Swimming Left, into the Mainstream

Despite pundits dismissing Sen. Bernie Sanders’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, he is drawing big and enthusiastic crowds who seem eager for ideas about rebuilding the middle class and ending plutocracy, as Bill Moyers and Michael Winship note.

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Congressman John K. Delaney, what the hell are you talking about? In a recent Washington Post op-ed piece, headlined, “The last thing America needs? A left-wing version of the Tea Party,” the Democratic congressman from Maryland scolds progressives and expresses his worry “about where some of the loudest voices in the room could take the Democratic Party.”

He writes, “Rejecting a trade agreement with Asia, expanding entitlement programs that crowd out other priorities and a desire to relitigate the financial crisis are becoming dominant positions among Democrats. Although these subjects may make for good partisan talking points, they do not provide the building blocks for a positive and bold agenda to create jobs and improve the lives of Americans.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

Rep. Delaney even implies that a freewheeling, open discussion of “these subjects” could lead to the election of a Republican president. Good grief, John.  A trade agreement that favors multinational corporations over working people? Cutting “entitlement programs” such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, worker’s compensation? Letting Wall Street off the hook for crashing the economy and costing millions of Americans their jobs and homes?  These are Republican policies, bought and paid for by plutocrats.

If Democrats simply mimic them, there would be no need to bother with voting for a Republican president; we could cancel the election and put the billions of dollars saved in campaign contributions straight into the Clinton Foundation.

The progressive agenda isn’t “left wing.” (Can anyone using the term even define what “left wing” means anymore?) The progressive agenda is America’s story, from ending slavery to ending segregation to establishing a woman’s right to vote to Social Security, the right to organize, and the fight for fair pay and against income inequality. Strip those from our history and you might as well contract America out to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce the National Association of Manufacturers, and Karl Rove, Inc.

At their core, the New Deal, Fair Deal and Great Society programs were aimed at assuring every child of a decent education, every worker a decent wage, and every senior a decent retirement; if that’s extreme, so are the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution.

But such is the level of what passes for discourse Inside the Beltway these days. The cushioned political and media elites who eat, drink and make merry with each other at the annual White House Correspondents & Celebrity Ball are so cozy up there in the stratosphere that they dismiss as the lunatic fringe any voice from below that challenges the status quo.

And by the way, John, the “loudest voices in the room” aren’t populists or progressives; they belong to the auctioneers selling our government to the highest bidders.

Can you believe this? Rep. Delaney even thinks that progressives are too engaged “in time-consuming rhetoric attacking banks that has little chance of producing more financial reform and distracts from far more consequential areas of economic risk”

Yet his words come on the heels of another round of billions in fines against the big banks for perpetrating fraud, an ongoing attempt by Republican Sen. Richard Shelby and his Wall Street-funded colleagues on the Senate Banking Committee to eviscerate the reforms of Dodd-Frank, and an updated report from the University of Notre Dame and law firm Labaton Sucharow that says:

“Nearly seven years after the global financial crisis rocked investors’ confidence in the markets and financial services in general, our survey clearly shows that a culture of integrity has failed to take hold. Numerous individuals continue to believe that engaging in illegal or unethical activity is part and parcel of succeeding in this highly competitive field.” (And why not, when the chances of going to prison for your blatant misdeeds are virtually nil?)

But Rep. Delaney seems to think any objection to these behaviors and other misdeeds just jams the works and keeps the grownups from taking care of business. So does former Mitt (“47 percent”) Romney advisor and George W. Bush (slash taxes on the One Percent!) speechwriter Peter Wehner, who recently warned in The New York Times that many Democrats “are placing a very risky bet that there are virtually no limits to how far left they can go.”

How about far enough left to reach Main Street? Just take a look at the initial press reaction to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential candidacy. As Steve Hendricks observed in the Columbia Journalism Review, “For not going with the flow, and for challenging Hillary Clinton, the big fish many elites have tagged as their own, Sanders’s entry into the race was greeted with story after story whose message, stated or understated, depending on the decorum of the messenger, was ‘This crank can’t win.’”

Hillary Clinton’s “corporatism,” Hendricks writes, “wed to her social liberalism and her imperial hawkishness appeals to those in the moneyed Second and journalistic Fourth Estates who would embrace Republicanism but for its misogynistic, homophobic, racist, science-denying core.”

And so Sanders was tarred at the outset as a doomed crackpot candidate,  followed then by article after article that fixated not on ideas and policies but on various idiosyncrasies, Sanders’s age and hippie past, the ideology of democratic socialism, and for heaven’s sake, his flyaway hair.

But if Sen. Sanders is a crackpot, so are the majority of Americans. The ideas and policies he espouses have far more public support than the journalist habitués of Capitol Hill and Pennsylvania Avenue would have you believe.

Juan Cole of the blog Informed Comment pulled together some of the figures: “Some 63 percent of Americans agree that the current distribution of wealth is unfair. And in a Gallup poll done earlier this month, a majority, 52 percent, think that government taxation on the rich should be used to reduce the wealth gap. A majority of Americans oppose the Supreme Court Citizens United ruling, one of a number of such rulings that have increased the ability of the super-wealthy to influence politics.

“A good half of Americans support federally financed political campaigns so as to level the playing field. Some 79 percent of Americans believe that education beyond high school is not affordable for everyone. And some 57 percent of people under 30 believe student debt is a problem for youth. According to a very recent Yale/Gallup poll, some 71 percent of Americans believe global warming is occurring, and 57 percent are sure that human activity (emitting greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide) is causing it”

There you have it: Far from being an outsider, Sanders is paddling his way along the mainstream of American public opinion. Look at the crowds that are gathering to hear him speak: More than 3,000 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Sunday, standing room only in Ames, Davenport and Iowa City, Iowa. Reporters can’t help but take notice now.

“At campaign stops in early states and elsewhere, the firebrand from Vermont is drawing enthusiastic crowds that are several times larger than those that gather for [fellow presidential aspirant Martin] O’Malley,” notes The Washington Post.

And The New York Times: “The crowds at Mr. Sanders’s Iowa events appeared to be different from the state’s famously finicky tire-kickers. Many said they had already made up their mind to support Mr. Sanders. They applauded his calls for higher taxes on the rich to pay for 13 million public works jobs, for decisive action on climate change and for free tuition at public colleges.”

Oh, how the mighty tremble when they hear such things!  The murmuring crowd is their worst nightmare. So plutocratic Republican apologists like Peter Wehner, the corporate Democrats of Clinton, Inc., and killjoys like Congressman Delaney will double down against Bernie Sanders,  just as they have against all those in politics before them who champion bottom-up democracy.

If that means turning “left,” so be it. For Democrats, it’s the way home. They would do well to remember that apocryphal saying, usually attributed to Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

Bill Moyers is the managing editor of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com. Michael Winship is the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, and a senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos.

14 comments for “Swimming Left, into the Mainstream

  1. Donald Paulus
    June 11, 2015 at 15:13

    Representative Delaney is talking through his cocked hat. He is the one out of touch with the voters who I hope teach him a fundamental lesson: ignore your constituents at your peril. You attack the top 1% by defeating their enablers in the Congress. Delaney should be sent packing. This will be a great audial-visual aid for other Congressmen and women who put the big corporationists ahead of the average voters. The revolution has started. Let’s keep it rolling.

  2. Brad Owen
    June 4, 2015 at 12:15

    Fox business news reporter Gasperino said his Wall Street sources say O’Malley is the LAST guy they want for Prez. That piques my interest very much. I’m starting with the LAST guy W.S. wants, and work my way up THAT list; last-to-first. Maybe Sanders is next-to-last…haven’t heard yet.

    • Alan
      June 4, 2015 at 17:53

      Since when do you trust anything from FOX News? Whatever they say, I usually think the opposite is true.

      • Bad Owen
        June 5, 2015 at 04:16

        It’s a report I picked up from Executive Intelligence Review. It’s good to know what your enemy is talking about. Although you’re right to point out the possible “Tar Baby Gambit” be used here. I generally trust EIR though; they’re busy rebuilding The Presidency; the vast, Official and unofficial network of people that a President can call upon for Intel, or to perform needed tasks…kind of a mirror reflection of the vast agency of Royalist supporters at the beck-n-call of The Crown.

        • Brad Owen
          June 5, 2015 at 04:28

          Of course one needs a real President for “The Presidency” to work. We more often get an Agent-for-Empire, an agent of The Crown, using THEIR network of agents-for-Empire. The Revolution didn’t end at Yorktown. The Empire still has Its’ designs for Its’ “Rogue Colony”. Reality is much weirder than the news lets on, apparently…ever notice how much Tony Blair been all up our business?…or how much influenceThatcher had on the “Reagan” (read “Bush”) Administration? These are questions that occurred to me, so I poked around on the websites, picking out “discredited” sources of info BECAUSE conventional wisdom dictates these sources be “discredited”…”why so much protest?” I thought to myself. A shame one has to root around and fend for oneself, just to get news on what’s really going on in the World.

  3. Jacob
    June 3, 2015 at 19:22

    If the presidential election allows more than one candidate per party, then two competing Democratic candidates could enable a Republican candidate to win the presidency. That’s how Florida governor Rick Scott won the state’s gubernatorial election against two competing Democratic candidates, both of whom, combined, got more votes than Scott. Florida’s governor thus governs without support of the majority of Florida voters, a situation which could happen to the presidency.

    • Larry Kent
      June 15, 2015 at 19:36

      Dianne Rheem interviewed Senator Sanders last week and he stated that if he did not receive the Democratic nomination he would not run as an Independent.

  4. Mark
    June 3, 2015 at 18:38

    Because of media propaganda and failure to discuss the truth, many Americans still believe that Reagan’s trickle down economics and deregulation policies actually work.

    But those policies, continued through today, have yielded nothing but a broken down America with a beaten down middle class due to embracing the great communicators hypocrisies and false logic — ultimately giving us (1) endless wars for corporate profit at the expense of the middle and disadvantaged classes, (2) the biggest financial fraud in world history and (3) the Citizens United ruling against equal political representation for everyday Americans.

    While republicans openly tout going further down the same holes, and democrats will say anything to get elected right before they cater to the corporate oligarchy, at least B. Sanders talks right with the exception of Israel. And what politician or celebrity tells the truth about Israel without being undeservingly unseated or blacklisted and publicly ridiculed by a press that supports all of Israel’s excesses at the expense of a complicitly enabling USA?

    So what can be held against Sanders that can’t be held against any other candidate?

    • Larry Kent
      June 15, 2015 at 19:28

      I have watched the country slide down the slippery slope of Reaganomics to its ultimate demise. At this time in history we have become aware that the Emperor is naked. Nothing is left but to pick up the pieces and get back on the course that FDR set for us and that worked
      fine for the generations before Reagon. That is the course Bernie Sanders has chosen.
      Mark, I couldn’t agree with you more!

  5. Zachary Smith
    June 3, 2015 at 18:27

    Hillary Clinton’s “corporatism…. her social liberalism …. her imperial hawkishness

    I’m not convinced Hillary is a “liberal” at all. When she had a chance to remake health care, she totally blew the chance. I’ve seen no evidence at all she’s done anything about Climate Change except to run her mouth. Her claim that abortion ought to be “safe, legal, and rare” tells me she would be completely onboard with all the BS the fake moralists do to put obstacles in place to keep poor women from getting abortions at all.

    From the accounts I can find Sanders nearly matches HRC in warmongering. He’s a stout defender of the F-35 money pit.

    Whether or not the man is any better than Hillary on the “corporatism” issue remains an open question with me.

    • Terrie Gates
      June 4, 2015 at 12:35

      Look at the facts. Just compare Bernie’s voting record to Hillary’s…there is NO comparison. His voting record speaks for itself on domestic and foreign policy.

  6. Richo
    June 3, 2015 at 17:48

    Dream ticket: Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders.

    • Mark Tracy
      June 4, 2015 at 09:23

      Unlike Bernie, Rand Paul is a fake populist. Paul is a total suck up to corporate interests.

      • dahoit
        June 8, 2015 at 13:46

        C’mon,Bernie Sanders is a Zionist, his Achilles heel,and has been a major MIC booster,far longer than Paul.
        That said,that ticket intrigues me,a way to unite our purposely divided by Zion.nation.

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