Thursday, 25 August 2016

The Debut of Our Revolution: Great Potential. But., by Norman Solomon

While Bernie Sanders was doing a brilliant job of ripping into the Trans-Pacific Partnership during the livestreamed launch of the Our Revolution organization on Wednesday night, CNN was airing a phone interview with Hillary Clinton and MSNBC was interviewing Donald Trump’s campaign manager.

That sums up the contrast between the enduring value of the Bernie campaign and the corporate media’s fixation on the political establishment.

Fortunately, Our Revolution won’t depend on mainline media. That said, the group’s debut foreshadowed not only great potential but also real pitfalls.

Even the best election campaigns aren’t really “movements.” Ideally, campaigns strengthen movements and vice versa.

As Bernie has often pointed out, essential changes don’t come from Congress simply because of who has been elected; those changes depend on strong grassroots pressure for the long haul.

It’s all to the good that Our Revolution is encouraging progressives around the country to plan far ahead for effective electoral races, whether for school board, city council, state legislature or Congress.

Too many progressives have treated election campaigns as impulse items, like candy bars in a checkout line.

Opportunities await for campaigns that might be well-funded much as Bernie’s presidential race was funded, from many small online donations.

But except for presidential races, the politics of elections are overwhelmingly local -- and therein lies a hazard for Our Revolution.

A unified set of positions nationwide can be helpful; likewise publicity and fundraising for candidates across state borders.

But sometimes hidden in plain sight is a basic fact: National support does not win local elections. Local grassroots support does.

Backing from Our Revolution will be close to worthless unless people are deeply engaged with long-term activism in local communities -- building relationships, actively supporting a wide range of sustained progressive efforts, developing the basis for an election campaign that (win or lose on Election Day) will strengthen movements.

Sooner or later, some kind of culture clash is likely to emerge when social-change activists get involved in a serious election campaign.

Running for office involves priorities that diverge from some tendencies of movement activism (as I learned when running for Congress four years ago).

The urgencies and practicalities of election campaigns aren’t always compatible with how grassroots progressive groups tend to function.

As a 501c4 organization, Our Revolution won’t be running campaigns.

Instead, it’ll raise funds and provide support for campaigns while being legally prohibited from “coordinating” with them.

And -- most imminently with the urgent need to stop the TPP in Congress during the lame-duck session -- Our Revolution could make a big difference in pressuring lawmakers on key issues.

Overall, the livestreaming debut of Our Revolution continued a terrific legacy from the Bernie campaign of educating and agitating with vital progressive positions on such crucial matters as economic justice, institutional racism, climate change, Wall Street, corporate trade deals and health care.

But throughout Our Revolution’s livestream, war went unmentioned. So did Pentagon spending. So did corporate profiteering from the massive U.S. military budget.

In that sense, the evening was a step backward for Bernie.

After virtually ignoring foreign policy and military-related issues during his campaign’s early months last summer, he gradually criticized Hillary Clinton’s record of supporting regime change.

In early spring, during the New York primary campaign, he laudably called for evenhanded policies toward Israel and Palestinians.

Although he never delivered more than occasional and brief glancing blows at the military-industrial complex during the campaign, Bernie did offer some valuable critiques of foreign policy.

But from the debut of Our Revolution, including Bernie’s 49-minute speech, you wouldn’t have a clue that the United States is completing its fifteenth year of continuous warfare, with no end in sight.

Now, sadly, there may be a need to reactivate the petition headlined “Bernie Sanders, Speak Up: Militarism and Corporate Power Are Fueling Each Other,” which 25,000 people signed on a RootsAction webpage 12 months ago:

Senator Sanders, we are enthusiastic about your presidential campaign’s strong challenge to corporate power and oligarchy.

We urge you to speak out about how they are intertwined with militarism and ongoing war.

Martin Luther King Jr. denounced what he called ‘the madness of militarism,’ and you should do the same. 

As you said in your speech to the SCLC, ‘Now is not the time for thinking small.’ 

Unwillingness to challenge the madness of militarism is thinking small.”

As the petition page noted, Dr. King “explicitly and emphatically linked the issues of economic injustice at home with war abroad.”

In a society desperately needing “adequate funds for programs of economic equity and social justice,” the challenge remains clear:

“Overcoming militarism is just as vital as overcoming oligarchy. We won’t be able to do one without the other.”

If Bernie and Our Revolution continue to evade the present-day realities of “the madness of militarism,” their political agenda will be significantly more limited than what our revolution requires for a truly progressive future.

Norman Solomon, national coordinator of the Bernie Delegates Network, is co-founder of the online activist group 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, 23 August 2016

Clinton’s Transition Team: A Corporate Presidency Foretold, by Norman Solomon

Like other Bernie Sanders delegates in Philadelphia a few weeks ago, I kept hearing about the crucial need to close ranks behind Hillary Clinton. 

“Unity” was the watchword. But Clinton has reaffirmed her unity with corporate America.

Rhetoric aside, Clinton is showing her solidarity with the nemesis of the Sanders campaign -- Wall Street. 

The trend continued last week with the announcement that Clinton has tapped former senator and Interior secretary Ken Salazar to chair her transition team.

After many months of asserting that her support for the “gold standard” Trans-Pacific Partnership was a thing of the past -- and after declaring that she wants restrictions on fracking so stringent that it could scarcely continue -- Clinton has now selected a vehement advocate for the TPP and for fracking, to coordinate the process of staffing the top of her administration.

But wait, there’s more -- much more than Salazar’s record -- to tell us where the planning for the Hillary Clinton presidency is headed.

On the surface, it might seem like mere inside baseball to read about the transition team’s four co-chairs, described by Politico as “veteran Clinton aides Maggie Williams and Neera Tanden” along with “former National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.” 

But the leaders of the transition team -- including Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, who is also president of the Clinton-Kaine Transition Project -- will wield enormous power.

“The transition team is one of the absolute most important things in the world for a new administration,” says William K. Black, who has held key positions at several major regulatory agencies such as the Federal Home Loan Bank Board.

Along with “deciding what are we actually going to make our policy priorities,” the transition team will handle key questions: 

“Who will the top people be? Who are we going to vet, to hold all of the cabinet positions, and many non-cabinet positions, as well? The whole staffing of the senior leadership of the White House.”

Salazar, Podesta and the transition team’s four co-chairs is withering.

“These aren't just DNC regulars, Democratic National Committee regulars,” he said in an interview with The Real News Network.

“What you're seeing is complete domination by what used to be the Democratic Leadership Council. So this was a group we talked about in the past.

“Very, very, very right-wing on foreign policy, what they called a muscular foreign policy, which was a euphemism for invading places.

“And very, very tough on crime -- this was that era of mass incarceration that Bill Clinton pushed, and it's when Hillary was talking about black ‘superpredators,’ this myth, this so dangerous myth.”

Black added:

“And on the economic side, they were all in favor of austerity. All in favor of privatization. Tried to do a deal with Newt Gingrich to privatize Social Security. And of course, were all in favor of things like NAFTA.”

As for Hillary Clinton’s widely heralded “move to the left” in recent months, Black said that it “was purely calculated for political purposes. 

“And all of the team that's going to hire all the key people and vet the key people for the most senior positions for at least the first several years of what increasingly looks likely to be a Clinton administration are going to be picked by these people, who are the opposite of progressive.”

In that light, Salazar is a grotesquely perfect choice to chair the transition team. 

fter all of Clinton’s efforts to present herself as a foe of the big-money doors that revolve between influence peddlers and government officials in Washington, her choice of Salazar -- a partner at the lobbying powerhouse WilmerHale since 2013 -- belies her smooth words. 

That choice means the oil and gas industry just hit a political gusher.

On both sides of the revolving doors, the industry has been ably served by Salazar, whose work included arguing for the Keystone XL pipeline. His support for fracking has been so ardent that it led him two years ago to make a notably fanciful claim: “We know that, from everything we’ve seen, there’s not a single case where hydraulic fracking has created an environmental problem for anyone.”

Salazar is part of a clear pattern. Clinton’s selection of Tim Kaine for vice president underscored why so many progressives distrust her. 

Kaine was among just one-quarter of Democrats in the Senate who voted last year to fast track the TPP. 

When he was Virginia’s governor, Kaine said that “I strongly support” a so-called right-to-work law that is anathema to organized labor.

A few years ago he faulted fellow Democrats who sought to increase taxes for millionaires.

Clinton announced the Kaine pick while surely knowing that many progressives would find it abhorrent.

A week beforehand, the Bernie Delegates Network released the results of a survey of Sanders delegates showing that 88 percent said they would find selection of Kaine “unacceptable.” 

Only 3 percent of the several hundred respondents said it would be “acceptable.”

The first big post-election showdown will be over the TPP in the lame-duck session of Congress.

Clinton’s spokesman Brian Fallon reiterated a week ago that “she is against the TPP before the election and after the election.” 

But her choices for running mate and transition team have sent a very different message. 

And it’s likely that she is laying groundwork to convey anemic “opposition” that will be understood on Capitol Hill as a wink-and-nod from a president-elect who wouldn’t mind “aye” votes for the TPP.

Blessed with an unhinged and widely deplored Republican opponent, Hillary Clinton may be able to defeat him without doing much to mend fences with alienated Sanders voters.

But Clinton’s smooth rhetoric should not change the fact that -- on a vast array of issues -- basic principles will require progressives to fight against her actual policy goals, every step of the way.

Norman Solomon, national coordinator of the Bernie Delegates Network, is co-founder of the online activist group 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.