Friday, 1 September 2017

My MP, Laura Pidcock, Has An Awful Lot To Learn, by David Lindsay

Laura Pidcock is my MP. I am almost alone among her constituents in having known her before she was imposed as the Labour candidate for North West Durham immediately before the General Election. As a firm left-winger myself, I have always got on with her, and I wish her well. But she has an awful lot to learn. 

“It never did Dennis Skinner any harm” is all well and good. But Skinner has never held a front bench position in 47 years and counting. Whereas the Constituency Labour Party here in North West Durham is accustomed to Ernest Armstrong, Hilary Armstrong and Pat Glass.

That CLP is now quite left-wing, having nominated Ed Miliband in 2010, Andy Burnham in 2015, and Jeremy Corbyn in 2016. But it had no say in the selection of Pidcock, and it barely campaigned for her. Instead, she bussed in the members of various Hard and Far Left networks, some of whom prided themselves on never having been members of the Labour Party (I left it many years ago, but that is another story). And now, she informs the nation that she could never be friends with a Tory. To her, they are “the enemy”. 

North West Durham is a mostly rural constituency in which the largest town is Consett. Consett has steelworking, rather than primarily mining, roots that in any case ended several years before Pidcock was born. This constituency’s, and not least that town’s, population is still fairly fixed, but it is now vastly more fluid that it was even at the turn of the century, and it is becoming more so all the time. 

While obviously this area is nowhere near back to its pre-Thatcher levels of prosperity, nevertheless it is visibly becoming more affluent, and it always did have quite sizeable pockets, so to speak. Thanks to a Corbyn effect that benefited candidates across the Labour Party, Labour did just about win over 50 per cent of the vote this year. But that had not happened since 2005, and a thumping great majority has not been seen since 2001. 

In the territory of the old Consett Urban District Council, Labour’s performance at local elections has been downright poor since as long ago as 2003. As a result, in its last years, Derwentside District Council remained under Labour Overall Control due to wards in the neighbouring North Durham constituency. That authority was run in practice, and rather well, by a de facto coalition between the mainstream left-wing Labour Leadership in Consett and the countryside, and a body of broadly Tory-inclined Independents.

All of those Independents were in North West Durham. Their Leader kept his deposit when he contested this parliamentary seat in 2005 and 2010. In 2005, he took 9.8 per cent of the vote. He remains a member of what is now the unitary Durham County Council, fewer than half of the members of which for this constituency are members of the Labour Party. 

Derwentside was a Labour council throughout its history, but the greater part of this constituency’s area, although the smaller part of its population, was in neighbouring Wear Valley. Between its last elections in 2007, and its abolition in 2009, that authority was under No Overall Control while being led by the Liberal Democrats. They had enjoyed Overall Control of it from 1991 to 1995.

At the 2010 General Election, the Lib Dems cut the Labour majority in half here. Even in 2015 and 2017, that same candidate, a well-known local figure, retained more than three thousand votes. This year, even a Conservative candidate with an address in Sussex managed 16,516 votes, or 34.5 per cent. It is quite something for a Member of Parliament to define more than one third of her constituents as “the enemy”. 

Of course, all that a parliamentary candidate needs to be is the First Past the Post. But having been imposed rather than selected in the first place, and then having made such a start in office, it is very far from clear that the 29-year-old Laura Pidcock can expect to be even that for the six, seven or eight electoral cycles that she and her social media cheerleaders seem to presuppose.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Labour Could Be Driven Out of County Durham, by David Lindsay

Late last year, Durham County Council’s Teaching Assistants, without whom primary schools in particular simply would not function, went on strike twice.

Theirs was and is the most important industrial dispute in Britain today. When was the last time that two thousand people in this country went on strike, and that twice in three weeks?

They had faced being sacked at Christmas and reappointed on a 23 per cent pay cut. That, despite being paid far less than their counterparts in neighbouring areas.

Meanwhile, the Council had written off its loan of £3.74 million to Durham County Cricket Club, which provides the most powerful Councillors and Officers with a private box.

The late Davey Hopper of the Durham Miners’ Association gave invaluable support until his sudden and untimely death last July. That Association retains considerable clout both locally and in the wider trade union movement. It continues to be central to the struggle.

The fabulous Durham Miners’ Hall has hosted rallies of a size and energy not seen since the Miners’ Strike, and the Teaching Assistants marched in their hundreds, to tumultuous applause, at last year’s Durham Miners’ Gala.

That is the largest festival of working-class culture in Europe, and 2016’s was itself the largest since the 1960s, with at least 150,000 present. The Teaching Assistants’ cause was endorsed from the platform by speaker after speaker, including the rapturously received Jeremy Corbyn.

All of this has led to a stay of execution. Fresh negotiations are ongoing, with those affected at last in the room. But the fight goes on, with enormous political ramifications.

Durham County Council was the first local authority of which Labour ever won Overall Control. That has never been lost, in more than 100 years. The Labour Group on that authority is the largest in local government.

But that Council is now the Mike Ashley of the public sector, and the twenty-first century version of Margaret Thatcher’s National Coal Board. This May, it should be taken to No Overall Control.

Very large numbers of Labour Councillors have absented themselves from the votes on this issue. But enough of them have attended to ensure that the Teaching Assistants have been betrayed.

The Councillors, all of them Labour, who have thus voted ought all to lose their seats to whoever was best placed to remove them, very preferably activists in the Teaching Assistants’ remarkable campaign.

Several have already announced their “retirement”, in one case at the ripe old age of 23. There will be more.

The Liberal Democrats and the Independents have been stalwart supporters of the Teaching Assistants. Therefore, they deserve to be re-elected. That leaves only the Labour absentees, plus a mere four Conservatives who abstained.

Whoever the new Leader and Deputy Leader of Durham County Council were to be, they must not be members of the Labour Party.

The Teaching Assistants’ flag, which is now ubiquitous in County Durham, must fly from County Hall every day for the following four years, at least.

This victory will rank alongside the election of Ken Livingstone as Mayor of London in 2000, the election of George Galloway (a strong supporter) as MP for Bethnal Green and Bow in 2005, Galloway’s election as MP for Bradford West in 2012, the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party in 2015, and Corbyn’s re-election in 2016.

Or, if you prefer, it will rank alongside any of the great Liberal Democrat by-election victories, or the election of Douglas Carswell in 2014, or his re-election in 2015, or the election of Mark Reckless in 2014, or the election and re-election of Caroline Lucas in 2010 and 2015, or the result of the referendum on EU membership.

That is not hyperbole. Labour’s loss of this unitary authority for half a million people would be very big news, and it would set the scene for the 2020 General Election.

For reasons that will by then be 25 years old, but which retain currency, I shall be contesting the new seat of Durham West and Teesdale, most of which is where Pat Glass MP will be retiring.

I shall be doing so without any party designation, not even the word “Independent”. I am not a member of any political party, but I am part of numerous overlapping networks of political interdependence, not least the Teaching Assistants’ campaign.

Since he has taken to reasserting himself in British politics, I challenge Tony Blair to declare that he is the Labour candidate for this open seat here in his old County Durham stomping ground. Either that, or to shut up and go away.

It is imperative that Grahame Morris, who has given the Teaching Assistants stalwart support, be re-elected at Easington. But there has been no such support from any of the other MPs who intend to stand again, all of whom are Labour.

Likewise without any description next to their names, candidates from among the Teaching Assistants, the Lions of Durham as once there were Lions of Grunwick, need to stand against those MPs, and they need to be sent to a House of Commons that their presence would transform.

A similar dispute is ongoing in Derby, where the former MP Chris Williamson needs to return to Parliament for whichever constituency he chose, and where, again, Teaching Assistants or their supporters need to be elected on this same basis for every other seat.

The Liberal Democrats are on course to deprive the Conservatives of dozens of Remain-voting constituencies in the South.

Aside from this dispute, at parliamentary elections in the North, Labour’s support holds up enough to win under First Past the Post.

That system will also secure the SNP’s continued strength in Scotland. Wales will still be pretty much as it has always been. All bets are now off in Northern Ireland.

A hung Parliament in 2020 is a very distinct possibility. I fully intend to be there. We should all want the Durham and Derby Teaching Assistants to be there.

Let’s make it happen.

Monday, 9 January 2017

The Democratic Party Line That Could Torch Civil Liberties… and Maybe Help Blow Up the World, by Norman Solomon

Many top Democrats are stoking a political firestorm.

We keep hearing that Russia attacked democracy by hacking into Democratic officials’ emails and undermining Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Instead of candidly assessing key factors such as longtime fealty to Wall Street that made it impossible for her to ride a populist wave, the party line has increasingly circled around blaming Vladimir Putin for her defeat.

Of course partisan spinners aren’t big on self-examination, especially if they’re aligned with the Democratic Party’s dominant corporate wing. 

And the option of continually fingering the Kremlin as the main villain of a 2016 morality play is clearly too juicy for functionary Democrats to pass up -- even if that means scorching civil liberties and escalating a new cold war that could turn radioactively hot.

Much of the current fuel for the blame-Russia blaze has to do with the horrifying reality that Donald Trump will soon become president. Big media outlets are blowing oxygen into the inferno. 

But the flames are also being fanned by people who should know better.

Consider the Boston Globe article that John Shattuck -- a former Washington legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union -- wrote in mid-December. 

A specter of treason hovers over Donald Trump,” the civil libertarian wrote

“He has brought it on himself by dismissing a bipartisan call for an investigation of Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee as a ‘ridiculous’ political attack on the legitimacy of his election as president.”

As quickly pointed out by Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at New York University, raising the specter of treason “is simply wrong” -- and “its wrongness matters, not just because hyperbole always weakens argument, but because the carefully restricted definition of the crime of treason is essential to protecting free speech and the freedom of association.”

Is Shattuck’s piece a mere outlier? 

Sadly, no. 

Although full of gaping holes, it reflects a substantial portion of the current liberal zeitgeist. 

And so the argument that Shattuck made was carried forward into the new year by Robert Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect, who approvingly quoted Shattuck’s article in a Jan. 1 piece that flatly declared: “In his dalliance with Vladimir Putin, Trump’s actions are skirting treason.”

The momentum of fully justified loathing for Trump has drawn some normally level-headed people into untenable -- and dangerous -- positions. 

The “treason” approach that Shattuck and Kuttner have embraced is particularly ironic and misplaced, given that Trump’s current course will soon make him legally deserving of impeachment due to extreme conflicts of interest that are set to violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.

Among the admirable progressives who supported Bernie’s presidential campaign but have succumbed to Russia-baiting of Trump are former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and Congressman Keith Ellison, who is a candidate for chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Last week, in a widely circulated post on his Facebook page, Reich wrote: “Evidence continues to mount that Trump is on Putin’s side.” 

But Reich’s list of “evidence” hardly made the case that Trump “is on Putin’s side,” whatever that means.

A day later, when Trump tweeted a favorable comment about Putin, Rep. Ellison quickly echoed Democratic Party orthodoxy with a tweet

Praising a foreign leader for undermining our democracy is a slap in the face to all who have served our country.”

Some of Putin’s policies are abhorrent, and criticizing his regime should be fair game as much as criticizing any other. 

At the same time, “do as we say, not as we do” isn’t apt to put the United States on high moral ground. 

The U.S. government has used a wide repertoire of regime change tactics including direct meddling in elections, and Uncle Sam has led the world in cyberattacks.

Intervention in the election of another country is categorically wrong. 

It’s also true that -- contrary to conventional U.S. wisdom at this point -- we don’t know much about a Russian role in last year’s election. 

We should not forget the long history of claims from agencies such as the CIA that turned out to be misleading or downright false.

Late last week, when the Obama administration released a drum-rolled report on the alleged Russian hacking, Democratic partisans and mainline journalists took it as something akin to gospel. 

But the editor of ConsortiumNews.com, former Associated Press and Newsweek reporter Robert Parry, wrote an assessment concluding that the latest report “again failed to demonstrate that there is any proof behind U.S. allegations that Russia both hacked into Democratic emails and distributed them via WikiLeaks to the American people.”

Even if the Russian government did intervene in the U.S. election by hacking emails and publicizing them, key questions remain. Such as:

* Do we really want to escalate a new cold war with a country that has thousands of nuclear weapons? 
* Do we really want a witch-hunting environment here at home, targeting people with views that have some overlap with Kremlin positions?
* Can the president of Russia truly “undermine our democracy” -- or aren’t the deficits of democracy in the United States overwhelmingly self-inflicted from within the U.S. borders?

It’s so much easier to fixate on Putin as a villainous plotter against our democracy instead of directly taking on our country’s racist and class biases, its structural mechanisms that relentlessly favor white and affluent voters, its subservience to obscene wealth and corporate power.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about refusing to normalize the Trump presidency. 

And that’s crucial. 

Yet we should also push back against normalizing the deflection of outrage at the U.S. political system’s chronic injustices and horrendous results -- deflection that situates the crux of the problem in a foreign capital instead of our own. 

We should reject the guidance of politicians and commentators who are all too willing to throw basic tenets of civil liberties overboard, while heightening the risks of brinkmanship that could end with the two biggest nuclear powers blowing up the world.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of the online activist group RootsAction.org. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Media Complicity Is Key to Blacklisting Websites, by Norman Solomon

We still don’t have any sort of apology or retraction from the Washington Post for promoting “The List” -- the highly dangerous blacklist that got a huge boost from the newspaper’s fawning coverage on November 24.

The project of smearing 200 websites with one broad brush wouldn’t have gotten far without the avid complicity of high-profile media outlets, starting with the Post

On Thursday -- a week after the Post published its front-page news article hyping the blacklist that was put out by a group of unidentified people called PropOrNot -- I sent a petition statement to the newspaper’s executive editor Martin Baron.

“Smearing is not reporting,” the RootsAction petition says. 

“The Washington Post’s recent descent into McCarthyism -- promoting anonymous and shoddy claims that a vast range of some 200 websites are all accomplices or tools of the Russian government -- violates basic journalistic standards and does real harm to democratic discourse in our country. 

“We urge the Washington Post to prominently retract the article and apologize for publishing it.” 

After mentioning that 6,000 people had signed the petition (the number has doubled since then), my email to Baron added:

“If you skim through the comments that many of the signers added to the petition online, I think you might find them to be of interest. 

“I wonder if you see a basis for dialogue on the issues raised by critics of the Post piece in question.” 

The reply came from the newspaper’s vice president for public relations, Kristine Coratti Kelly, who thanked me “for reaching out to us” before presenting the Post’s response, quoted here in full:

“The Post reported on the work of four separate sets of researchers, as well as independent experts, who have examined Russian attempts to influence American democracy. PropOrNot was one.

“The Post did not name any of the sites on PropOrNot’s list of organizations that it said had -- wittingly or unwittingly -- published or echoed Russian propaganda. 

“The Post reviewed PropOrNot's findings and our questions about them were answered satisfactorily during the course of multiple interviews.”

But that damage-control response was as full of holes as the news story it tried to defend.

For one thing, PropOrNot wasn’t just another source for the Post’s story. 

As The New Yorker noted in a devastating article on Dec. 1, the story “prominently cited the PropOrNot research.” 

The Post’s account “had the force of revelation, thanks in large part to the apparent scientific authority of PropOrNot’s work: the group released a 32-page report detailing its methodology, and named names with its list of 200 suspect news outlets…. But a close look at the report showed that it was a mess.” 

Contrary to the PR message from the Post vice president, PropOrNot did not merely say that the sites on its list had “published or echoed Russian propaganda.” 

Without a word of the slightest doubt or skepticism in the entire story, the Post summarized PropOrNot’s characterization of all the websites on its list as falling into two categories: 

“Some players in this online echo chamber were knowingly part of the propaganda campaign, the researchers concluded, while others were ‘useful idiots’ -- a term born of the Cold War to describe people or institutions that unknowingly assisted Soviet Union propaganda efforts.”

As The New Yorker pointed out, PropOrNot’s criteria for incriminating content were broad enough to include “nearly every news outlet in the world, including the Post itself.” 

Yet “The List” is not a random list by any means -- it’s a targeted mish-mash, naming websites that are not within shouting distance of the U.S. corporate and foreign policy establishment.

And so the list includes a few overtly Russian-funded outlets; some other sites generally aligned with Kremlin outlooks; many pro-Trump sites, often unacquainted with what it means to be factual and sometimes overtly racist; and other websites that are quite different -- solid, factual, reasonable -- but too progressive or too anti-capitalist or too libertarian or too right-wing or just plain too independent-minded for the evident tastes of whoever is behind PropOrNot. 

As The New Yorker’s writer Adrian Chen put it: 

“To PropOrNot, simply exhibiting a pattern of beliefs outside the political mainstream is enough to risk being labeled a Russian propagandist.” 

And he concluded: 

“Despite the impressive-looking diagrams and figures in its report, PropOrNot’s findings rest largely on innuendo and conspiracy thinking.” 

As for the Post vice president’s defensive phrasing that “the Post did not name any of the sites on PropOrNot’s list,” the fact is that the Post unequivocally promoted PropOrNot, driving web traffic to its site and adding a hotlink to the anonymous group’s 32-page report soon after the newspaper’s story first appeared. 

As I mentioned in my reply to her: 

Unfortunately, it's kind of like a newspaper saying that it didn't name any of the people on the Red Channels blacklist in 1950 while promoting it in news coverage, so no problem.” 

As much as the Post news management might want to weasel out of the comparison, the parallels to the advent of the McCarthy Era are chilling. 

For instance, the Red Channels list, with 151 names on it, was successful as a weapon against dissent and free speech in large part because, early on, so many media outlets of the day actively aided and abetted blacklisting, as the Post has done for “The List.” 

Consider how the Post story described the personnel of PropOrNot in favorable terms even while hiding all of their identities and thus shielding them from any scrutiny -- calling them “a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds.”

So far The New Yorker has been the largest media outlet to directly confront the Post’s egregious story. Cogent assessments can also be found at The InterceptConsortium NewsCommon DreamsAlterNetRolling StoneFortuneCounterPunchThe Nation and numerous other sites. 

But many mainline journalists and outlets jumped at the chance to amplify the Post’s piece of work. A sampling of the cheers from prominent journalists and liberal partisans was published by FAIR.org under the apt headline “Why Are Media Outlets Still Citing Discredited ‘Fake News’ Blacklist?” 

FAIR’s media analyst Adam Johnson cited enthusiastic responses to the bogus story from journalists like Bloomberg’s Sahil Kupar and MSNBC’s Joy Reid -- and such outlets as USA Today, Gizmodo, the PBS NewsHour, The Daily BeastSlateAPThe Verge and NPR, which “all uncritically wrote up the Post’s most incendiary claims with little or minimal pushback.” 

On the MSNBC site, the Rachel Maddow Show's blog added another breathless write-up hours later, repeating the catchy talking point that ‘it was like Russia was running a super PAC for Trump’s campaign. 

With so many people understandably upset about Trump’s victory, there’s an evident attraction to blaming the Kremlin, a convenient scapegoat for Hillary Clinton’s loss. 

But the Post’s blacklisting story and the media’s amplification of it -- and the overall political environment that it helps to create -- are all building blocks for a reactionary order, threatening the First Amendment and a range of civil liberties. 

When liberals have green lighted a witch-hunt, right wingers have been pleased to run with it. President Harry Truman issued an executive order in March 1947 to establish “loyalty” investigations in every agency of the federal government. 

Joe McCarthy and the era named after him were soon to follow. 

In media and government, the journalists and officials who enable blacklisting are cravenly siding with conformity instead of democracy.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of the online activist group RootsAction.org. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

In Resistance to Trump, “Community” Should Be a Verb, by Norman Solomon

Against a Trump regime that is totally unacceptable, we’ll need resistance that’s sustainable.

Like a healthy forest, the resistance will depend on great diversity to thrive -- a wide range of people engaging in a vast array of activities.

And our resistance will need community.

I’m not talking about the facile gloss of the word “community” that often follows an adjective denoting race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

The kinds of community that will make ongoing resistance possible have little to do with demographic categories.

The most powerful, most vital bonding will be transcendently human.

Facing a Trump presidency, we’ll have an imperative opportunity to go deeper as individuals and groups of people working together -- nurturing and growing the social, cultural and political strength that can overcome the Trump regime.

Our resistance has got to be broadly inclusive, offering and inspiring a great variety of nonviolent tactics and approaches, whether they emerge with a few people around a kitchen table or with many thousands of people at a public protest.

The strength of the united front that we need will depend on the extent of truly cooperative efforts.

Trump and his allies have already injected huge quantities of toxins into the body politic, with much more on the way. The antidote is democratic engagement from the grassroots.

Right now, as the new regime rolls out its top henchmen, early steps include doing all we can to block Trump’s horrendous Cabinet picks.

To challenge the enemies of democracy who have gained power, we’re just getting started.

What’s at stake for U.S. society includes basic social decency, human rights, economic justice, civil liberties, rule of law -- in short, democracy. Also at stake: climate change, nuclear weapons, the fate of the earth.

Trump has clearly shown his intention to destroy many decades of progress for the rights of women, people of color, Muslims, undocumented immigrants and many other people, while tightening the knot of the corporate state and the warfare state.

From Wall Street to Pennsylvania Avenue to the Pentagon, the purveyors of mega-corporate technocracy, oligarchy and militarism have given “power” a bad name. 

And yet the solution to anti-democratic power is power -- truly democratic power -- from the grassroots, from the bottom up -- really our only hope. 

From protests and electoral work to public education and lobbying and legal interventions and so many other forms of organizing and activism, countless essential tasks await us. 

During the presidency of Popular-Vote Loser Trump -- maybe more profoundly than at any other time in our lifetimes -- we’ll need each other to make resistance personally sustainable, socially viable and political effective.

This is all about energizing ourselves and each other, now and for the long haul.

That’s why community should be a verb.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of the online activist group RootsAction.org. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

For The Trump Era: Fight Not Flight, by Norman Solomon

A lot of U.S citizens are now talking about leaving the country. Canada, Europe and New Zealand are popular scenarios.

Moving abroad might be an individual solution. But the social solution is to stay and put up a fight.

The most right-wing U.S. government in our lifetimes will soon have its executive and legislative branches under reactionary control, with major ripple effects on the judiciary.

All the fixings for a dystopian future will be on the table. In a realistic light, the outlook is awfully grim. 

No wonder a huge number of people in the United States are struggling with mixtures of grief, anger, frustration, fear. 

If Donald Trump and major forces backing him get their way, the conditions described by Frederick Douglass -- still all too prevalent now -- will worsen in the years ahead:

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

As James Baldwin wrote, “People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.”

Those quotes from Douglass and Baldwin are in a book of paintings by Robert Shetterly, Americans Who Tell the Truth

Another portrait in the collection appears under these words from Helen Keller:

“When one comes to think of it, there are no such things as divine, immutable, or inalienable rights. Rights are things we get when we are strong enough to make good our claim on them.” 

That statement from Keller aptly describes our current predicament and possibilities. 

The impending Trump presidency is a direct threat to basic human rights. 

To make good our claim on those rights will require that we become “strong enough,” individually and collectively. 

Gaining such strength will require that we provide much more support for independent progressive institutions -- the array of organizations that can serve as collective bulwarks against the momentum of systemic greed, bigotry, massive violence, economic exploitation and environmental destruction. 

We’re now being flung into a new era that will intensify many of the oppressive aspects of the U.S. governmental apparatus and political economy. 

An ongoing imperative will be to mitigate serious-to-catastrophic damage in many realms. 

We need a united front -- against the very real threat of severe repression that could morph into some form of fascism. 

At this highly precarious time, progressives certainly don’t need the tempests of factional disputes and ideological battles. 

And we certainly don’t need the kind of reflexive capitulation that so often comes from the upper reaches of the Democratic Party.

We’re at the start of a protracted crisis that could become cataclysmic.

We need progressive unity and unrelenting determination.

Only with eyes wide open do we have a real chance to understand clearly and organize effectively against the Trump regime.

Failure to put up a fight should be unthinkable.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of the online activist group RootsAction.org. His books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Dear Democrats, by Matthew Cooper

Dear Democrats,

I know you’re feeling pretty bummed today. Well, I don’t blame you. You just lost the House, the Senate and the White House – all three in the same night. 

But you’re not alone: I feel the same way. And I bet the last thing you’ll want to hear right now is an angry lefty blogger telling you ‘I told you so’. 

But if you don’t want this to happen again, please, please hear me out.

I’m a ‘white’ (see below), male, Christian millennial, and an economically left-of-center Wisconsin native on the very bottom rung of the middle class. 

For clarification, I live in an apartment, have no credit score, and spent the last year and a half functionally unemployed and separated from my family. 

I am exactly the sort of voter you couldn’t afford to lose, and you not only lost me, but you actively chased me away for genuinely believing in the important things that Obama represented when he came to office in 2008: a realist foreign policy, a rejection of needless austerity measures and voodoo economics, universal health care, a fair and stable economy that works for everyone rather than just the privileged few. 

As such, I went third-party.

But at certain points I was tempted, and could very easily have, gone over to the bloviating orange-faced grifter in anger and frustration, as many in my respective demographics did.

For a little bit of personal context, I write this as, last night, I got a letter back from my DFL senator Amy Klobuchar, who – when I wrote expressing my concerns that either this administration or the next would get us into a potentially disastrous war with Russia, and asking her what she planned to do about it – sent me back a form letter that says absolutely nothing pertinent about my question, but talked about the need for ‘targeted strikes’ against Daesh and the need to welcome Syrian refugees into Minnesota. 

As a result, I went to sleep thinking the Democrats deserved to lose all the way across the board in this election. And boy oh boy, last night did you ever get it. 

And you know what? I’m nowhere near close to happy about that fact.

Why am I not happy? Well, where to begin?

Trump has no intention of doing a damn thing to protect the interests of people like me, let alone the folks worse off than me: the white working stiffs who gave him their votes, and who would be well-served by things Trump has no interest in – like a reformed money system that doesn’t take us back to the dark ages, and decent, publicly-managed infrastructure and services.

For another thing, I belong to the (((wrong kind))) of white people. For yet another thing, I’m married to a Chinese immigrant who came here legally. 

I know the rhetoric is that Trump only cares about getting rid of illegal immigrants, but for some reason I doubt either he or his supporters are willing to countenance such minutiae in practice.

For still another thing, I happen to have a deep affection for Iran, her civilization, her art and her people, whereas Trump sees them all as terrorists and wants to go to war with them over ‘rude gestures’. 

So here’s a bit of real talk from a realist. 

If you don’t want another election result like this one (and I know I don’t), perhaps you’ll listen to me. 

But I’m going to break it down point-by-point. 

1.) Cut the ‘narrative’ bullshit. 

Give us the policies. I don’t want to hear, and I honestly couldn’t care less, about how hard Clinton had it coming up through the Walmart executive ranks, or about how women ‘identify’ with her.  

But that’s a huge portion of what I heard from the Salon, Vox, Jezebel and New York Times crowd in this election cycle – how she’s always faced a double standard in her career, how she should be given a break because she’s a woman, and how I personally am a sexist for disagreeing with her policies.  

Well, you know what? I give women way more credit than that. I think most adult women can handle a few tough questions about policy, no?

Which leads me to my next few points:

2.) Stop supporting the damn bankers.  

Let’s get back to basics. Stop taking their donations and their endorsements. They’re clearly not doing you any good.

Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, CitiGroup and the rest of them clearly don’t give a damn about us in flyover country.

So how does it look to us when our representatives and senators do everything they can to bail them out, and don’t lift a finger to help us out with our credit problems? And believe me, we still have credit problems. 

Don’t tell us that Bernie’s plans for reforming the banks and providing public postal savings banking are somehow pie-in-the-sky, or aren’t feasible, or aren’t realistic.

I’ve lived in China – I did research on the PSBC for Positive Planet China, for crying out loud.

I know for a fact how well they work for rural people, especially when they are compared side-by-side with the big privately-owned banks. 

What’s lacking isn’t know-how.

What’s lacking is political will, and the big bankers stole that from you a long time ago with the temptations of lucre.

3.) Take a better stand on providing decent public goods. 

 You know, like health insurance

Practically every other nation with an advanced economy – and even several others without – have universal health care policies that work just fine and that most people are happy with.

Hillary Clinton’s new-public-management muddling, triangulation and incrementalism are precisely the wrong kind of signal that needs to be sent in a campaign season when ordinary folks are worried about their premiums going up, and not being able to afford the privatized health insurance plans that you made them buy.

4.) Support domestic manufacturing. And actually listen to the unions while you’re at it. 

Boy, you really screwed the pooch on this one, and you let Trump outflank you from the left.  

If you want to win us back in the slippery Midland states of Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania, well, this is how you do it. 

Again, it’s not a matter of ‘can’t be done’ – we have plenty of need for actual things in this country that people want to buy. Including high-tech things.

We don’t need to outsource manufacturing to make those things for ourselves at an affordable cost.

We just need the manufacturers to accept slightly-lower profit margins instead of chasing down the cheapest possible Southeast Asian near-slave labor.

We could create a domestic manufacturing boom tomorrow by shunting some of our misbegotten military budget into, say, NASA and space exploration, and give guarantees to laid-off contract workers that they can take their union benefits straight into those space jobs.

And no, I’m afraid extraction-based boondoggles that ship overseasdon’t count as supporting domestic manufacturing.

Or, better yet:

5.) Write a job-guarantee policy.

Set out a plan to actually implement Humphrey-Hawkins Act which is already on the books – a solid piece of Democratic legislative craft which deserves to have a far more distinguished legacy than it does.

Putting Humphrey-Hawkins into practice will involve some necessary changes to monetary policy, though, be forewarned – and in the short run those changes may be fairly painful.

But the long-term benefits will be very, very much appreciated by the people whose votes you ought to be trying to win.

6.) Stop getting us into all these hare-brained wars. 

Stop rattling the saber with Russia over a former piece of the Ukraine that isn’t going back anytime soon. 

Stop funding and arming the Saudis – they’ll just sell the weapons to crazy people. 

Stop bombing the Houthis, the Pakistanis and the Afghans. 

Stop supporting color revolutions and ‘soft coups’.

Stop saying ‘Assad must go’ when clearly he isn’t going anywhere.

Stop creating needless refugee crises that we then have to ‘fix’ by (selectively) opening our borders.

Stop making Trump – a man who, may I remind you, wants to go to war with Iran over ‘rude gestures’ – look like a voice of reason on foreign affairs!

7.) Allow room in your party for pro-lifers.

You don’t ever need to lose another election if you stop worshipping at the altar of Moloch. I’m completely serious about this.

Every single one of those Western European social democracies you profess to admire so much has far more stringent legal restrictions on abortion, particularly late-term ones, than we do – and they provide first-class health care and welfare services for new mothers.

The future working-class demographic shouldn’t be artificially and brutally pruned with eugenic family-planning policies designed by the upper class, and we’re not monstrous misogynists or the enemies of women for saying so.

8.) Stop hating on gun owners. 

I’m all for common-sense restrictions and gun licenses that keep guns out of the hands of criminals, the same way and for the same reason we keep cars out of the hands of drunks.

But guns are a tool, just like cars are. The fact of owning a gun doesn’t make one a child murderer or a brute or a troglodyte.

But generally:

9.) Stop telling people you disagree with to FOAD. 

Dismissing people as ‘racists’ for failing to conform to the latest highfalutin academic missives on white privilege might make you feel good and virtuous, but for obvious reasons, it’s not good politics in any sort of representative system of government.

Same with calling people ‘sexists’ or ‘bros’ for daring to oppose a woman with bad policies, on the grounds that her policies suck

Same with telling millennials that they’re being spoiled brats for supporting a politician with actual values. 

Same with ganging up on people on Twitter to shout them down for tacky fashion choices

Same with trying to get people fired from their jobs for disagreeing with you. 

Cut that classist bullshit right out.

Well, there it is. 

If you don’t want this to happen again, then may I humbly suggest you get back to the values that you once stood for. 

Bernie Sanders, who would have wiped the floor with Trump in the states you needed to win, left you a signpost, even if he didn’t take that road all the way.

It’s up to you to follow it now.

Sincerely,

Matthew

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Dangerous Myths About Trump That Some Progressives Cling To, by Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon

Even now, in the last days of this horrendous campaign, we’re amazed by fervent assertions coming from some progressives about Donald Trump. Here are three key myths:

Myth #1: “Trump can’t win.”

The popularity of this illusion has waned, but still remains remarkably stubborn.

This week the polling has moved in Trump’s direction. Several battleground states that were close now seem to be trending toward Trump, including Ohio.

A couple weeks ago, the respected forecasters at Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website gave Trump a 12 or 13 percent chance of becoming president. Now it’s a 1 in 3 chance.

Myth #2: “If Trump becomes president, he’ll be blocked from implementing the policies he’s been advocating.” 

Some progressives have apparently convinced themselves of this comforting thought. 

One longtime Green Party activist claimed in an email a few days ago: “Trump would not be allowed by the ruling class or by us to actually implement his retrograde domestic social policies.” 

Such claims from self-described radicals involve a notable faith in the ruling class that we don’t share. 

And let’s not have an inflated view of our own power to block the policies of a President Trump.

Myth #3: “Trump couldn’t do much damage as president.” (Variation on Myth #3: “Trump is no more dangerous in the White House than Hillary Clinton.”) 

If progressives watched Fox News a bit more, they’d understand that Trump plans to appoint to the most powerful policy positions of the U.S. government individuals who are as whacked out as he is: Rudy Giuliani, Dr. Ben Carson, war fanatic John Bolton, to name just a few.

And hundreds like them to other top posts. (Clinton surrounds herself with corporatists and hawks, but overall they’re a less virulent strain.) 

A Trump presidency -- made possible by his demagogic appeals to racism, misogyny, immigrant-bashing and Islamophobia -- would empower the worst elements of U.S. society. 

That’s why an official Ku Klux Klan newspaper, the Crusader, devoted its latest front page entirely to supporting Trump. 

These forces are already in motion, as Politico on Wednesday with this headline:

“White nationalists plot Election Day show of force; KKK, neo-Nazis and militias plan to monitor urban polling places and suppress the black vote.” 

We have no illusions about Hillary Clinton. 

Neither one of us live in a swing state (we’re residents of New York and California where Clinton leads in each state by 20 percent); in our “safe states,” we’re voting for Jill Stein of the Green Party. 

But if we lived in a swing state, we would vote for Clinton as the only way to prevent a Trump presidency

Because it’s the state-by-state electoral votes, not the popular votes, that determine who will inhabit the White House. 

As Noam Chomsky said in May:

“If Clinton is nominated and it comes to a choice between Clinton and Trump, in a swing state, a state where it’s going to matter which way you vote, I would vote against Trump, and by elementary arithmetic, that means you hold your nose and you vote Democrat. 

“I don’t think there’s any other rational choice. Abstaining from voting or, say, voting for, say, a candidate you prefer, a minority candidate, just amounts to a vote for Donald Trump, which I think is a devastating prospect.”

Which are the crucial swing states? 

The latest assessment from FiveThirtyEight points toward these dozen states as potentially decisive: Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Other pollsters include Arizona, Georgia and Iowa as battleground states.

We need clarity and not mythology about the threat of a Trump presidency.

Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon are the co-founders of RootsAction.org.