Certainly the Bernie Sanders campaign invigorated the progressive left. The majority of SDUSA members supported his candidacy. But since he lost the primary race, the question has been, “What next? How do we maintain that momentum”?
On November 19, 2016, SDUSA will host a community event in Buffalo on the theme of continuing the revolution. This is a full agenda event featuring a diverse group of speakers from labor and progressive political action. See the poster at right.
The program starts at 10:00 AM and will run to mid afternoon. Admission is FREE. Coffee and sandwiches will be provided FREE during the lunchtime intermission. For more information, contact Michael Mottern at (716) 279-5466.
“Coup,” as in coup d’etat, is a funny word. It can denote a conspiracy or it can denote a relatively open usurpation of power, or a gradual part-open/part-covert one, as in the rise to power of Hitler.
Congressman Jerry Nadler took a lot of heat in the late 1990s by calling the Republican impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton an attempted “coup.” But in fact there was a secretive conspiracy by a group of lawyers called the Federalist Society that started the ball rolling. And although the Republicans lacked sufficient domination of Congress to carry through on the legislative “coup,” the blow-back resulted in a judicial “coup” by the Republican-dominated Supreme Court in 2000 that handed the White House to George W. Bush.
This in turn resulted in the usurpation of power by Dick Cheney, which one might call a “coup based on an IQ deficit” (or a “coup based on naivete and inexperience” if one doesn’t think Bush was all that dumb). Such coups were common in the Middle Ages or the Renaissance when a hereditary monarch proved to be either lacking in smarts or excessively timid or mentally ill. (Well, aren’t the Republicans the party that keeps trying to take us back to the Middle Ages?)
Now we see what amounts to an attempted coup by way of the FBI, an agency riddled with far-right Republicans. We have FBI director Comey breaking with precedent and defying the Justice Department to announce, just 11 days before the Presidential election, that he has some files–supposedly from an unrelated (???) investigation of disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner–that contain copies of Hillary Clinton emails. Comey and the FBI have thus handed the Trump campaign a lifeline–and may have determined the course of the election.
At this point, we don’t know if the emails are duplicates of ones that were examined by the FBI in its now closed investigation of Clinton’s emails, or if any of them contain evidence implicating Clinton in ANYTHING of legal significance. Examining them certainly can’t be done in 11 days and probably will take months. The FBI has also, reportedly, been looking into activities of Donald Trump, but it has obeyed precedent and made no announcement about such an investigation that might influence the election–or otherwise put the FBI in the role of acting like a dirty-tricks secret police.
Does Comey want to help Trump become president? Perhaps not. But Breitbart and other Alt-Right media, and more conventional conservative media as well, have been reporting for a long time that some FBI agents really, really want to bring Hillary Clinton down. Comey may have figured that if he didn’t announce about Anthony Weiner’s computers, others in the agency would leak the information and make matters worse for Comey himself.
So to cover his ass, Comey becomes a “coup” participant of sorts. Like Hindenburg. Even J. Edgar Hoover would not have done this.
Next week it will have been one year since SDUSA endorsed Bernie Sanders for president. A lot has happened in the intervening 12 months. Bernie went from zero name recognition to being a real threat to the status quo within the Democratic Party. Although he had never run as a Democrat, the 75 years old Sanders captured 43% of the Democratic vote nationwide. And whether we cry foul over DNC partisanship or the inconsistencies in state primary vote tallies, the reality is that Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee. At the convention, realizing that Hillary wanted his endorsement, Bernie was able to negotiate platform planks that his constituency demanded. Those included: $15 minimum wage, a public option for the ACA, a “21st Century Glass-Steagall Act” to reform Wall Street, paid family leave, elimination of private prisons, expansion of Social Security, and end of the death penalty. After the negotiation of the platform, which Sanders called the “most progressive” in Democratic Party history, he gave his endorsement to Clinton. And we should do the same.
I understand that disgruntled Berniecrats may wish to vote for Jill Stein or even Gary Johnson. But in the words of Bernie himself, “This is no time for a protest vote”. While the presidential campaign may resemble a tv reality show like America’s Got Talent, the hard work of winning a campaign means assembling a coalition of various, sometimes divergent, constituencies. In his 1965 essay From Protest to Politics, former SDUSA Chair Bayard Rustin wrote, “We need allies. The future of the Negro struggle depends on whether the contradictions of this society can be resolved by a coalition of progressive forces which becomes the effective political majority in the United States. I speak of the coalition which staged the March on Washington, passed the Civil Rights Act, and laid the basis for the Johnson landslide—Negroes, trade unionists, liberals, and religious groups”. As an SDUSA member, you must work to build a progressive coalition that becomes the MAJORITY in electoral politics. Otherwise, you’re just a protester.
The National Committee of SDUSA endorses Hillary Clinton for president. We also ask that you vote for a Democratic majority in the House and Senate. And we further ask that you support Democratic candidates down ticket at the state and local level. Building a coalition starts in your neighborhood. But it does not stop there. After we elect Hillary Clinton, we must hold the Democratic Party to its new platform. Electoral action is work, and that work never ends.
No SDUSA members attended the Democratic National Convention as delegates, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t present. SDUSA was represented among the thousands who gathered at FDR Park in Philadelphia to mount various rallies and protests. Our Vice Chair Michael Mottern (in the photo, on the left) tells me about the experience.
Rick: It sounds like FDR Park was the rallying point for all the various protest groups. Tell me about that.
Michael: Actually the meet-up location was City Hall. All the visiting groups were coordinated through philly.fyi. The field organizer was Jamhar James and he did a great job. The big march was on Sunday, from City Hall to FDR Park. FDR Park is across the road from Wells Fargo Center where the Democratic Convention was held. It was about a 3 ½ mile parade down Broad Street. The march included many different groups: socialists, environmentalists, black lives matter, legalizing pot, etc. Black Men for Bernie surprisingly had a very large presence. Altogether, I don’t know how many people were there; I’m no good at estimating crowds, but many thousands of people were there. The newspaper would give a better estimate.
Rick: The press liked to focus on some of the outlier groups, like the ones burning the US and Israeli flags. What was the general tone of the rallies?
Michael: I didn’t see any flag burning. It may have been a small group. There were so many people there, it would be easy to miss something. Overall, it was very peaceful. The police were very good. Polite, easy going. Based on what I saw at FDR Park, I would even say many of them were supportive.
Rick: We heard that hotel rooms were costing into the thousands of dollars during the convention. Protesters don’t have that kind of money.
Michael: I stayed at a cheap hotel on the other side of the river in Camden. Not a very safe area. But the hotel was full of protesters and we traveled on a bus to and from the hotel to Philly each day. We didn’t have any trouble and I met a lot of great people. Philly.fyi had bottled water to keep everyone hydrated and they had porta-johns everywhere. Maybe the city gave them the money to take care of the protesters? Philly.fyi did a great job. There were a lot of people that were trying to overnight in the park, but they weren’t allowed. Police had to evict them, but I didn’t hear of any violence or serious incidents. There were lots of food trucks for people to get something to eat, and Food Not Bombs was giving away hummus sandwiches and fresh vegetables. I and everyone else appreciated it.
Rick: How were your interactions with other socialist groups?
Michael: I spoke with some DSA people. They are kind of “cliquey”. They think highly of themselves. One said to me, “You guys are still around?” in a smart ass way. I also spoke with a member of Socialist Alternative. She asked me how we could have a Hillary voter as a member. I said, “We’re a democratic organization. We try to influence how our members vote, we don’t mandate how they vote”. She smirked and walked away. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of democratic centralism on the left.
Notes: Here is the website for philly.fyi.