cause the truth is it will probably be one more election cycle before enough boomers have departed this planet they’ve spent their lifetimes helping to destroy, for a progressive to win the Democratic nomination outright in a one-on-one contest against a centrist. These folks already got theirs and they could give a flying fuck about what they leave behind for the grandkids. Free college, universal health care, and a living wage don’t register on their list of priorities, much less motivate their voting habits, except in a negative sense. They’re going to go all in on making shit worse one last time by nominating yet another neoliberal douchebag, before riding off into the sunset with the lost wealth of the once prosperous nation they inherited pouring out of their saddlebags.  Our last, best hope for preventing that outcome could lie in the centrist vote-splitting abilities of Mayor Pete.

In a lot of ways, Buttigieg is a better spoiler than Harris ever was, because unlike Buttigieg, Harris could actually have won the nomination if she didn’t suck so hard.  With a strong showing in Iowa and New Hampshire, she could have gone into South Carolina with momentum, and with a 1st or 2nd place finish there, have taken the big prize of California on Super Tuesday.  None of that is in the cards for Mayor Pete, as he’s polling between 1-3% among black voters. But he could do well enough in Iowa and New Hampshire to keep the money train rolling for just long enough to do some real damage to Biden.

But what’s going to keep Mayor Pete in the race, even as he loses in state after state, including the early, predominantly white states where he’ll probably have his best showings? Well, for younger neoliberals who are particularly attached to their virtue signaling, Buttigieg represents the ideal. An old, straight white man like Biden, with a long history of off-handedly racist remarks and casually sexist behavior, was never an easy fit for these people. When you’re essentially a pro-choice Republican, whose entire “left” identity is built around not eating at Chick-Fil-A, the prospect of making Joe Biden the leader of the party is just kind of a downer. A young, gay, married, veteran is a lot closer to the sweet spot. Just think of all the opportunities to feel good about themselves running a gay candidate against Donald Trump in the South would present. The inevitable protests from the Westboro Baptist Church alone would generate about 7 million chances to gawk at the deplorables.

That’s why, even though it should be obvious to anyone with two eyes and a pulse that Mayor Pete has about the same shot at the nomination that Lyndon LaRouche has (and he died in February), Wall Street and Silicon Valley will keep on bankrolling his campaign, while the media continues to churn out enough absurdly optimistic puff pieces to keep him in the race for a good, long time. That will not only siphon votes from Biden now (note how Biden’s numbers have plummeted in tandem with Buttigieg’s recent sort of rise), it will also give the supporters of Klobuchar, Bennett, Bullock, and all the rest of the centrist wrecking crew, someplace to go besides Biden as their candidates come to terms with reality and drop out over the next few months. That will provide a much needed counter to the progressive vote splitting that’s already happening between Warren and Sanders.  While they may be drawing from different pools of voters on the whole, Sanders is the most popular second choice for Warren supporters at 36%, so clearly there’s a fair amount of overlap. Progressives need equivalent vote splitting on the other side to overcome the literal death grip that the old and the rich continue to have over the nominating process.

In light of these electoral realities, progressives should probably lay off Mayor Pete, at least until after Super Tuesday.  Hell, if you really want to throw a wrench in the gears, say nice things about him.  Chris Cilizza will be all over the Sanders/Warren to Buttigieg voter narrative after only, like, ten #gomayorpete tweets from progressive accounts and the rest of the groupthink pundits will follow along immediately, like they do.  I know it’s gonna be hard to resist the bait as he continues his attacks on every progressive policy proposal anyone, anywhere has ever thought of, and the press continues to give him a pass on his shitty record as Mayor of a city with about eight people in it, two of whom are African-American and by no means thrilled with his leadership, but we need to think about the long game here.  Mayor Pete is the perfect centrist spoiler; the kind that can’t win but has enough wealthy corporate donors to keep him in the race, and a big enough ego to stick around long after any rational prospect of clinching the nomination has evaporated.

So, for all those reasons, from now through Super Tuesday, I ask you to join me in my rallying cry: Go Mayor Pete!

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Podcast: A Joker For Our Times – An Antihero for the 99%.

On this episode, we analyze the subversive themes and the class politics of the new blockbuster film, Joker.

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Podcast: What Liberals Get Wrong About Trump, and Why 2020 Looks Like a 2016 Repeat. – w/Anis Shivani

Anis Shivani, novelist, author, and freelance writer for Salon, Alternet, Common Dreams, Raw Story, and elsewhere, joins us to discuss his latest piece which predicts a Trump 2020 victory and explains what liberals miss about his appeal.

Listen below:

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Tulsi’s Strategy Doesn’t Add Up. If You Vote for Her Over Bernie, Neither Does Yours.

by Keaton Weiss

I feel I should start by saying that, on the whole, I like Tulsi Gabbard. I first became familiar with her, as did many progressives, during the 2016 presidential primary, when she quit the DNC in order to endorse Bernie Sanders for president and to call to attention how the process was being rigged against him. That took guts, and whatever her motivation for doing so (be it to actually boost Bernie’s campaign or to raise her profile with what she saw as a growing progressive base within the Democratic Party), she deserves credit for having done it, as she was one of very few Congressional Democrats to stand up to the Clinton machine. She’s made her opposition to interventionist regime change wars known over the years, and as a veteran herself, she obviously brings a unique credibility to issues of war and peace. She was also one of just three House Democrats to vote against the austerity policy of “pay-as-you-go” when it was introduced as part of a rules package in January of this year. And when Hillary Clinton reared her ugly head last week to insinuate that Tulsi was a Russian asset being “groomed” to spoil the 2020 election as a third-party candidate, of course Tulsi was right to repudiate her as harshly and directly as she did. Tulsi is right to call out Clinton and the “corrupt elite” who have poisoned the Democratic Party, and she is absolutely justified in defending her reputation as a patriot against such abject, baseless smears. Furthermore, her stated mission to “take back the Democratic Party” from the oligarchs who have come to control it is of course a noble one.

So yes, we should all respect Tulsi for who she is. She’s served her country honorably in the Army National Guard and as a member of Congress. She’s spoken truth to power on numerous occasions and on numerous issues. She stuck her neck out for Bernie Sanders during the ever-so consequential primary of 2016, which is a hell of a lot more than we can say for Elizabeth Warren, whose “Dream Big, Fight Hard” motto apparently only applies to times when “dreaming big and fighting hard” is politically convenient for her.

And yes, there are of course legitimate critiques of Gabbard that are worth noting as well, especially in an election year. And I’m not talking about her meeting with Bashar Al-Assad nor her socially conservative upbringing, both of which are repeatedly mentioned by her more disingenuous detractors in the Democratic establishment and the corporate media. But her anti-war positions do seemingly stem from a more nationalistic, “America First” worldview than from a philosophical commitment to world peace. Her anti-BDS vote and her coziness with Narenda Modi do reflect a lack of concern for international human rights. Domestically, her recent backtracking on Medicare For All is of course a major red flag for progressives, as is her “open borders” rhetoric regarding Democrats’ immigration approach, and of course, her recent fundraiser with Wall St. executives at Anthony Scaramucci’s Hunt and Fish Club restaurant.

Despite her shortcomings though, I want to reiterate my opening point, which is that, on balance, I think Tulsi Gabbard is a positive force, and an important voice in the House, which is precisely why her decision not to seek re-election to Congress is so troubling.

Gabbard and her allies are framing this decision not to seek re-election as her going all-in on her presidential bid. This claim simply doesn’t pass the smell test. To call Gabbard’s presidential candidacy a long shot would, at this point, be a massive understatement. At this writing, the betting odds of her winning the Democratic nomination are 2.8%, which is actually up in recent days due to the recent boost in publicity Gabbard has received thanks to Hillary’s deranged smear against her. But her minuscule prospects for actually winning this race are reflected not only in the odds themselves, but in Tulsi’s own strategy thus far. And look, I’m the first one to applaud anyone who confronts the Democratic establishment and trashes Hillary Clinton. But I’m also willing to acknowledge that doing so as directly as Tulsi has is not the way to Democratic voters’ hearts (or at least not enough of them to win the party’s nomination). Threatening to boycott the debates doesn’t exactly help either. Again, all of this does not in itself undermine the rationale for Tulsi’s candidacy. She has every right to run, and she deserves credit for calling out the Democratic Party power brokers for the bad actors they mostly are. And, after all, they fired the first shots. In a sense, Tulsi had to respond as she did, whether or not it boosted her prospects for victory in this particular primary.

But here’s the rub: her mission to reclaim the Democratic Party from the corruptive forces who have wrested control of it simply does not square with her decision to forfeit her position in Congress as one of a precious few anti-establishment Democratic voices, given her near-certain defeat in the presidential race. By going “all-in” on a primary she’s sure to lose and surrendering her House seat in the process, she’s likely stripping herself of any potential platform she could use in the future to achieve her stated goal of reforming the party from within and ridding it of the “rot” which she speaks of so forcefully.

One plausible explanation for her decision is that she’s given up on the Democratic Party entirely, and has realized that there’s no future for herself within this particular institution. This would explain her recent bout of appearances on Fox News programs such as Tucker Carlson Tonight and Hannity, and her appeals to libertarians and other right-leaning people more broadly.  As someone who almost surely will be out of government in just over a year, it seems reasonable to suspect she’s angling for a contributor position at a media outlet like Fox, where perhaps she feels she can bring her unique take on Democratic politics to an audience who is normally hostile to anyone with a ‘D’ next to their name. This, again, is itself not a dubious move. I’m not one of these hysterical, hair-on-fire liberals who’s eager to label anyone who goes on Fox News a “Trumpist by association,” if you will, or brand anyone who challenges Democratic orthodoxy as a water carrier for the right wing. Perhaps she’s considering throwing her support to other grassroots progressive organizations outside the Democratic Party. Again, this is not in itself at all a bad thing to do. Were she to join an organization like the Movement for a People’s Party, it could give them a great boost and be a very positive development for progressive politics. But this, according to Gabbard herself, is not her goal. She’s saying she’s all-in on winning the Democratic Party nomination.

My point is that surrendering her House seat and making herself a media darling of the contrarian right simply doesn’t jive with the message nor mission of her 2020 campaign. First, if her goal is to actually topple the Democratic establishment from within, she should understand that the most viable means of achieving such a goal would be to retain her seat in Congress, where dissenting voices like hers are in woefully short supply. And second, quitting her job in Congress, losing a long-shot primary, and taking a job as a media personality, would be in total contradiction to her “service above self” mantra that has been the thematic linchpin of her candidacy.

Simply put, Tulsi’s strategy just doesn’t add up. And if you’re a progressive who’s planning to vote for her over Bernie in this primary, neither does yours. This is not to say that you shouldn’t like and respect Tulsi Gabbard. It’s not to say you can’t continue to follow her wherever her career should take her once the 2020 campaign is over. It’s not to say you shouldn’t heed her warnings about the insidious forces that have come to dominate Democratic Party politics.

But this is a hugely important election, and we progressives have what is perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to elect a truly transformational president. It’s abundantly clear that the most viable threat to these entrenched power forces both within and outside the Democratic Party, including the same military industrial complex that Tulsi rightly rails against, is the Bernie Sanders campaign. Those, like myself, whose introduction to Tulsi came when she endorsed Bernie four years ago, must understand the seriousness of this moment, and take our best shot to actually win this thing. Unlike Tulsi’s campaign, which now seems to have employed what is at best a misguided strategy, and at worst an incoherent one, Bernie’s has a clarity of purpose, which is the redistribution not just of wealth and resources, but of political power, back to the American working class. Bernie supporters-turned-Tulsi supporters ought to understand this, and we need all hands on deck, including theirs, to push this campaign over the finish line.

The three earliest primary contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, are going to be crucial for establishing viability and momentum, and right now, the race looks very close in all three states between Biden, Warren, and Sanders. Of course, you have a right to vote for whomever you choose. But if you understand the unique opportunity that the Sanders campaign represents, and you still choose to throw 5 points away from Bernie and into Tulsi’s column in New Hampshire, and he loses that state by single digits to either Biden or Warren, you will have made a monumentally stupid mistake of catastrophic consequences.

It’s fine to support Tulsi. It’s good to defend her against horrible, baseless allegations that she’s an asset of a foreign adversary. It’s great to take to heart her legitimate critique of the Democratic power structure. And it’s essential to carry that fighting spirit she embodies into this 2020 campaign. But it’s absolutely necessary that in this primary, if you really want to oppose the establishment in a meaningful way, and transform both the Democratic Party and this country, that you vote for Bernie Sanders. Tulsi supporters are smart enough to understand this moment and the opportunity it presents, and so it’s imperative that you not squander it.

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Podcast: AOC Delivers for the Political Revolution, Debate Recap, and More.

AOC reassures us she’s the real deal, Pete Buttigieg reassures us he’s not, and much more on this fun, freewheeling conversation with Russell Dobular!

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The Revolution Is Here. Ocasio-Cortez’s Endorsement is About More Than Just 2020.

by Keaton Weiss

So there was a debate last night; the fourth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 cycle, this time featuring a dozen contenders on one stage. I’ll admit at the outset, I didn’t catch the whole thing. First, the Yankee game ended right at 8pm. Then I had to rock Sawyer, my six-month old baby boy, to sleep, which can take anywhere from 20 minutes to two-and-a-half hours. I tried watching on my phone while lulling him to sleep, but he wasn’t having it. Warren’s evasiveness on the tax question must’ve been giving him anxiety. So I turned it off. By the time I got him down, it was 9pm, which means my wife needed the TV to watch This Is Us. I caught bits of it on my phone for the next hour, but CNN’s stream kept getting interrupted, and every time I restarted it I had to sit through the same 30-second Goliath trailer. Then, at 10, when I got the TV back, my dog needed to go out, so by the time I got to actually sit down and watch it, it was almost over.

Turns out, however, that I made it just in time for the line of the night, when Bernie Sanders teased that a “special guest” would be joining him at his “Bernie’s Back” rally in Queens this Saturday. I immediately thought this had to be AOC, and I was right.

Sure enough, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar will endorse Bernie Sanders for president in the 2020 race. At this writing, it’s been reported, but not confirmed, that Rep. Rashida Tlaib will do the same.

It’s been widely reported throughout the election cycle that AOC’s endorsement was the most critical of them all, and so having her on board is obviously a huge boon to the Sanders campaign. And it comes at a time when he needed it most; just after he was hospitalized for a heart attack that had many questioning whether he’d even stay in the race. Omar and Tlaib’s endorsements will also be hugely important in boosting his campaign’s vitality, diversifying its coalition, and strengthening its messaging.

But there’s another reason why these “Squad” members’ endorsement of Bernie is such a monumental occasion, and it transcends Sanders’ electoral prospects.

Before these endorsements came in, we progressives felt that Bernie, a 78-year old man fresh off a heart attack, was the only one in our federal government who we could count on to walk the walk when it comes to pushing for real transformational change. We felt that almost everyone else was ultimately just in it for themselves, and we feared that even our heroes like AOC, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib, would be absorbed by the Democratic establishment and be made to act out of political expediency rather than demonstrate real political courage, for fear of alienating themselves from party leadership at the beginning of their young careers in Congress.

We felt this way, in large part, because many of us were at one time steadfast supporters of Elizabeth Warren, who we expected, in 2016, would demonstrate the political courage we had come to expect from her, and endorse Bernie Sanders for president. She let us down, and we couldn’t imagine why. We later found out that she had been on Hillary Clinton’s VP shortlist, and that she’d have accepted the position had it been offered.  Recently, the Working Families Party, which describes itself as a multiracial, working class movement, endorsed Elizabeth Warren for president, weeks after endorsing AOC, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib for Congress. We had come to believe that beyond Bernie, again, 78, there was no one in power who we could truly consider part of our movement.

All of that changed with news of the Squad’s endorsements. By endorsing Bernie Sanders, these freshmen congresswomen have assured those of us ordinary people fighting for Bernie Sanders’ multi-racial working class progressive revolution that we have real representation in government.

Their endorsement of Bernie Sanders demonstrates not just that that they prefer Bernie Sanders to the rest of the Democratic field, but that they believe that we, the movement that Bernie has nurtured, are more worthy of their loyalty than the Democratic Party machine. In other words, they’re not just going all-in on Bernie, they’re going all-in on us. They’re joining our coalition, our movement, our political revolution. And they will be our partners in this political project for generations to come, regardless of the outcome of the 2020 election. And that’s what makes this news so sweet. It’s not just that Bernie’s chances of victory in 2020 have gotten a boost, it’s that win or lose in 2020, we in the progressive movement can finally feel confident that the revolution has arrived.

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