by Bill Onasch
The 9 Percent Solution
Though their outcome was predetermined, both boss party conventions went through the motions of approving presidential nominees. The winners of the longest and most expensive primary battles in history were decided by nine percent pf those eligible to vote.
The two gatherings attracted thousands of protesters for numerous causes, confined in First Amendment zones well away from each heavily guarded perimeter. In Cleveland those doubled as Second Amendment zones where state law protected the right to pack ’em if you’ve got ’em.
There was commotion inside as well. All the faithful in the GOP pews quickly learned any mention of Hillary Clinton from the altar was cue for responding “lock her up.” Ted Cruz was literally booed off the stage when he urged his Republican comrades to vote their conscience.
Melania, the current Mrs Trump, was picked to present a “softer, more feminine” contrast. She got an enthusiastic reception from all assembled as she testified her spouse was a rock solid family man as well as a genius in business and political vision. But it didn’t take long for critics to expose some of her remarks plagiarized a speech by–Michelle Obama. When it was soon discovered she had also lied about her claim of a university degree the digital barn door was finally closed on Melania’s personal website.
The decisive, if Pyrrhic victory of a far-right megalomaniac can perhaps best be judged by who didn’t show up. Nobody named Bush, Romney, or Kasich was present at the Cleveland conclave. That’s not a good sign for mobilizing the traditional party apparatus in November.
Trump’s billionaire peer and Manhattan neighbor, former Republican Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg, spoke at the other convention–endorsing Clinton. Trump promptly tweeted an insult about “little” (5-8) Michael Bloomberg and later, clearly aiming at this apostate class brother, told a cheering campaign rally he would like to “hit him so hard he would never recover.” Jail and debilitating beatings for opponents–No, this is not your grandfather’s party of I Like Ike.
As the donkey delegates were beginning to arrive in the City of Brotherly Love, Wikileaks released an ugly cat among the pigeons—intercepted e-mail showing the “neutral” Democrat National Committee had been working hard to secure Clinton’s nomination, threatened by the Bernie Sanders insurgency. Mrs Clinton expressed shock that there had been gambling at Rick’s and tried to shift the topic by alleging the Russians were responsible for hacking the messages. The DNC Chair said she was resigning early, effective the end of the convention. But when she was greeted by boos and cat-calls wherever she showed her face in public she had to hand the gavel over to a Vice-Chair.
The forty-some percent of elected delegates pledged to Senator Sanders were not in a good mood even before the e-mail scandal confirmed the dirty tricks they had long suspected. They were particularly upset over Clinton’s veto of inclusion of single-payer health care in the platform and the watering down of their free public college education demand.
Perhaps the proverbial last straw for many was Clinton’s choice of a running mate. Instead of reaching out to the Sanders camp that garnered 12 million votes she certainly needs in November, Mrs Clinton chose a lad raised in a Kansas City suburb who boasts of his Jesuit education. A former Governor, now a Senator from Virginia, Tim Kaine favors “right-to-work” laws.
Candidate Clinton appears to have as much hubris as her GOP opponent in what is becoming known as an unpopularity contest. Each is working from a once successful but now obsolete playbook.
The Republican plan is to win over enough disaffected white male working class Democrats to join traditional Republicans, and Christian zealots–as Ronald Reagan did in 1980. The millions of “Reagan Democrats” felt, justifiably, that they had been hosed by Jimmy Carter in a period of plant closings, the beginnings of deregulation and austerity, along with runaway inflation. But 36 years of attrition has taken its toll. In the last election Romney won an even bigger share of this dwindling group than Reagan did—and got whipped by an incumbent Black Democrat.
Hillary Clinton is convinced, like her husband was in his turn, that the unions and social movements have no alternative to supporting her. She calculates she can safely tack to the right to broaden her base—a formula that worked well for the first Clinton and the current President.
Both of these plans ignore the big changes in overall demographics. Millenials of all colors and genders are beginning to assert their presence. Young workers and students were the shock troops of the Sanders “Political Revolution.” They also helped win over many from older generations, including most of the still lucid Sixties Radicals. Most remarkably, they inspired the leadership of several important unions to Feel the Bern.
As he had all along explained he would to anyone who paid attention, on the eve of the convention Senator Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton and called for unity to defeat Trump. He also tried to take some of the sting out of nixing single-payer by joining Clinton in a joint endorsement of the lame duck President’s call to add “public options” to the Affordable Care Act.
The Senator was rewarded for his good sportsmanship with a prime time speech. Most of the unions that had endorsed him had already tried to board the victor’s bandwagon. But the ranks of Bernie’s revolutionary army weren’t ready for unconditional surrender. Long after their commander requested they stand down, his troops continued to fight with the only weapon available—noisy disruption on the floor and in the corridors.
But this gut-level last stand was an emotional response, not a viable strategic alternative. As I predicted early on, it was the last gasp of Political Revolution. The great unanswered question coming out of the Democrat convention is how many of Bernie’s army will follow their leader in to the same old, same old “lesser evil” campaign? Nominee Clinton may have burned a bridge too far by assuming they have no other options.
That’s my take on how the next leader of the Free World got picked.
Red + Green = Gray
Left groups like Socialist Alternative–who can claim the only elected socialist in this country–and Solidarity, with some significant influence in the labor and climate movements, actively supported the Sanders effort while urging him to run as an independent. Now, instead of calling for this movement to start building a new broad working class party, or even running what the old-timers call a “propaganda campaign” around a socialist slate, they are urging the “Sandernistas” to join Dr Jill Stein’s Green Party campaign. That makes them twice wrong in my opinion.
To be sure, there are many good people in the Green Party and I’ve had positive experience collaborating with some on various issues. Unlike the Democrats and Republicans they are not a party of the ruling class. But they do not claim any class identity—and that’s a big problem for those of us who have class awareness.
There was a major effort to turn the Greens in to an advocate for the working class in the 2000 election—which became their by far biggest electoral success. Without joining the party, Ralph Nader accepted the Green nomination for President. At the convention that selected him, Nader invited his long time friend and collaborator Tony Mazzocchi to speak about the Labor Party program. Even though Tony frankly explained the Labor Party could not endorse any other party’s candidates, the delegates overwhelmingly adopted his suggestion to incorporate the Labor Party program in to the Green election platform.
Nader’s 2000 campaign resembled the recent Sanders effort in many respects. He spoke to a number of “super-rallies” attracting thousands of mainly young people. His name recognition got him some media attention. The UE and the California Nurses Association endorsed the campaign. In the end, he won about 2.9 million votes, 2.74 percent of the total. His “coat-tails” helped elect a record number of Greens to local office—though some later defected to the Democrats.
That election was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court blessing Bush II’s theft of the White House. Nader was MIA, having moved on to his next book project. The liberals, union leaders—and Al Gore–decided not to pursue a constitutional crisis. Instead, they denounced Nader, the Greens, and even the Labor Party as “spoilers.”
That baseless charge had its effect. Since then the Greens at times have adopted “tactical voting.” This means voting Green in those states where one of the major parties has a lock on winning—while voting for the “lesser evil” in the “battleground states.” In 2012, Dr Stein was on the ballot in dozens of states and won 0.36 percent of the vote.
Green activists can remain important allies in issue movements. But they are not the answer to breaking the ruling class monopoly of all things political.
Write Your Own Ticket
Regular readers know I promote a revival of Labor Party Advocates. We need a party based on our mass organizations but open to all who agrees with its working class program. It should be a party that also supports the struggles of our class in the workplace and our communities.
While there is some new interest in this project there will not be a labor party option in November. If I wanted to stoop to the level of cynicism exhibited by boss politicians I could call for a boycott of the elections–confident that the working class majority would support me. But ignoring elections at best is a silent personal protest that doesn’t advance the interests of our class.
I’ve seen only one campaign platform that clearly shows the way forward on the labor party:
“Socialist Action is part of the historic tradition that works simultaneously for a revolutionary socialist party and for a party based on the foundation of our only class-based mass organizations—our unions. We think that a labor party will come about as the outgrowth of a reborn democratic, fighting union movement. A labor party will be a giant step forward toward breaking the ruling-class political monopoly and will work toward putting a government in power that is run by and for the working class.”
To be sure, this is a “propaganda campaign,” a write-in effort by a small socialist group. I’ve known and respected their presidential candidate, Jeff Mackler, going back to the movement against the Vietnam war. The “historic tradition” referred to is that of the great Eugene V Debs, who worked for a labor party while also ably representing the Socialist Party in presidential elections. I’m going to accept his oft-quoted advice–“It’s better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don’t want—and get it.”
That’s all for this week.
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