Thursday Reads: “The Other Candidate is the Ralph Nader…”

Two sides of the "populist" coin?

Two sides of the “populist” coin?

Good Morning!!

For some time now, I’ve thought that Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are very similar in terms of their style and their approaches to politics.

Each of these men offers a vague platform based on simplistic policies with little detail to back them up. Each argues that he and he alone can lead the country to some mythical promised land in which every American will have an equal opportunity to achieve some hypothetical “American dream.”

Each of these candidates claims to be an outsider who is fighting “the establishment” and each holds up a boogeyman that he blames for all our problems. For Trump, it is immigrants, protesters, and the media. For Sanders, it is millionaires and billionaires, Wall Street, and, frankly, the Democratic Party.

Finally, Sanders and Trump are both focused on the needs and anxieties of white men; yet both claim to be friends to African Americans, Latinos, women, and other groups who so far have mostly been supporting Hillary Clinton.

Both Trump and Sanders have been referred to in the media as populists. Dakinikat has made that argument to me as well. They certainly are both demagogues, and they both are damaging the political parties they aspire to represent.

Here are a few of reads on the populist question.

Margaret Talbot at The New Yorker: The Populist Prophet.

Isaac Chotiner at Slate: Is Donald Trump a Populist?

Michael Kazin: How Can Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders Both Be “Populist?”

Rosario Dawson makes a heart sign at Sanders rally in San Diego

Rosario Dawson makes a heart sign at Sanders rally in San Diego

Anyway, what brought this on was something I saw last night on Twitter. On Tuesday night Bernie Sanders gave a speech in San Diego. He was introduced by actress Rosario Dawson. I had never heard of her before, but she’s a movie and TV star who played the role of Delores Huerta in a movie about Cesar Chavez.

I saw a clip of Dawson’s speech on twitter and then I went and watched the whole thing on YouTube. It was shocking to me. See the video below.

I transcribed a small part of the video, beginning around 5:00. I’ve highlighted two sections.

We need someone who has bold leadership to understand that with climate change, with health care, with education, with our future at stake, that we need bold leadership from someone we can trust, someone who has stood up for justice his entire life.

They haven’t listened to him but we are. And we need to keep spreading that message because people are voting against themselves. They are hurting themselves and their future, and we need to help them. Because we need to help each other. Because this is about us. Not me. Not one person. It’s not just a party. This isn’t the GOP vs. the DNC. This is about the 99 percent that is too big to fail against the 1 percent.

So when I hear someone ask me, well well well if it comes down to it, will you vote for the other candidate if it’s Trump? (shaking head) I say if you want to beat Trump, vote Bernie. We’re playing chicken here, and we can’t pull back. They are going to have to turn. That candidate is the Ralph Nader, not Bernie Sanders.

As an Independent, he is doing a service to the Democratic Party right now. Democratic Party hasn’t– we haven’t left them; they’ve left us. This is an opportunity to turn the tides and change history. Do we really want someone who encour- who condones mass incarceration, who thinks that the death penalty is OK, who hesitates on environmental injustices and issues, who thinks that regime change is an idea for foreign policy?

No. What we need is bold leadership from a great leader whose time has come. Truly this is a future to believe in. It is not a dream; it is a vision and it is worth going for with all of our might.

To say I was stunned by Dawson’s claim that Hillary Clinton is “the Ralph Nader” of this election is putting it mildly. She–and I assume Sanders and his followers–actually see Hillary Clinton as the spoiler who is preventing the “grass roots” voters from making Sanders President of the United States. They a play a game of “chicken” says Dawson, and the other side must be made to turn aside.

Think about that for a minute. The winning candidate in the primaries is somehow preventing the candidate with much fewer primary victories, pledged delegates, and popular votes from becoming the Democratic nominee.

Apparently these folks have convinced themselves that Hillary’s wins are the result of conspiracies against Bernie. You can see this all over the internet where Sanders supporters are claiming there has been “voter suppression” and fraud in Iowa, Nevada, Arizona, and who knows where else. They believe that the DNC is somehow manipulating the primaries to give Hillary the nomination and they are convinced that the only candidate who can win in November is Bernie Sanders. Based on what? Don’t bother to ask. Their answers don’t make any more sense than those of Donald Trump’s supporters.

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader

In Dawson’s speech, she also claimed that Hillary is in favor of mass incarceration and regime change and that she doesn’t care about environmental justice. Does she even know that Hillary is the one who reached out to the mayor of Flint and sent staff members to find out what she could do to help? Does she know that Hillary’s first speech as a candidate was reforming the criminal justice system and ending mass incarceration? Probably not.

The people who follow Bernie Sanders are every bit as much “low-information voters” as those who follow Donald Trump. If they do know anything about Hillary’s real policies, they probably don’t care. They want Bernie to be president and if minority voters, women, and other groups don’t vote for Bernie, it’s because they don’t know what’s good for them.

I can’t believe this crazy philosophy isn’t coming from the top. From the things I’ve heard said by Jeff Weaver and Tad Devine, I have to believe this is coming from them and from Bernie Sanders himself. Maybe they even wrote Dawson’s speech for her.

If all these weren’t bad enough, Dawson also posted a piece in Huffington Post today in which she attacks Delores Huerta!  It’s written in the form of an “open letter” to in response to a post Huerta wrote on Medium in February.

Delores Huerta

Basically, Huerta’s post argues that Bernie is a “Johnny come lately” on immigration reform.

Bernie Sanders has positioned himself as a champion of the immigrant community. From the letter he sent to Barack Obama last week, to the work he, his campaign, and surrogates have done attacking other candidates’ positions, you would think that he has been a lifelong champion on issues that matter to Latinos and immigrants. But here’s the truth: Candidate Bernie Sanders, advocate for immigrants, is not the same as Senator Bernie Sanders.

Let’s start with the letter he sent to President Obama. Bernie, candidate, decried the deportation raids — which he should. But in 2006, Bernie, congressman, actually voted…to create and fund two of the programs he criticizes in the letter.

Furthermore, in 2006, he voted for a bill pushed by James Sensenbrenner, one of the most anti-immigrant members of Congress, that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to be detained indefinitely pending deportation. This bill was widely viewed as a desperate attempt by Republicans to boost their reelection prospects that year by cracking down on immigrants, and the ACLU called it “inhumane.” Bernie voted for it anyway. (You’ll note that he was running for Senate — as an independent.)

In fact, in 2011, Harry Reid, and other Senators sent a letter to President Obama urging him to end the deportation of DREAMers. You can probably guess who didn’t sign that letter.

In 2007, he voted against Senator Ted Kennedy’s immigration reform bill.

Heck, here’s how much of a johnny-come-lately he is. During this campaign, he defended the vote with the same talking points.

“What I think [Wall Street is] interested in is seeing a process by which we can bring low-wage labor of all levels into this country to depress wages in America, and I strongly disagree with that.” -7/30/15

Militia members "guarding" the Texas border.

Militia members “guarding” the Texas border.

Huerta also notes that Sanders supported a bill to protect the militia members who took it upon themselves to patrol the Mexican boarder.

Perhaps you’re familiar with the Minutemen. You know — the anti-immigrant militias who patrol the border trying to stop undocumented people from coming to do their jobs. You would think that such a self-appointed lifelong advocate for the community would vote against anti-immigrant vigilantes. You would be thinking wrong. Bernie voted to protect them — and provided a weak excuse as to why. This point is especially egregious. Anyone claiming to be an advocate for the community shouldn’t have voted for this. Period.

That’s all true. Even though Sanders claims the militia amendment was part of a much larger bill, it did actually pass on a stand-alone vote.

Remember Dawson is well aware of Huerta’s long history of work for the rights of immigrant workers, because she actually portrayed Huerta in a film. In her open letter, she begins by praising Huerta’s work. Then she writes:

I, too, believe in the American ideal of reasonable and robust debate between opposing viewpoints in order to move a discussion forward and ultimately arrive at a sensible resolution. This becomes impossible, or at least unnecessarily difficult, when one of the parties involved is purposefully trying to obfuscate the facts. I recognized that very same tactic that the mainstream media has been using when I read your opinion piece, where the details of Bernie Sanders’ voting record and positions were misrepresented and, again, when you and America Ferrera spread the false story on Twitter that Bernie supporters chanted “English only” at a Nevada caucus. Though it was debunked by multiple media outlets and video evidence, neither of you have corrected, apologized for, or taken down the posts. It’s race baiting, misleading, divisive and inaccurate and I hope you both will rectify that immediately. Regardless of either your interpretations of the event, the guidelines strictly prohibited any form of communication with caucus participants by campaigners once the caucus was called to order!

The democratic process, as it was intended, is quite simple: Present your facts, track records and plans, move forward honestly and openly, debate, call out discrepancies, explain and educate, then let the American people decide whom they would like to lead the country based on such answers. By distorting and omitting facts you do not give us, the American people, a transparent picture. You cheat us out of making an educated and well-informed decision and dishonor our voting process and democracy itself.

Rosario Dawson, right, and Dolores Huerta arrive  at the north american premiere of  the film "Cesar Chavez" during the SXSW Film Festival on Monday, March 10, 2014 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP)

Rosario Dawson, right, and Dolores Huerta arrive at the north american premiere of the film “Cesar Chavez” during the SXSW Film Festival on Monday, March 10, 2014 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP)

Wow! So now Huerta is a liar who is deliberately trying to “obfuscate the facts.” Dawson then goes on to argue with each of Huerta’s points, she wraps it all up by attacking Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton’s track record goes directly against what you and every other activist before and after you has fought for: the rights of the people based on the Declaration of Independence and the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Those are principles that Hillary did not uphold when taking away American citizens’ freedom by voting for the Patriot Act, twice; by not treating all men as equal when going against same-sex marriage until 2013; and when she sold out her own citizens by taking money from lobbyists and promoting the rise of the private prison complex. This has led to modern-day slavery for the impoverished, and especially for Latino and African American communities. She has put corporations and special interest groups before the people of this great country by voting to bail out banks and not her constituents. She does not uphold the sanctity of life when endorsing wars, condoning fracking or the death penalty.

Yet these same communities are voting in large numbers for Clinton. Why. I guess we know, because Dawson explained in her San Diego speech that people who vote for Hillary are voting against their own interests and they need “help” from Sanders supporters.

And then there’s this condescending bit:

Dolores, I am surprised, dismayed, and concerned that you would do your legacy such a disservice by becoming an instrument of the establishment, rather than joining this movement to create a better America like you once inspired us to do.

I write this letter in the hopes that we can continue to have a robust and honest conversation based on the facts and on the actions that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have taken during their legislative careers.

Somehow I don’t think Delores Huerta is going to respond to Dawson’s lecture all that well.

Now, I saw on Twitter this morning that Al Giordano and Tom Watson believe the “open letter” was written by someone from the Sanders campaign, and that makes sense to me.

But still, this sort of thing is not doing Sanders or the Democratic Party any good at all. Someone with some serious power needs to get Bernie under control. He should stay in the primary fight as long as he wants, but he should not be attacking the integrity of the leading candidate and her surrogates.

Let me know what you think. And remember this is an open thread. Feel free to post your thoughts and links on any topic below.


Late Night Update: Libya

The “allied forces” have been bombing targets in Libya for a second day. Gaddafi is outraged and has issued multiple threats. Meanwhile, here at home there is quite a bit of criticism of the President’s decision to participate in the UN action.

The Guardian has a pretty detailed description of events in Libya over the past couple of days: “Coalition attacks wreak havoc on ground troops.” I’m leaving out the bloodthirsty-sounding paragraphs–you can read them if you choose.

The barrage of attacks led by France, Britain and the US on Libya’s army, air bases and other military targets drew threats of a prolonged war from Gaddafi himself. But on the ground many of his forces were in disarray and fleeing in fear of further attacks from a new and unseen enemy.

The air assault halted and then reversed the advances by Gaddafi’s army on Benghazi and other rebel-held towns. But the revolutionary leadership wanted more. On Sunday it appealed for an intensification of the air assault to destroy the Libyan ruler’s forces and open the way for the rebels to drive him from power.

The air bombardment is regarded among rebel military commanders as creating a more level battle field by removing Gaddafi’s advantage of heavy armour.

“There must be more attacks, to destroy his forces and heavy weapons,” said Kamal Mustafa Mahmoud, a rebel soldier on the edge of Benghazi. “Then they can leave Gaddafi to us. We know how to fight him but we are afraid of his heavy weapons. I want them to destroy the ground forces of Gaddafi.”

Quite a few people in the US have problems with that notion. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who has opposed the U.S. getting involved in the Libyan uprising had a few words of warning today.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S. military campaign against Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi should be limited to the terms of a United Nations resolution rather than being broadened to target the leader directly.

The coalition with the U.K., France and Arab countries relies on the terms laid out in the UN Security Council resolution adopted last week, Gates told reporters traveling with him to Russia today on a trip he delayed yesterday so he could monitor the start of “Operation Odyssey Dawn.” The resolution backed military action to prevent Qaddafi from using his forces to attack fellow Libyans.

“If we start adding additional objectives, then I think we create a problem in that respect,” Gates said. “I also think that it is unwise to set as specific goals things that you may or may not be able to achieve.”

Here’s a bit more from Gates:

Gates said the mission is backed by a diverse coalition, and adding additional objectives to the mission “create a problem in that respect.” He also said “it’s unwise to set as specific goals things that you may or may not be able to achieve.”

Gates said most nations in the region want to see Libya remain a unified state, and “having states in the region begin to break up because of internal differences, I think, is a formula for real instability in the future.”

The Pentagon chief also cautioned against getting too involved in the internal conflict of that country, saying the internal conflict should be left to be resolved by Libyans themselves.

After Gates made these remarks, Pentagon spokesman Navy Vice Adm. Bill Gortney said that there is no plan to directly attempt to oust Gaddafi. Gortney:

“I can guarantee that he’s not on the targeting list.”

Gortney said Khadafy’s forces were already beginning to crumble, but stressed that the focus of the campaign remains protecting civilians, not taking out the despot.

In addition,

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen acknowledged that Khadafy might remain in power when the mission is over.

“It’s hard to know exactly how this turns out,” Mullen said on CBS. “I recognise that’s a possibility.”

Today French and British forces did “expand” the bombing campaign, and actually targeted a building within Gaddafi’s private compound. Read more below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »