A Tree Named Sanders Fell on 2016, So Why Don’t Republicans Hear It? (August 16, 2015)


History is littered with the names of once promising, supposedly viable nominees for the nation’s highest office who had their hopes dashed under the weight of scandal and/or unreasonably high personal and public expectations. This is true of both parties from all relevant American epochs. A few examples include William Henry Seward, Gary Hart, Howard Dean, John McCain and current 2016 favorite Hillary Clinton. All these names and more have known the sting of presumed favorite status, turned bridesmaid humiliation, a sense of inevitability deflated.

Such is not the case with one Bernard Sanders, who announced his candidacy for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination on April 30, 2015. While providing the progressive electoral jolt predicted by amateur pundits everywhere, even liberal media outlets such as NPR refused to take the Vermont senator seriously. Labeling his bid a “long shot,” conventional wisdom had Sanders as either (depending upon your side of the aisle) a fun variable forcing Clinton to move left, or an old, hippie, single-issue crank.

But a funny thing has happened over the course of the last three and a half months. Despite many fewer resources of all campaign kinds, Bernie Sanders is gaining steam. Earlier this week, the Boston Herald‘s Joe Battenfeld published an interpretation of the Brooklyn, New York native’s recent swell,Poll: Bernie Sanders surges ahead of Hillary Clinton in N.H., 44-37. Within the piece he characterizes Sanders’ popular momentum as “a stunning turn in a race once considered a lock for the former secretary of state.” In March the same poll in question, conducted by the Herald in conjunction with Franklin Pierce University, showed Sanders trailing Clinton in a big way at 44-8.

The Clinton campaign must be worried. It’s only natural. But my question this week: why don’t Republicans seem concerned about anyone but the former New York senator as a potential opponent? This is another in a long series of miscalculations from the GOP machine.

In fact, though our own Jason Easley reported that Bernie Sanders Was The Most Retweeted Candidate During The Republican Debate, that party’s representatives paid him no attention at all. While Donald Trump infought with Fox News debate moderator Megyn Kelly and anyone else who pressed him for actual policy positions, Sanders captured the social media zeitgeist by taking his trademark blunt ax to the foolishness: “It’s over. Not one word about economic inequality, climate change, Citizens United or student debt. That’s why the Rs are so out of touch.”

Trump, who has disparaged nearly every American in some outrageous fashion since announcing his own run, only got around to lambasting Sanders’ “weakness” a few days ago. On August 8, the Washington Post‘s Philip Bump wrote the somewhat tongue-in-cheek, Losers: A List by Donald Trump and Bernie wasn’t even mentioned. He couldn’t secure the same rhetorical ire as Glenfiddich Scotch, which isn’t even a sentient being.

So what gives? Why the rhetorical quiet from the right in the face of Sanders’ increasingly mighty roar? The answer is probably fairly simple. If Republicans fear another four (or eight years) of Executive Branch banishment at the hands of Hillary Clinton, they’re downright panicked at the idea of President Sanders. And the underpinnings of that fear are offered by Bernie’s now-ubiquitous GOP debate tweet.

With characteristic real-talk he identified four conservative untouchables that he’d have no problem confronting from the White House: economic inequality, climate change, the flood of money in politics and the crushing debt load of our country’s students. Though one man can only do so much without the active participation of Congress (just ask President Obama), Sanders as POTUS means the absolute end of business as usual. Even those who dislike the man know he’s authentic. He can’t be bought. Sanders’ refreshing lack of scripted phoniness, combined with a platform that promotes true democratic opportunity, is what’s warming public perception. That should scare the backward-looking, cynical party of Koch.

As they have in response to many of the country’s challenges, Republicans are choosing the fingers in ears approach to the threat of Bernie Sanders. If like the disparity of class and racial opportunity, environmental decay and gun violence, they ignore it, well then it doesn’t exist. And the party methodology is failing. Again.


The Future of the GOP: Proudly Unstudied Scott Walker Revels in Iran Ignorance

Scott Walker

I am a dyed in the wool Midwestern woman. As a proud Chicago, Illinois native and current resident, I have a guarded affection for my neighbors to the north in Wisconsin – not only because a sizeable portion of my family resides there. According to a study from the Bay Area Center for Voting Research, the Badger State boasts two of the top 40 most liberal cities in the nation, Milwaukee and Madison. It also has a historically balanced mix of Democratic and Republican governors, which demonstrates a spirited, bipartisan embrace of political discourse. And of course there’s lot of cheese.

Wisconsin is famous for many things, including the World’s Only Polka Escalator and the NFL’s Green Bay Packers franchise. However since January 3, 2011 the state that folk singer Dar Williams once referred to as the epicenter of “can-do, earthy-crunchy attitude,” has been most famous for its current Republican governor and 2016 presidential candidate, Scott Walker. It’s been a rough time for Wisconsin progressives – and those dreading a national Walker campaign – ever since. We’ve had four years to get well acquainted with his union-busting, anti-worker tactics, animosity toward a woman’s right to make her own family planning decisions, and affection for discriminatory voting laws.

But this week, Scott Walker, Colorado Springs, Colorado native come failed Marquette University graduate, would have us swallow his reinvention as a foreign policy expert. After all, he spent a whole two hours this past winter being tutored on international affairs by the leading experts of his party. After the meeting, Philip Rucker and Robert Costa of The Washington Post wrote:

In contrast to the compelling and confident way Walker talks about his Wisconsin record, he has been shaky on foreign policy. He has traveled only rarely overseas and showed little interest in world politics in college or as governor. Policy experts and donors who have met with him privately said he lacks depth of knowledge about the international scene and speaks mostly in generalities.

But in a 2016 Republican primary season almost unprecedented for its unmitigated gall (and really, after 2012, could we have conceived of a lower bar?), a complete and total lack of experience, intellectual curiosity or insight didn’t stop Scott Walker from weighing in on the historic, multilateral diplomatic agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear program this week. I believe Salon.com writer Simon Maloy captured the results rather nicely in the piece, Scott Walker Makes a Clown of Himself: Foreign Policy-challenged Candidate Disastrously Flubs Iran. In response to Walker’s reckless campaign claim that he would as president, “pull back, I would terminate that bad deal with Iran completely on day one,” Maloy wrote:

Walker seems to think that the U.S. will have the standing and credibility to assemble a multilateral sanctions regime against Iran immediately after he unilaterally detonates the diplomatic framework that our allies have painstakingly worked on for so long.

And that’s just the first problem with the Wisconsin governor’s comments. As the website Real Clear Politics reported, Walker also labeled the compromise “one of the biggest disasters of the Obama-Clinton doctrine.” This is shameless politicking over a momentous, if nerve-wracking agreement that gives the United States a real shot at preventing nuclear war in the Middle East. What did we have before this week? Absolutely nothing. Walker should know this, as he knows it was Secretary of State John Kerry who brokered the tense negotiations, not 2016 presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton. The latter may be in fact the only foreign policy detail of which the Republican candidate is aware.

If one of the demonstrations of fitness for the nation’s highest office is the ability to understand the issues and comment judiciously, Walker failed at both ends of the test this week. It’s not really a surprise, nor is Walker alone in ignorance. As our writers have reported continuously, all 15 Republican presidential candidates raced to the nearest microphone to voice criticism of the Iran plan without offering a credible alternative. But still, you’d think a man long touted as the “future” of the party would have something more to offer than stale, pandering stupidity.

Insanity Defined: Why the Interminable GOP Primary Season is a Win for the Left

donald trump cnn state of the union

On February 24, 2012, writer Cameron Joseph of The Hill wrote a blog post entitled, Long, Damaging Presidential Primary Has GOP Considering Changes to Its Rules. In it, he quotes John Ryder, an RNC committeeman from Tennessee, who commented on the untenable primary process for the Republican party: “People do have concerns this has gone on longer than they would like and cost more money than they would like and created more thunder and lightning than they would like.”

In the same article, Joseph includes a statement from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, not a candidate in 2012, but surely with his eyes toward the future. Christie observed with his unique combination of aggressive condescension, “This was the dumbest idea anybody ever had…You’re running against an incumbent president who will not have a primary, so your idea is make ours longer so we can beat each other up longer?”

In response to the belief of some GOP strategists that the endless primary season of 2012 was a major drag on Mitt Romney’s chances for presidential success, the Republican National Committee voted to schedule the 2016 nominating convention much earlier. This time, the fun occurs in late June of next year as opposed to the end of August.

My argument this week: we may yet be eight months from the Iowa causes, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. The experience of the 2016 voter is already a battered one, abused by the rhetorical swill of 14 official candidates representing the Grand Old Party. And if that’s the case, Republican efforts to bump up the convention are a moot point – which makes it another great election cycle to sit on the left.

Bernie Sanders’ surprisingly (to some) robust challenge to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is wrought with suspense and tension, but seems rather unlikely to prove an embarrassment to the nation, the party or the candidates themselves. As our own Rmuse put it in an ironic June 3 headline, According To Polls Most Americans Are Socialists Like Bernie Sanders. Although Sanders and Clinton certainly have differences on a variety of issues, there’s no doubt that the politicians’ views are more mainstream than anyone calling themselves a contender on the right. To date, neither Bernie nor Hillary has referred to the immigrant population as a nest of rapists and murderers. So there’s that.

Beyond the sheer length of time the Republicans are affording themselves to proudly wave their ignorance like a parade flag, the party seems to have failed to learn other lessons from 2012 as well.

On March 18, 2013, Benjy Sarlin of TPM wrote 6 Big Takeaways From The RNC’s Incredible 2012 Autopsy. The column, a condensed review of the much-ballyhooed report examining the underlying causes of the Romney shellacking, offered a half dozen important recommendations the party must make actionable if they are to compete in 2016:

  1. Pass Immigration Reform Yesterday 
  2. Listen To Minorities
  3. Gays Aren’t Going Away
  4. Epistemic Closure Is Real
  5. Look To The States
  6. Stop Being The Rich Guys

Ummm…..nope. The Republican candidates of today aren’t listening to any of that noise. Jeb Bush is the only one who will have a serious conversation about immigration policy. Donald Trump and his biggest fan Ted Cruz are driving away the Latino vote in droves. Bobby Jindal has offered legal representation to government employees who’d rather not recognize marriage equality as the law of the land. Mike Huckabee’s talking points are the product of total ideological isolation. And only Marco Rubio suffers the indignity of being left out of the millionaires’ club.

It’s a hilariously perverse state of affairs. It’s one thing to reject every word that comes out of President Obama’s mouth as the crazy talk of a Kenyan, Islamic socialist who hates American and freedom. It’s quite another to reject the wise counsel of your own team, opting instead to adopt the same tactics that failed before, yet expecting different results. It is, as the title of this column alludes, the very definition of insanity.

Evaluating the sideshow that is once again the Republican primary slug fest, Democratic leader Hillary Clinton has wisely adopted a less-is-more approach to media engagement. This is clearly an privilege afforded to the defense. But even the formidable offense of Bernie Sanders is fact-based, articulate, human, populist and devoid of ad hominem attacks. A few of the reasons that he’s enjoying huge crowds and gaining momentum instead of disgusting the country in a mostly bipartisan way. Go figure.

What Spain’s Populist, Gender-Neutral Mayoral Shift Could Mean for America in 2016 (June 17, 2015)

spanish pop

Last weekend, the Spanish cities of Madrid and Barcelona put the official celebratory touches on a revolutionary transition that occurred during May’s municipal elections. In Madrid, 71 year-old retired judge Manuela Carmena’s supporters leveraged a bit of the Obama slogan magic (“Yes We Can!”) in a jubilant mayoral oath of office ceremony that promised real populist change for the third largest city in the European Union.

Throughout her campaign, Carmena warned both supporters and detractors that she and her team “want to lead by listening to people who don’t use fancy titles to address us…We’re creating a new kind of politics that doesn’t fit within the conventions…Get ready.”

621 kilometers away, housing market reform champion Ada Colau, 41, became the first-ever female mayor of Barcelona, claiming victory with a platform that includes an anti-eviction approach for struggling homeowners. The rise to power of the two women in two different Spanish cities is striking for a number of reasons.

Firstly, Spain’s conservative Popular Party, which currently runs the national government, has struggled mightily to reverse the country’s losses in the wake of the Great Recession. This party ruled Madrid for 24 years prior to Carmena’s win at the polls. Not any longer.  And in a commitment to fellow Barcelonians which demonstrates that change begins with the executive office, a June 14 report from RT.com states that Colau’s “administration will now draft a list of 30 measures aimed at creating jobs and fighting corruption. Along with her colleague in Madrid, Colau announced that she will slash her salary from €140,000, down to €35,000.”

Beyond the profound shift in political party loyalty among voters in the EU’s fifth-largest economy, where the unemployment rate hovers around 24 percent, the disparate ages of the new mayors is also significant. In a 2016 American Presidential primary contest where GOP candidates such as Florida Senator Marco Rubio are looking to frame the election as a “generational choice,” the voters of Madrid and Barcelona sent a very different message. Age? Not important as long as you’re willing to make a profound break with the status quo.

Lastly, beyond casual mention of the genders of Carmena and Colau, and the historical note of Colau’s demographic singularity as the new mayor of Barcelona, the story is not of two women in a still male-dominated political landscape. The narrative thread, rather, is exactly what it should be. As Colau put it, “In Barcelona…a bet was made for change.”

So what do these international events portend for the 2016 general Presidential election?  Beginning with the 2013 referendum in New York City that saw liberal Democrat Bill DeBlasio ride a populist wave of Occupy Wall Street sentiment to the mayor’s residence, the country’s urban left has been louder and more demonstrative. One need only listen to Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s Roosevelt Island speech to understand the powerful effect vocal liberal heroes such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have had on moving the candidate’s platform sharply to the left. And as our own Jason Easley reported on May 22, self-reported liberals now outnumber conservatives.

It may have taken a decade longer than we can rightfully spare with such a lengthy and challenging list of obstacles standing between us and a return to the nation’s middle class solvency, but the growing consensus at home and overseas is clear. If ignorance is the greatest tool of oppression, the right is running out of arrows. The 99 percent knows it’s getting a raw deal, has in fact been receiving one for decades. During each post- Bush 44 election cycle, repudiation of the conservative economic “plan” grows stronger. If we move the conversation away from the age, gender and race of the 2016 candidates (an admittedly tall order), we are left with more than 80 percent of the electorate residing in urban, liberal-skewing hubs waiting for their Spanish moment.

Yale Instructor David Brooks Says “Campus Crusaders” Are Moral Zealots, Anti-Free Speech (June 6, 2015)


In a post-9/11 world, self-styled “moderate” conservative andNew York Times Op-Ed columnist David Brooks has carved out a cottage industry conflating morality with anti-liberal politics. To be fair to Brooks, this has been a good business opportunity afforded by the “Do as I say, not as I do” public hypocrisy of the modern conservative movement and its 24/7 mouthpiece, Fox News.

An obvious example includes screaming ad nauseam about runaway deficits as the biggest threat to our nation in a craven effort to destroy the social safety net. Yet those deficit concerns suddenly vanish when old white men with itchy trigger fingers salivate over defense spending. Or how about the sanctity of life?

Nothing is more important than controlling a woman’s right to choose, because morality. Yet once the babies are born, those takers are on their own, especially if they’re brown. And the nearly 5,000 American soldiers who have died in Iraq, a conflict of choice predicated upon manufactured GOP intelligence? That’s not a waste of human life at all. No moral peccadillo whatsoever.

We’ve all become inured to the right’s insincere pearl clutching over “controversies” such as Benghazi, Obamacare and more while the middle and lower classes continue to lose socioeconomic stability. It’s hard to muster more than listlessness at the endless, disingenuous analysis of the moral failings of the suffering. Because if you’re rich, successful and healthy, it’s not because you’ve benefitted from a scale tipped in your favor according to the GOP. Nope. If you rise to the top of economic pile, it can only be because you’re more deserving. That’s how they pretend the system works, and if something is repeated often enough, it becomes conventional platform wisdom.

David Brooks never tires of trying to inculcate us unrestrained liberals with his party’s morality dogma. But this week, in a column entitled The Campus Crusaders, he takes the blame game a step further, arguing that today’s weak and infantilized college students result in idea-free academic zones. In a logical fallacy of impressive dimensions, the younger generation’s growing fatigue with the same old conservative conversations translates into:

“They are going after people for simply failing to show sufficient deference to and respect for the etiquette they hold dear. They sometimes conflate ideas with actions and regard controversial ideas as forms of violence.”

So conservative is the new liberal among today’s kids, is that right Brooks? Pupils intolerant of ignorance and backward-looking policies that make true opportunistic equality impossible are ethically bankrupt. And Brooks is qualified to make this judgment because he’s a Professor at Yale, thus often in proximity to students.

Let’s call this what it really is – pretensions to osmotic cultural anthropology couched in culture war sour grapes. And while we’re justifiably impugning Brooks’ snarky brand of faux academia, let’s also review some of the “sources” the longtime columnist leverages in constructing his argument.

On the Regnery Publishing website, the book is summarized as evaluating “a growing intolerance from the left side of the political spectrum [] threatening Americans’ ability to freely express beliefs without fear of retaliation.” You may be shocked (shocked!) to learn that Powers is a Fox New contributor.

Brooks misappropriates the March 21, 2015 work of his Timescolleague Judith Shulevitz to tie issue-based sensitivity around sexual assault and rape culture on college campuses to a liberal “form of zealotry.”

By linking to this website in a general way, rather than to a specific topic, Brooks appears to hope that readers will connect the site’s mission to “defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities” with a conservative agenda. Brooks takes the lazy route to serving up specific examples of imperiled free speech in academia, and fails completely to correlate the content with liberal moral infirmity.

In the meat and potatoes of his column, David Brooks writes of today’s morally challenged student movement as one “led by students forced to live with the legacy of sexism, with the threat, and sometimes the experience, of sexual assault. It is led by students whose lives have been marred by racism and bigotry. It is led by people who want to secure equal rights for gays, lesbians and other historically marginalized groups.”

Here’s a thought I’d like to contribute to Brooks’ “idea-free” liberal debate. If the majority of today’s students refuse to create “safe space” for the continued subjugation of anyone not wealthy, white and male, perhaps the moral failing belongs to you and your fellow conservatives for expecting to be accommodated.  Many a belief and notion throughout history has been popularly shunted aside, not from moral corruption, but rather a modern inability to serve rational, progressive society.