By Kent R. Kroeger (Source: NuQum.com, April 16, 2018)
Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard doesn’t resort to name-calling (like I do), sticks to the facts (which I don’t), and focuses on problem-solving through inclusion and compromise (sounds like a lot of work to me). In other words, she’s completely out of place in today’s partisan political climate.
She also provokes her party elders when she exposes the Democratic Party’s hypocrisy, be it how the Obama administration helped in arming Islamic terror groups in Syria or the undemocratic super delegates the Democratic National Committee (DNC) includes in the selection process for the party’s presidential nominee.
“Gabbard has managed to put together a coalition that is unheard of for Democrats,” says The Hill’s Michael Starr Hopkins. “Never before have we seen a Democrat who has managed to receive praise from (Vermont Senator) Bernie Sanders and Steve Bannon at the same time. Gabbard clearly has no fear when it comes to upsetting the leadership of her party.”
Underwriting her many qualities is her instinctive aversion to elite-sourced, media-propelled group-think. When the U.S. media was quick to condemn Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for chemical attacks in Khan Shaykhun a year ago, Gabbard said the U.S. needs to pull the reins before jumping deeper into another regime change war in the Levant.
With the recent chemical attack in Douma, Gabbard continues to urge Americans to reject calls for the U.S. to escalate its role in Syria for the purpose of replacing the Assad regime.
“Launching an attack on Syria that would weaken the Syrian military will strengthen terrorist groups like ISIS, Al-Qaeda and others who are all seeking to overthrow the gov’t and establish their own caliphate,” said Gabbard just hours before the Trump administration (along with France and the United Kingdom) launched missile attacks on three Syrian chemical weapons-related facilities. “Now does that serve the interests of the United States?”
Gabbard’s reluctance to commit U.S. military forces to the cause of regime change wars is well-established and not surprising to most political observers. What has been surprising is the Democratic Party’s coordinated disavowal of Gabbard’s anti-regime-war stance.
The Democratic Party’s spasmodic henchman, former DNC chair Governor Howard Dean, went as far as to say that Gabbard shouldn’t even be in Congress for her unwillingness to support the Trump administration’s missile attacks on Syria following the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack. So much for party unity. It is virtually unprecedented in U.S. congressional history for a minority party’s leadership to call for the electoral defeat of one of its own incumbents for reasons other than a personal scandal.
Dean’s fratricidal ambuscade on Gabbard reinforces the belief among many progressives that the DNC’s leadership would rather lose to Republicans than be represented by progressives.
Today’s Democratic Party is hard to definer Tom Perez.
The establishment wing of the Democratic Party, led by Obama and Clinton acolytes and funded by the Wall Street, Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Big Pharma donor class, is on a poorly-disguised mission to excise the Bernie Sanders-inspired progressives from the party.
Yet, for all her criticism of the Democratic Party establishment, Gabbard is in truth a natural team player whose whose leadership skills were honed as an officer in the U.S. Navy and, currently, in the U.S. Army. She frequently speaks of consensus solutions to endemic problems as any well-trained military officer or concerned citizen would do.
With an officer’s discipline and an outsider’s doggedness, she doesn’t shrink from confrontation. At the same time, she refuses to burn the house down in the same vein as Donald Trump’s populist takeover of the Republican Party.
On issues important to working class and socially marginalized Hawaiians, Gabbard has been a solid Democrat, as evidenced by the 95 percent rating in 2016 she received from Americans for Democratic Action (ADA). Still, she has proven to be more than willing to criticize her own party when she thinks it necessary.
As one prominent Iowa Democratic Party leader told me, “She (Gabbard) lost me and probably most of us (in the state party leadership) when she said Hillary (Clinton) had a history of exercising poor judgment.”
Now that the Democrats are united against Trump, does she still hold the same level of animosity towards Gabbard?
“Absolutely,” she immediately shot back. “She’s a traitor.”
Apparently there is a rule in the Democratic Party that Democrats can’t criticize other Democrats during the primary process.
And the antipathy of Democratic Party leaders towards Gabbard is only exceeded by their dislike of Bernie Sanders himself.
“He’s not even a Democrat,” that same Iowa Democratic leader said. “I don’t know why the media gives him so much love after what he did to Hillary. He’s never accomplished anything and he never will. He’s just a grumpy uncle with a national platform.”
The Democrats are in a quiet civil war.
When in October 2017 the DNC chair Tom Perez quietly purged many progressive apostates from its ranks (i.e., Sen. Sanders and Rep. Keith Ellison supporters), Gabbard called Perez out:
“Last year’s presidential primary revealed deep divides within the Democratic Party that went far beyond substantive issue differences,” said Gabbard as she outlined her differences with the Democratic Party establishment and its new chair Tom Perez. “Now I wish I could say things have gotten better, but its just not true. Recently the DNC chair, claiming diversity, removed a number of people from the Executive Committee, including Jim Zogby, the only Arab-American, while allowing lobbyists and consultants to keep their positions.”
Unfortunately for Gabbard, her entreaties towards the Democratic Party have been drowned out by the angry mob forming around the Donald Trump administration.
Trump has sucked the oxygen out of the political atmosphere to the detriment of Democrats, like Gabbard, who still have substantive issues with how their party is being managed.
The #Resistance provides the Democrats’ its juice right now, but the Trump-Russia collusion hysteria is not a substitute for addressing real issues, according documentary filmmaker Michael Moore.
During a March 19th live-streamed discussion of income inequality, Senator Sanders and Moore both highlighted the excessive coverage given to the Trump-Russia story.
“You turn on the TV and it’s ‘Russia, Russia, Russia!’” complained Moore, with Sanders quickly adding: “And don’t forget Stormy Daniels!”
“These are all shiny keys to distract us,” said Moore during the broadcast. “We should know about the West Virginia (teachers) strike. What an inspiration that would be. But they don’t show this, Bernie, because, what would happen if they did?”
In the view of comedian-turned-podcast-pundit Jimmy Dore, whose progressive podcast “The Jimmy Dore Show” has almost a half million subscribers, the Democrats’ Russia obsession is a deliberate act by the DNC (and the donor class) to marginalize progressive voters and ideas.
“This (Russia obsession) is all manufactured garbage,” says Dore. “The media is focusing on this one topic at the loss of all the other topics…of real stuff that’s actually happening.”
The risk to the Democrats is that the Russia-obsession is stunting any attempt to build a distinctive brand relative to the Republicans.
After two years of Trump-driven anti-immigrant tumult in the Republican Party, it is still easy to know what else the Republicans stands for: lower taxes, less government and a stronger military. You don’t have to agree with those ideas, but its hard to deny the Republicans’ ownership of them. They’ve been building their brand for 40 years.
It is still hard to summarize the organizing theory behind the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign. Her campaign was built on a resume, not ideas. Bennie Sanders, in contrast, was all about ideas — even if some (most?) were fiscally infeasible.
Ideas still sell in the political marketplace. Simple. Relevant. Ideas.
At some point, the Democratic Party must have a constructive debate drawn from all of its perspectives. It’s not just corporatist Democrats versus progressives, as Dore suggests. The party is a miasma of social justice activists, ethnic minorities, labor unionists, neo-marxists, pacifists, and, of course, the corporatist Democrats, which, at the moment, defines the party’s pragmatic center-of-gravity.
For the party to benefit from such a dialogue, the range of ideas considered cannot be artificially constrained using a top-down approach directed by the narrow priorities of Wall Street, Big Pharma, Silicon Valley, health insurers and defense contractors.
The #Resistance does not — cannot — address that problem within the party. Nor can purging the party’s leadership of progressives.
“The most pitiful thing in the world is a mob”
Democrats would be well-served to reacquaint themselves with Mark Twain who wrote in Huckleberry Finn about the practical limitations of mobs.
As a child of the pre-Civil War South, Twain was dubious of mobs. In fact, he saw them as largely populated by “laggards, frauds, hypocrites and cowards.”
In Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, a store owner, Colonel Sherburn, guns down a local drunk, prompting an angry crowd to gather outside his store.
As the mob grows larger and starts calling for the Colonel’s lynching, the Colonel emerges from his store with a shotgun in his hand and promptly delivers a pointed rebuke about the mob’s supposed courage:
“The most pitiful thing in the world is a mob,” chides the Colonel. “That’s what an army is, a mob. They don’t fight with the courage they’re born with. They fight with courage borrowed from their numbers and from the leaders.”
In the end, the leaderless mob in Twain’s story backed down.
But, in reality, mobs don’t always go away quietly and can sometimes change history, especially when manipulated by savvy political elites. Plato in fact theorized that all democracies will eventually turn into tyrannies once political elites learn how to control the mob’s passions.
Today, Plato’s warnings are ominously cited with the rise of Donald Trump. Whether Trump is exemplary of tyranny’s eventual rise is debatable, but it is impossible to deny his ability to capture the hearts and minds of millions of Americans.
But its not just Trump that can appeal to the masses. The Democrats have proven equally adept at it.
The #Resistance, #MeToo and #MarchForOurLives rallies across the U.S. have been large and passionate. It is not a phony or contrived outrage being expressed in these marches. The anger is real. And they certainly aren’t mobs, in the pillaging sense. These marchers are genuinely frightened about the man occupying the White House (and the people that support him).
However, lurking beneath the legitimate concerns of millions of Americans participating in these marches is a more cynical force that aims to co-opt the Resistance’s energy and money for its own narrow partisan purposes.
The Democrats’ corporatist-wing are deeply wounded by the Trump presidency and determined to regain control.
To do so, they believe they must first assert total control of the Democratic Party — except with one caveat — they can’t make it appear like that is what they’re doing.
Women (of all ages) and millennials are the fuel behind the #Resistance. While survey data is still sketchy on the political preferences of the #Resistance, it is a reasonable assumption that many are Bernie Sanders-aligned progressives.
My analysis of The University of Michigan’s and Stanford University’s 2016 American National Election Study found that 15 to 20 percent of American vote-eligible adults can be considered part of the “progressive left,” but as much as 35 percent are “center-left” and “centrists.” Together, they form a potentially dominant electoral coalition in the near term. Divided they will usher in a second Trump term.
“Progressives are at a turning point right now. Either the Democratic Party is going to reform and become progressive, or they will die and a new party will take their place,” says progressive vblogger Mike Figueredo, host of The Humanist Report. “Millions of people left the party after it was revealed that they rigged the primaries against Bernie Sanders in favor of Hillary Clinton.”
More importantly, progressives like Figueredo and Dore, are promoting non-negotiable stances on issues like support for a single-payer health care system.
“Progressives all over the country are saying to Democrats, like Senator Dianne Feinstein, either you support issues like single-payer or we will go elsewhere,” warns Figueredo.
The corporatist Democrats therefore have to be careful how they handle the progressive wing of their party — the wing that in 2017 raised much of the over $522 million taken in through the ActBlue fundraising platform.
Alienate the progressives and you may create a meaningful third party in this country, not large enough to win elections necessarily, but large enough to tip the balance in favor of the Republicans in electorally competitive states and congressional districts.
So when recent polling data shows Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in the U.S. — — this fact does not go unnoticed within the Democratic establishment and its bureaucratic arm, the DNC. In a January 2018 Fox News poll, Bernie Sanders received a favorable rating from 61 percent of respondents (compared to only 32 percent that gave him a negative rating), giving him a net positive rating higher than all other politicians in the poll.
But how do you purge Bernie Sanders from the party without alienating his millions of supporters.
The answer is, obviously, you don’t.
“The DNC’s move to cast out those who haven’t fallen in line with the establishment and were actually demanding real reforms is destined for failure,” says Gabbard. “We must make sure our voices are heard now as we fight for a path forward that is more inclusive and actually strengthens our democracy.”
Will the Super Delegates be around in the future to fight off the progressives?
If purging Berniecrats from the party leadership wasn’t enough, Perez and the DNC have yet to rollback, much less eliminate, the undemocratic super-delegate system that has been so crucial to the anointment of the party’s past presidential nominees.
Perez has indicated his support for the Democratic Unity Reform Commission’s December 2017 recommendation to reduce the number of super delegates by 60 percent. However, as of late January 2018, the Democratic Party’s super delegate system remains in place and cynics can be forgiven if they believe Donald and Melania will sleep together before the Democratic Party gets rid of super delegates.
The disproportionate power of super delegates is hard to ignore.
In terms of all 2016 convention delegates Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders by 913 delegates (2807 to 1894, respectively). However, Clinton benefited from a 602 to 48 advantage in super-delegates, and while Clinton still would have won without her super-delegate advantage, their omnipresent status suppresses the fundraising potential of non-establishment candidates like Sanders who, otherwise, might have a legitimate chance to secure the nomination.
“We need to get rid of the undemocratic system of super-delegates who literally have the power to swing an election, making up one-third of the votes any candidates needs to secure the nomination,” says Gabbard, who is calling for an “open, inclusive and transparent Democratic Party that best represents and serves the people.”
“Tulsi, good luck with that,” chides Dore, who has openly feuded with other progressive activists, like The Young Turks founder Cenk Ugyur, by advocating Berniecrats break from the Democratic Party altogether and form a third party.
Gabbard, to her credit, doesn’t entertain such self-destructive notions. She is a Democrat and fully intends to rise or fall, politically, as a Democrat.
Still, when DNC chair Tom Perez and the Obama-Clinton wing of the party continue to stonewall on changing the party’s closed, exclusive and secretive nature, even Gabbard must have doubts about her own role in the party’s future.
“Name-calling accomplishes nothing…lets focus on policy”
Gabbard’s distance from Democratic Party’s mainstream couldn’t have been more evident than during Trump’s “shithole” controversy when congressional Democrats were lining up on the cable news networks to call Donald Trump ‘a racist.’
When it was Gabbard’s turn to address Trump’s immigration-related comments, she didn’t parrot the Schumer/Pelosi-approved talking points. Instead, we heard this:
“Do you believe the President of the United States is a racist?” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Gabbard.
“I think name-calling is beside the point and doesn’t actually accomplish anything,” Gabbard replied. “What (the American people) are concerned about is what do Donald Trump’s policies mean to them.”
Had that answer come from any other congressional Democrat, Blitzer would have pressed the issue, but in Gabbard’s case, he knew she wouldn’t take the bait. She’s not that kind of Democrat. Everyone knows that…even Wolf Blitzer.
Gabbard refuses to burn down the entire D.C. political house just for some short-term partisan advantage.
As of today, Sanders and Gabbard populate a small rebellion fighting for the soul of the Democratic Party. Are the Democrats going to continue their allegiance to big donors from Wall Street, Big Pharma, Silicon Valley and Hollywood? Or will they become a genuine leftist party dedicated to representing the interests of working-class and progressive Americans?
Is #TheResistance a misdirection move by the corporatist Democrats?
Magicians use misdirection to draw the audience’s eyes away from the trick that is actually going on.
Corporatist Democrats may be doing the same with the grassroots-driven #Resistance movement. The movement is keeping rank-and-file progressives motivated and connected to the larger Democratic Party. But when the movement’s energy fades (and it will), will the progressives still find themselves on the outside of the party looking in?
As former Bernie Sanders operative Nick Brana says, “The Democrats would rather lose to Donald Trump than win with a progressive at the top of their ticket.” But Perez and the DNC have found a way to keep that fact away from rank-and-file progressives: Keep their attention focused on that shiny object called Donald Trump. Distract the party’s progressives from the substantive economic and foreign policy issues that still divide the party.
Even the collective horror of the Trump administration can’t make these divisions in the Democratic Party go away.
Sanders’ push for a ‘Medicare-for-All’ health care system is getting effete, costless support from congressional Democrats, including likely presidential candidates Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), but there is zero indication that such a plan is embraced by the Democratic Party’s biggest donors in the insurance, health care, and investment bank industries.
The New York Times opined a ‘Medicare-for-All’ proposal would sink the Democratic Party in the 2018 and 2020 elections and has suggested a more modest increase in Medicare coverage would be more feasible. And if the opinion comes from the editorial board of The New York Times, its as good as coming from Chappaqua, New York itself.
But its not just economic policy where the Berniecrats separate from their Democratic establishment sisters and brothers. When the Trump administration briefly signaled earlier this year that it might consider an open-ended U.S. military presence in Syria until the Assad regime is overthrown, no Democratic congressional leaders voiced disapproval at this policy change. Of course they didn’t…Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama created the original policy!
If you loved the neocon-inspired regime change wars of the George W. Bush presidency (and their semi-reluctant continuation under Obama), the establishment Democrats are already lining up for a new one in Syria to be administered by the next Democratic administration.
Gabbard, not surprisingly, stands virtually alone in the U.S. Congress fighting our country’s bipartisan regime change policies in Syria and North Korea. Even Sanders takes a back seat to Gabbard’s vocal and consistent call for this policy change.
#TheResistance brings in the money, but will it unify the Democrats?
As small donor money rolls into the anti-Trump movement and to other grassroots Democratic organizations — though not to the DNC whose fundraising continues to lag seriously behind the Republican National Committee’s totals — Perez supervises the party’s progressive purge.
Gabbard’s calling out this DNC policy, as yet, has had little impact.
“In this toxic political climate, rife with blind allegiance, Gabbard has made it clear that she is indebted to no one and unwilling to be just another Democrat,” writes The Hill’s Starr Hopkins. “Tulsi Gabbard is no snowflake. She is an enigma wrapped in a conundrum and could potentially be the future of the Democratic Party.”
Bernie Sanders still carries the progressive banner for the Democratic Party. But, on principle, Sanders openly sets himself apart from the party, which is one reason he is so highly regarded among many Democrats, independents and even some Republicans.
But for the Democrats to finally ascend to demographics-powered electoral supremacy, marginalizing Sanders, Gabbard and other progressives is a grievous error. Pundits in the Huffington Post, Vox and Politico echo chambers have convinced themselves the Donald Trump horror show means the Democrats have little need to pursue progressive (and working-class) voters.
Such a strategy may work in 2018. In fact, it will work. But 2020 is the real prize and a Democratic Party that wastes energy on fratricide attacks against imaginary internal enemies is a party that would rather see a second Donald Trump term than allow progressives to compete for the party’s leadership.