Tom Rinaldo's Journal
Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 05:39 PM
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The word authentic gets thrown around a lot as a type of short hand for what ever it is about Bernie Sanders that so many Americans find appealing. And to be fair it may scratch the surface of a phenomena that denizens of the status quo find so difficult to grasp; Americans in massive numbers are responding very favorably to the message of a 74 year old, previously little known gruff Senator from the small state of Vermont – who call himself a Democratic Socialist. All else being equal, most folks prefer real to fake in just about everything, and there simply is nothing fake about Bernie Sanders. No one wonders what they will actually find if you manage to scratch his veneer. There is no veneer to scratch, there is just Bernie Sanders. What you see is what you get. So yes the word authentic fits Bernie Sanders well. It resonates like the truth.
The fact that there's a public yearning for authenticity from politicians says a lot about politics in America today, with none of it positive. It is a damning indictment of politics as usual when people fully expect to hear candidates voice mostly empty platitudes identified through focus group testing as likely to appeal to “voters like them”. For politicians who spend a lifetime perfecting the art of polish, who gravitate like moths to fire to power player circles while accumulating an inventory of refined social trappings, there must be something intrinsically unnerving about watching a man like Bernie Sanders, who has never owned a tuxedo in his life, ascending toward the pinnacle of American Power, the presidency itself.
Authenticity matters, but it seldom seals the deal. Bernie is more than just authentic, he passionately stands for something tangible, social and economic justice, and has for all his life. Donald Trump said recently that the reason he obsessively talks about polls is because they say he's winning - if they didn't he wouldn't mention them. That type talk rings true to folks, it too comes across as authentic. So does Trump's admission that he doles out bucks across the political spectrum to curry favors when he wants them. Given a choice between someone who can openly admit to a self serving motif and someone who seems somehow swarmy while trying to con you, most people prefer an “honest” rascal to a deceitful one. But when it comes to electing a leader, what people really want is someone willing to stand up and fight effectively for them.
Unless they are fully embedded on the shrinking side of the divide and conquer culture wars that the American oligarchy ferments to recruit shock troops to work their will; unless they literally belong to that oligarchy or are economically closely dependent on it, Americans understand intuitively that Bernie Sanders stands ready to fight hard for us, that vast majority of us who aren't a part of the one percent. We can see past the clutter of political labels directly to his substance. People recognize a good man and political ally when they see one, and we know Bernie is someone willing to tirelessly go the distance for us. So the last real question then is, can he fight effectively for us? More effectively for our interests than, for instance, Hillary Clinton?
Some say not, his message is too radical. Some say that Bernie Sanders is outside of the mainstream of American politics, but I think that's true of most Americans. It's not so much that we travel in tributaries left or right of center, it's more like we are all up a creek without a paddle, or even worse, stranded high and dry and simply left behind. At some point it starts to sink in that a lesser evil choice, viewed in the broadest sense, still enables evil. 1968 was the last year when at least 60% of Americans of voting age cast ballots in a Presidential election. In 2012 that number was below 55%.
Now though, in some part due to Bernie Sanders - to his strong words and his clear vision, Americans are getting the big picture, and responding. They see corporate mergers and consolidation, factories moving overseas and the loss of good paying jobs. They see the pay of CEO's skyrocket while the wages of typical workers shrink and worker productivity rises. They see climate change they know is real downplayed as a security threat. And they see virtually all of the fruits from a hard fought taxpayer subsidized economic recovery funneled into the hands of a small group of mega wealthy individuals who in many cases were responsible for our economic collapse in the first place. All of that is the result of business as usual, politics as usual, business and politics as usual – the two terms became and are now interchangeable. That is the status quo that Bernie Sanders, not Hillary Clinton, runs so fiercely against. His is a clarion call to action. Hers is steady as you go.
Time is not our friend, we fast are running out of it. Democrats have long pursued incremental changes and those results are already in. It's led to a slow motion catastrophic erosion of the foundation that the Democratic Party once proudly stood on. For most of the last 30 years the Democratic Party has been playing a prevent defense, like a boxer bending over backwards to to avoid being tagged by a powerful right hook – in this case the socialist label. Ever since Ronald Reagan won elections by declaring government the problem Democrats have countered with an asterisk, quietly demurring that actually sometimes it isn't. Republicans so thoroughly succeeded in moving our political landscape to the right that it no longer took an accusation of harboring communist sympathies to make a Democratic politician quiver, simply being called a liberal was enough to make them sweat.
In recent years more Democratic leaders have become both loud and proud in regards to social issues, issues that Bernie Sanders has fought for all his life. Social issues don't directly challenge the economic elite. Democratic Socialism, or whatever else you choose to call it, however does. When FDR became president he called his political vision for America “The New Deal”. LBJ later called his “The Great Society”. But gone were the days, until now, when Democrats seeking the presidency spoke with clarity and urgency about economic justice, about confronting and overturning the prevailing status quo. Their ability to do so has sharply been curtailed by an economic order that makes the very practice of politics itself dependent on the largess of a donor class, with typical Americans rarely represented by them. None of this is breaking news. It's a deteriorating situation we have lived with a long while. It's the preset course we've been sailing on for years but only Bernie Sanders, among those who seek our nation's highest office, is prepared to rock the boat.
Looking back now it's easy to overlook that when Barack Obama first ran for the presidency he pointedly did not do so as a progressive. Though positioned to the left of John McCain, it would have been difficult for any national Democrat to flunk that ideological test. Barack Obama was the man who once saluted purple state America, who sought to blur our ideological distinctions rather than campaign directly on them. Given my choices I had no problem supporting Obama/Biden over McCain/Palin. But I wasn't surprised either when President Obama later singled an openness to “Third Way” thinking during deficit reduction negotiations with Republicans.
In the face of the greatest economic crisis the world has faced since the Great Depression Obama exhibited far greater common sense than his opposition. He fought for bailing out the Auto Industry along with bailing out Wall Street. He fought for extending unemployment benefits along with extending Bush tax cuts. But there was no sweeping “New Deal” agenda in response to the Great Recession. Clearly our economy needed an economic infusion and President Obama responded with a large stimulus package. Seeking bi-partisan support, the one he ultimately backed included roughly equal parts new spending and tax cuts, though most leading economists agreed that money directly spent on job creation gave a far more potent stimulus effect on the overall economy than broad tax breaks.
In response to a long festering crisis, to his credit Obama tackled the health care issue during his first term, passing landmark legislation in the Affordable Care Act . It was openly modeled on the pro private insurance approach pioneered in Massachusetts by then Republican Governor Mitt Romney, which itself was built on concepts backed by Republican Senate leader Bob Dole in opposition to a plan being advocated for by then First Lady Hillary Clinton. Millions of Americans gained new coverage under Obamacare, millions more remain uncovered. After paying for premiums, high deductibles and co-pays, further millions can't afford to use the coverage that they have.
All that occurred during our most recent Democratic Presidency. The one before that deregulated Wall Street, instituted strict welfare reforms, and pushed for mandatory sentencing. By now the pattern should be clear to Democrats. After ceding the Republicans a permanent home field advantage, whenever contemporary (previously called “new”) Democrats get to reoccupy the White House they work for incremental advances over the preceding Republican benchmark. Whenever Republicans retake the presidency we suffer massive setbacks. Even putting aside the Tea Party for a moment, one can simply compare official Republican and Democratic party agendas for America and that dynamic becomes obvious. Republicans representing the billionaire class are seldom timid about going for the throat. One step forward, five steps back is not a winning formula for positive social change, but that is the dance that the band keeps playing. Incrementalisn won't deliver us from this crisis, it's just a slow set up for an inevitable crash.
One sixth of all Americans living in poverty, the greatest disparity in incomes since the eve of the Great Depression, I like so many others felt impotent as an individual to alter the course our nation is on. The insiders are all in on it. The outsiders have no seats at the table nor the means to have their voices heard. At best we get offered crumbs by the wealthy; a job retraining program here, lower interest student loans there, a bump up in earned income credits or penalty free IRA withdrawals. And then the wheel will spin again until Republicans manage to get their hands on all the levers for one year, and there goes Social Security and the arctic wilderness, and that is just for starts.
We've all seen this movie and we don't like how it ends, but nothing will change if we don't throw out the current script and fundamentally rewrite it. None of us can do that alone, not even a feisty old Democratic Socialist like Bernie Sanders. But if enough of us rally around him, support him and defend him; working together with him we can get this done – if we possess the courage of our convictions. I look to the past and I see a time when African Americans were slaves – and huge wealth depended on them remaining so. I look to the past again and see a time when women didn't have the right to vote, when governments run by men could legally exclude women from that “privilege”. I look to the past, but that past has changed.
When I look to the future I see younger generations of Americans taking over the reigns of leadership at every level of our society. I am sixty six years old but I can look at them and recognize their fight for a future that they will inhabit for better or for worse. And I know we can not morally impede their finest aspirations, nor assume that what seems impossible today will not be possible soon, in the America that they will inherit and guide forward. Who are we to tell them what can't be done? I see them supporting Bernie Sanders for President this year. I think they understand where our nation needs to head toward a more just and secure future, and how we must work to get there, if only the rest of us will just join with them and not stand in their way.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Sat Jan 23, 2016, 09:10 PM (10 replies)
Sanders has more Foreign Policy experience than 5 of the last 6 first term Presidents. Just Sayin...
Going back to 1976 - that's 40 years - the only person to have moved into the White House with more foreign policy experience than Bernie Sanders has now was George Herbert Walker Bush in 1988. And Bernie Sanders actively took part in the Congressional debate about going to war with Iraq, probably the biggest foreign policy blunder in any of our lifetimes. Unlike many leading Democrats, Sanders got it right,
I don't deny that Hilary Clinton has more foreign policy experience that Bernie Sanders does. And it isn't news to anyone how both of them voted on the Iraq War Resolution. But I think most people have lost sight of the fact that America traditionally elects Presidents who enter office with precious little foreign policy experience to speak of, and this world has been a dangerous place for as long as I can remember. Bernie Sanders has far more personal experience than most new presidents have regarding national security PLUS his judgement has already been tested - when it mattered most.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Sat Jan 23, 2016, 11:00 AM (10 replies)
They can no longer afford to say nothing after Bernie Sanders zeroed in on the large sums of money establishment politicians routinely solicit and receive from Wall Street and the Billionaire class as an issue in the 2016 campaign. It was one thing for Bernie to shout "Enough is enough, the rich can't have it all". There is nothing that makes a Democratic politician uncomfortable in agreeing with that sentiment. It wasn't much more threatening when Bernie condemned a campaign finance system that allows the super wealthy to invest unlimited amounts of money to purchase the political results they want - in the abstract almost all of them agree and many want that changed. But with the last Democratic Debate Bernie turned a page. He began naming names, starting of course with Hillary Clinton and the huge speaking fees she received from Goldman Saches. That made it personal.
The truth is that in our current political environment almost all politicians running for high state or national offices have to either be immensely wealthy themselves, or on very close terms with a number of people who are. Money is the life blood of politics. Election campaigns bleed cash and politicians need frequent transfusions. That's not even talking about the truly corrupt ones who are essentially in this foremost to become quite wealthy themselves. Most of today's politicians are unable to live off the land the way Sanders can. They don't have a clue how to build a real people powered campaign funded by hundred of thousands of small donors. Instead they do what bank robbers have always done - they go to where the money is. In this case banks look forward to these "transactions", they are strategic investments rather that robberies - unless you count the effect on our Democracy.
I think it is making a lot of Democratic politicos of all sorts quite uncomfortable to watch Hillary Clinton get called out before a nation wide audience over the large sums of money she's received and continues to receive from special moneyed interests It starts cutting a little too close to home. Who will the pitch fork mob come after next? That's one reason I think the red baiting has begun, and why it is now a chorus of voices yelling, "Don't you know that he's a SOCIALIST?"
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Thu Jan 21, 2016, 06:16 PM (4 replies)
Hillary Clinton fundamentally misreads how a debate over American Health Care now plays out with the public. It's the Republicans who call for repeal and replace (in that order) of Obamacare, not Bernie Sanders. Yes, Sanders extols the virtues of a rational health care system for America, one that would truly cover all of us while rolling back and containing the costs that are bleeding so many of us dry. He makes the case for Medicare for All because he actually believes in it and knows that when we eventually implement such a system our nation will be the better for it. That in a word is called leadership.
But Bernie Sanders never talks about rolling back any of the hard fought health care gains that we have already won. Neither has he ever claimed that in his first, second, or even fourth year in office that his administration would sign legislation into law that will replace the Affordable Care Act with Medicare for All. Bernie simply refuses to take his eye off the eventual goal, because it is a highly worthwhile one, whether it comes to fruition in 2017, 2019, 2025 or later. Bernie Sanders is behaving like a true Democrat in that regard.
But not just that, Sanders is exhibiting the type of political courage in defense of most Americans that has so set him apart in this election year from what we have all long come to expect from our mainstream political class. He will not shy away from what he knows is right simply because it temporarily is not politically viable. Hillary Clinton believes that points to a weakness in Bernie Sanders because he likely will be unable to soon deliver on this core economic premise of his platform for America when he is inaugurated as our president. Bernie Sanders has never said that he could. That is not a weakness.
Bernie Sanders combines clear eyed realism with an uplifting vision for America, he is that political rarity - the pragmatic visionary. Martin Luther King Jr. once so famously said "I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you...". That wasn't an admission of defeat, it was clear headed idealism, what America at its best has always been about. If you can not articulate a goal you are unlikely to ever achieve it. The party of FDR was never timid about fighting for transformative social change. Is that still our Democratic Party?
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Mon Jan 18, 2016, 10:06 AM (23 replies)
Given that few major political figures in American, aside from Bernie Sanders, seem willing to define themselves as anything other than being Pro-Capitalist, wouldn't they agree that CEO's of large successful corporations probably recognize a good investment opportunity when they see one? No one argues that political contributions are a form of charity, they are openly made in the hope of achieving political objectives. When those contributions come from business entities, they are made to further their business interests.
There are all kinds of initiatives that any given business may make, different ways of investing resources in the hopes of a favorable outcome. Granted there are some investments that might look promising initially but simply don't pan out over time. There are seldom guarantees either in business or in life, nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say. But every competent business leader evaluates the investments they make, to see if they are getting a good return on their dollars. If something fails to pan out the way they wanted it to, it is discontinued.
Wall Street is many things, but one thing it is not is a refuge for the intellectually challenged. Wall Street insiders do not repeatedly invest large sums in the same politicians if they don't think those investments buy something of real value to them. If they didn't, those funds would be redirected elsewhere. These are shrewd business people after all, at the top of their game. At the top of the game. And they want to stay there.
Some politicians they out right own. Others they merely get unfettered "access" to. There is a difference between being essentially on the payroll of major contributors, or only being in some way indebted to them. Typically, when we are lucky, that is the difference between the Republican and Democratic candidate - they aren't both totally beholden to Billionaires and corporate financiers.
It is such a pleasure this year though to have one Presidential candidate who literally is beholden only to small donors, average Americans averaging $27 per contribution. Could that be why issues of wealth inequity are being featured in this presidential election race in a way they never have been before?
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Sun Jan 17, 2016, 12:59 PM (0 replies)
OK, the actual science relating to the metaphor, of a frog allowing itself to be boiled to death if the temperature of the water in the pot in which it sits is raised slowly enough, debunks it as a myth. Frogs, it turns out, are not dumb enough to sit still for that type of treatment. Establishment politics though has long operated on the premise that America's general public may be more susceptible to that practice. That belief may be bolstered by stories like this one published by the NY Times in 2009: ”The Dangers of Taking a Dip in the Hot Tub”, where it was reported:
“The annual number of emergency room visits has been steadily rising. In 2007, 6,646 people went to emergency rooms after a hot tub injury, compared with 2,549 in 1990.
About half the injuries were caused by slipping or falling, but heat overexposure was the problem in 10 percent of the accidents...
... The study did not include fatal accidents, but the Consumer Products Safety Commission reported more than 800 deaths associated with hot tubs since 1990”.
An alternate theory for our establishment’s stubborn determination to forge ahead with politics as usual, regardless of the increasing pain being felt by a majority of Americans, might instead be premised on the same observation that Thomas Paine once made in his pamphlet “Common Sense”, written at the dawn of the American Revolution
“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.”
Two hundred and forty year after the penning of those words there's a chorus of those voices raised today, inveighing against the fundamental premise of Bernie Sander's 2016 presidential campaign, that our current political system works against the interests of average Americans. They shout from all points on the long recognized spectrum of “respectable” political opinion in America, which is to say from the slightly left of center to the hard core right. Opinions like those held by Bernie Sanders until now have routinely been dismissed as “fringe” and “well outside the mainstream” by long reigning “conventional wisdom”.
Conventional wisdom has also long held that the only way to keep Social Security solvent is to reduce adjustments made for inflation in payments made to beneficiaries, and to force seniors to wait longer to become eligible for benefits, while workers in their 50's and 60's get culled from management positions and are forced to compete to become door greeters at Walmart. Conventional wisdom, at least according to Congress and most leading presidential candidates, also considers an income of a quarter million a year to be middle class.
At a time when one out of six Americans, and over a fifth of children under 18, live in poverty (officially defined as an annual income of less than $18,500 for a family of three) our political class places a higher priority on shielding the earnings of those making hundreds of thousands a year from any additional “tax hit” than it does on eliminating the suffering of children in families earning below twenty grand a year.
All of the mania surrounding recent Powerball drawings pegs that Lottery as our current “go to” portal for get rich instantly fantasies, but it wasn't always America's most coveted jackpot. For a generation that distinction was held by the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes, the folks who showed up on your doorstep with a banner and a check. Back when the Bush tax cuts were about to expire in 2012, President Obama sought to let them for all above the middle class. A hue and cry subsequently arose over how to define Middle Class income. Obama proposed that couples with incomes less than $250,000 should not be subject to higher taxes. Ultimately, after battles in Congress, that line got drawn at $450,000 for a married couple ($400,000 for an individual), below which they could keep all of their Bush tax cuts. So here's where the Publisher's Clearinghouse comes in.
Simultaneous with that high profile national debate over protecting the tax cut for middle class families, the Publisher's Clearinghouse came up with a brand new giveaway gimmick to excite and entice the masses into subscribing to their magazines. Instead of just giving away ten million dollars like they had been doing, they announced a five thousand dollars a week for life grand prize that some lucky person already held the winning number for. Five thousand dollars a week for life, that's the stuff that dream are made of for hundreds of millions of Americans. That happens to equal an income of $260,000 a year.
The Publisher's Clearinghouse is still selling magazines off of their fabulous $260,000 a year for your life (and your heir's now also) grand prize, while Hillary Clinton is making new vows to shield middle class incomes up to $250,000 a year from any increase in taxes. What's wrong with this picture? Maybe it's the people who are not in it, the ones who have no say when it comes to establishing conventional wisdom – or defining the middle class: the ones trying to get by on something closer to the median national income of $50,000 a year. The ones for whom $250,000 is a fortune.
Tens of millions of American voices have long been ignored by the gate keepers of establishment politics. They were the trees not heard falling off in some distant forest, far removed from the corridors of power. Those not listened to are seldom represented. The status quo depends upon estrangement, and long has grown accustomed to elections where most potential voters stay home instead. That's what happens when people tire of voting for the lesser evil, and winning even less than that. That's what happens when the establishment's “long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right”. Tens of millions of Americans live in poverty while America’s 185 wealthiest clans are collectively worth $1.2 trillion. The system that enabled this is called politics as usual.
Bernie Sanders though is not politics as usual, and the response he has gotten on the campaign trail since he announced his bid for the presidency has been anything but politics as usual. If Sander's views are seen as falling outside the mainstream of American politics that's only because the stream bed is engineered and runs through concrete culverts, narrowly defined and carefully controlled by banks that direct it.
It took Bernie Sanders a slow tenacious life time of hard political work directly pitted against prevailing establishment interests to rise to the rank of Senator from the small state of Vermont, where it was possible for many of his constituents got to know and respect him personally. It took a global financial melt down in 2008 to provide Sanders with a platform dramatic enough for his message to break through nationally. It's a message that resonates easily though when people finally hear it, because they already know it in their bones. It is a call to action, and the frog is feeling the Bern.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Fri Jan 15, 2016, 05:46 PM (27 replies)
Gone are the days when establishment and center left Democrats hid behind the argument that although Single Payer has a lot going for it, it is simply not possible to get such a system established here because the American public and political system are too resistant to it. That is the line that Barack Obama took when he worked on his Affordable Care Act proposals. He essentially said that Single Payer is a political non starter but he did not argue against its merits and advantages.
When Clinton says something like the following she is intentionally framing Single Payer in a negative light, by belittling what it has to offer the American people and by stressing Republican talking points against it - conveniently leaving out the financial windfall that our families and the economy itself will benefit from by no longer having to pay premiums to the private sector in order to have health insurance. She also omits any acknowledgement of the cost cutting efficiency that a Single Payer system offers America.
"I think one can only draw the conclusion that the Sanders campaign does not want to outline what would amount to a massive across the board tax increase," said Jake Sullivan, senior policy adviser for Hillary for America. "They want to essentially create a circumstance in which they try to lead voters to believe they can implement single-payer health care at no burden to anyone and everyone would be better off."
That is the type of statement I expect to read from someone like Ted Cruz, not from someone who bills herself as "a progressive Democrat".
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Thu Jan 14, 2016, 09:01 AM (216 replies)
It really boils down to that. Greed is this nation's cardinal sin; the lust for power and possessions, the addiction to conspicuous consumption, the hoarding of precious resources for the egotistical pride of ownership. Greed has become so ubiquitous that it is no longer recognized as unethical, let alone immoral, to embrace it. Most of the super rich believe that they deserve everything that they have, that they have in some way earned it all. And that they are fully entitled to acquire even more regardless of how much human suffering caused by basic deprivation multiplies around them. The standard by which their actions are now judged isn't ethics, it isn't morality, the standard is legislatively defined legality, and even that standard is applied loosely. Loopholes in the law are rarely simple errors, they are almost always intentional evasions of the professed intent of the actual law, ordered by and paid for by those who profit from evading it, made legal through the magic of campaign donations and the boutique hand crafted statures that the uber rich hire lobbyists and lawyers to write for them.
Working people can no longer afford to pay the tab for the limitless sense of entitlement that the ultra wealthy in America are infected with. When we say enough is enough they fundamentally can't grasp that cry because the word "enough" literally has no meaning to them. There is no such thing as enough in their world view, more is always better when it comes to them. And it all seems so very normal to our elites: the way divine rights once seemed normal to royalty, the way slavery once seemed normal to slave owners, and child labor once seemed normal to mill owners.
No doubt many, but by no means all, of the super wealthy work hard in pursuit of their extravagances. No doubt many, but by no means all, of the super wealthy are subject to significant stress in pursuit of their fortunes. But most of the poor work hard in pursuit of basic survival, and are subject to significant stress in a desperate struggle to keep food on their tables and a roof over their heads. What high powered CEO working 60 hour work weeks in the throes of fierce competition faces more stress than a parent who can't assure their child of food or a place to live? And when the wealthy get ill, when life itself lies in the balance, though there may or may not be a cure for what ails them means always exist to pursue any shred of hope in finding one. With the poor though, even when an established treatment holds promise for a cure the means to avail themselves of it frequently is denied. Greed fundamentally dictates the variables in the equation of life and death. It is that simple and that profound.
The last refuge of those who defend the sense of extreme entitlement that the super wealthy take for granted is the concept of some special talents, some special abilities, that make their unique contributions to society worthy of virtually unlimited levels of compensation, even in times of wide spread economic scarcity. How much is the ability to accurately forecast a market trend worth in a year: One hundred thousand, five hundred thousand, five million, five hundred million? Or to repeatedly close complex development deals; ten million, five hundred million, more? How much is a biochemist worth who doggedly pursues a brilliant insight and pioneers a new approach to a cancer treatment? Is it anywhere in the same ball park? Or what about the psychotherapist with the insights and ability to penetrate and sooth a troubled mind before it hardens into that of the next mass murderer? How about those fire fighters who rushed up the second twin tower with their highly disciplined skill set after the first tower had fallen? Are the efforts of one downtown land developer really worth more than the collective contribution of an entire major city fire department?
An oligarchy is blind to questions of basic justice that impedes its sense of privilege. The more powerful it becomes the more power it exerts and the more new power it seeks to accumulate. The difference in the compensation for an average corporate worker and an average CEO continues to grow exponentially while earnings shrink for most Americans, along with the middle class itself. There is nothing about politics as usual that will fundamentally alter this trajectory. This is the status quo of deterioration, the one we have lived with for 40 years - worsening by the decade, that left unchecked ultimately leads to an implosion, an explosion, or both. If and when that occurs it won't really threaten the super wealthy, they have the option of shifting their personal operations to Singapore or wherever else their wealth can buy them all of the perks that they are addicted to. Patriotism in the final analysis means little to a global class of billionaires free to cross most ant border.
Bernie Sanders is alone in the national spotlight right now in speaking unvarnished truth to an increasingly consolidated seat of economic power. Greed is a cancer hollowing out the fiber of our nation and Bernie Sanders has the vision, fortitude, and courage to openly acknowledge and confront it. Our nation needs an attitude adjustment, big time, and not just for the rich; all of us need to examine our consciences. What do we find morally unacceptable, and what will we do politically about it? A day of reckoning is coming, the longer it is put off the more tens of millions will suffer. Explosive change is dangerous and never guarantees a positive outcome. That can be averted, we can still prevail through a peaceful struggle to restore our democracy to one that, in the words of Lincoln,“is of the people, by the people and for the people.” That effort though is far less likely to succeed with leaders who paper over the great economic divide among us, either with platitudes like vows to make America great again or with yet another round of window dressing proposals.
We need a president unafraid to tell it like it really is, in the daily lives of most of our citizens; one willing to take on the full force and fury head on of those who have presided over the virtually complete transformation of our once vibrant democracy into an oligarchy. If not Bernie Sanders now, who then, and when?
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Thu Jan 7, 2016, 10:17 AM (78 replies)
Some of you here probably remember that. I shifted my support to Obama late, after he won the Oregon primary and it became clear to me that Hillary had no real chance left of winning the nomination. I thought then that the time for unity had come. Clearly we have not yet reached that point during this cycle, but yes that time will arrive soon enough.
Hillary Clinton wasn't my first choice for the Democratic nomination in 2008, actually she was my 4th. Earlier I held out hopes of either Clark, Feingold, or Gore running but of course none of them did. Then I briefly backed Joe Biden before it became clear to me that his candidacy that year wasn't viable. Barack Obama was my 5th choice, but not far behind Clinton in my overall rankings. I saw some societal good in America electing either our first female or first black president. I saw the Obama and Clinton overall platforms as pretty darn similar. Each of course had some pros and cons, but I gave the edge to Hillary because I believed she was better prepared to confront and deal with strident Republican opposition than Obama was at the time.
I didn't buy into the argument that Republicans would fight harder against their old foe Hillary Clinton than they would against a man who proclaimed that there wasn't a red or blue America, just one America. In a fundamental way of course Barack was right, but politically I just wasn't buying it. I was under no illusions about the differences between our two major parties. I knew that we would be much worse off as a nation if any Republican nominee went on to win the White House rather than a Democratic one.
I know that many of Barack Obama's most fervent supporters viewed his possible election as a potentially transformative event. Aside from America finally integrating the presidency, I didn't. The reason why I didn't was soon on display as our President negotiated in good faith with John Boehner over what was being billed as a historic budget Grand Bargain - which IMO we were fortunate that the Republican Right balked at signing off on.
My support first for Hillary Clinton, and later for Barack Obama, was essentially pragmatic. That doesn't mean though that I thought ill of either person, actually I admired both of them. Nor does it mean that I was unappreciative of the good things I knew both of them would sincerely strive to accomplish as President, neither am I unappreciative now of the many good things that President Obama has in fact already accomplished as President. In the big picture I saw both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as status quo politicians. Having said that let me explain that I do not see the status quo as a single undifferentiated mass with no discernible differences between those who seek to represent it. The status quo in my mind isn't a specific set of policies or a particular political platform. It is more of an intrinsic agreement about the size and slope of the playing field that politics is played on - on where the in and out of bound lines get drawn on that field rather than which side of it a particular team lines up on.
Winning or losing the political game as we know it has real consequences. It determines which human being ultimately gets to make the final call on whether to invade another country for example. It determines who gets to select the Supreme Court Judges who decide whether unlimited campaign donations from an individual donor are a form of protected free speech or, in the case of the 2000 Presidential Elections, who gets to take the oath of office to sit inside the oval office. All status quo choices are not equal, many flow from good intentions and often do some good, many have more selfish intentions and end up harmful to the interests of most average Americans. What all status quo choices have in common though is that none of them fundamentally challenge the basic status quo.
I believe that Hillary Clinton is the current benign face of the status quo - and I do not say that in any way as an insult. I like Hillary Clinton. I supported her before and I can support her again. When she horse trades on the political market I believe she keeps our interests in mind, which is not what I would say about virtually any of the leaders in today's Republican Party. She horse trades in the designated trading areas with formally recognized traders using officially accepted forms of currency with values determined by the central societal bank of the establishment. Standing on that playing field, playing by those rules, there are few as effective as Hillary Clinton is at racking up some points for our side. If the status quo can't be fundamentally changed than I want someone like Hillary Clinton fighting for our team.
But it is the status quo itself that is harming most Americans. Millions of us have been cornered by it with our backs against the wall, while millions more fall toward us threatening to crush us all under the collective weight of suffering. In 2008 I was voting to buy us a little time while we searched for the means to fundamentally alter a status quo stacked against us. In November I will do the same if I have no better choice. Right now though I do, in the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. This is the chance that I have been waiting for. I will back a reformer if the only alternative is deeper oppression. I will first choose a revolutionary though committed to bringing deep and essential substantive change. Bernie Sanders has spent a long life time preparing for this very moment. He could not be clearer on what must be done, and I can not be clearer that he is the man best prepared for the challenge in front of him, in front of all of us, in challenging the status quo .
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Sat Jan 2, 2016, 04:34 PM (81 replies)
The Iowa Democratic Caucus was held on January 19, 2004. On December 2, 2003 Howard Dean was leading the pack with 26% supporting him, with Dick Gephardt in second at 22%. John Kerry was in third at 9%, and John Edwards was fourth with 5%.
On January 7th, less than two week out, the numbers were different but the ranking was the same: Dean 30%, Gephardt 23%, Kerry 18%, Edwards 11%.
The actual results on January the 19th were: John Kerry 37.64% John Edwards 31.83%, Howard Dean 18.02%, and Dick Gephardt 10.06%.
Source Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_Democratic_Party_presidential_primaries%2C_2004#Iowa
The changes in how Democratic candidates fared between pre-caucus polling for the Iowa Caucus and the actual results on January 3, 2008 were not quite as dramatic, but they still were major. I found this data from ARG (American Research Group) for the Iowa Primary Contest. For point of reference, ARG was ranked tied for 5th out of 20 polling operations for their accuracy in predicting the final outcome of the 2008 presidential elections. Source: http://www.politisite.com/2010/08/06/poll-accuracy-in-the-2008-presidential-election-rasmussen-pew/
12/16 - 12/19/2007
12/26 - 12/28
12/31 - 1/2/08
Actual Iowa Results on January 3, 2008
Not to be misleading, the Real Clear Politics (RCP) composite polling data for Iowa that year was more accurate in the final days than ARG was for the Iowa contest (but harder to break out comparative figures out of), though composite figures for the weeks before those final days were similar.
For the period 12/26/07 through 1/02/07 RCP predicted:
It should be noted that while both Joe Biden and Bill Richardson were only polling in single digits, they each still under performed by several points on the night of the actual caucus.
Here is something from the Gallup organization that is worth pondering, but while you do please note that it was published on January 6, 2004. In other words, it does not include data from the 2004 and 2008 races
"There have been 10 races over the last 50 years in which there was a significant contest for the Democratic nomination: 1952, 1956, 1960, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1984, 1988, 1992, and 2000. (The omitted years of 1964, 1980, and 1996 were ones in which a Democratic incumbent president ran for re-election with little or no opposition.)...
...In fact, in only 4 out of the 10 elections (Adlai Stevenson in 1952, John F. Kennedy in 1960, Walter Mondale in 1984, and Al Gore in 2000) did the front-runner in late December/early January win the Democratic Party's nomination. In all other instances, someone else came from behind as the primary season unfolded."
One final point. National opinion polls can react strongly to he results of early caucuses and primaries. Let's go back to the 2004 Democratic contest again and look at how national opinion polls correlated to early states results. Remember, Iowa voted on January 19th and NH on January 27. Here is a snapshot from a CBS national opinion poll taken shortly before those contests, and one a month later. Source:
Shortly before the 2004 Iowa Caucus, national polling:
One month later it looked like this
It is a little bit early to be talking about the 2016 presumptive Democratic nominee.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Sat Dec 12, 2015, 03:15 PM (37 replies)