Despite Saudi Crisis, US Increases Threats Against Iran

Though the U.S.-Saudi alliance may have been weakened because of the Khashoggi murder, both countries are still targeting Iran as new US sanctions are announced on Sunday, writes Marjorie Cohn of Truthout. 

By Marjorie Cohn
Truthout

The alleged torture, murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, widely believed to have been carried out on orders of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, may put a crimp in Donald Trump’s plans to escalate his aggression against Iran.

Saudi Arabia, the United States and Israel are unified in their hatred of Iran, albeit with different motives. Iran has been in the crosshairs of the United States since the 1979 Iranian Revolution overthrew the vicious, US-installed puppet Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi; indeed, in 2002, George W. Bush initiated Iran into his “axis of evil.” Saudi Arabia, home to the two holiest Muslim sites, sees Shiite Iran as a rival for regional hegemony. And Israel considers Iran an “existential threat.”

Trump administration officials and outside experts said that possible repercussions on an elaborate plan to squeeze the Iranians have dominated internal discussions about the fallout over what happened to Mr. Khashoggi,” David Sanger reported in The New York Times.

The allegations against the Saudi crown prince “have already had an effect” on Israel, “effectively freezing the push to build an international coalition against Iran’s regional influence, the top priority for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” Ben Hubbard and David Halbfinger, citing “analysts,” wrote in the Times.

White House officials are worried the mushrooming crisis with Saudi Arabia could “derail a showdown with Iran and jeopardize plans to enlist Saudi help to avoid disrupting the oil market.”

Trump Still Ramps It Up

Following the dangerous and foolhardy withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — which pleased Israel and Saudi Arabia, the Trump administration is slated to announce on Sunday that companies doing business with Iran — including purchasing oil or making investments in the country — will be forbidden from doing business in the United States. The imposition of these punishing sanctions are intended to result in a full embargo of Iran’s oil. 

Trump will need Saudi military and political cooperation if, “as threatened,” Iran retaliates against his oil embargo by taking “reciprocal, physical action to halt Saudi and Gulf states’ oil exports via the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf and the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, at the mouth of the Red Sea,” Simon Tisdall noted in The Guardian. “If this crisis point is reached, escalating confrontations across the region cannot be ruled out.”

The Trump administration is relying on Saudi Arabia to pump extra oil once Iran is out of the market. But Congress is considering whether to punish Saudi Arabia for the Khashoggi case.

To penalize what the Saudis care about most – oil revenue – would be to undercut the Iran policy and send the price of gasoline and heating oil significantly higher, just as winter approaches,” Sanger noted.

Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, told the Times, “It’s a neat trick if you both sanction a country and partner with them at the same time,” adding, “it’s not easy to keep the focus on Iran’s behavior when the Saudis are doing terrible things to journalists and dissidents, and bombing children in Yemen.”

The Khashoggi murder has shone a spotlight on the commission of Saudi war crimes in Yemen, aided and abetted by the United States. In a New York Times opinion piece, Sen. Bernie Sanders called for ending US military support to Saudi Arabia. But Sanger cited administration sources as saying, “the issue of limiting American arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which Mr. Trump has said would threaten American jobs, pales in importance [to the plan to squeeze Iran].”

Meanwhile, Trump continues to rattle the sabers at Iran.

Taliban Targeted

On Oct. 23, the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center, comprised of the United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar, designated nine individuals “associated with the Taliban,” some of whom have “Iranian sponsors.” A Bush-era executive order authorizes the Office of Foreign Assets Control to block the assets of anyone or any group designated as a terrorist.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the terrorism designations in a press release, stating that the United States is “targeting key Iranian sponsors providing financial and material support to the Taliban.” He added, “Iran’s support to the Taliban stands in stark violation of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions and epitomizes the regime’s utter disregard for fundamental international norms.”

In a May speech, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States would “crush” Iran with new sanctions so severe that regime change could result.

Moreover, on Oct. 5, the White House released its long-awaited 25-page counterterrorism strategy, which calls Iran “the most prominent state sponsor of terrorism.” It pledges to fight Iran and “radical Islamist” militants to eliminate the terror threat against the United States.

In fact, Iran has not used aggressive military force against a hostile neighbor for more than 200 years. Curiously, the new U.S. counterterrorism strategy fails to identify Saudi Arabia, which is targeting civilians and killing thousands of them in Yemen (and backing extremists in Syria and elsewhere), as a terrorist threat.

Eric Margolis, a veteran war correspondent in the Middle East, reported in July that the Pentagon has prepared plans for an air attack on Iran:

The Pentagon has planned a high-intensity air war against Iran that Israel and the Saudis might very well join. The plan calls for over 2,300 air strikes against Iranian strategic targets: airfields and naval bases, arms and petroleum, oil and lubricant depots, telecommunication nodes, radar, factories, military headquarters, ports, water works, airports, missile bases and units of the Revolutionary Guards.

The National Coalition to Prevent an Iranian Nuclear Weapon, a group of more than 50 prominent foreign policy experts, released a statement saying, “The Trump Administration’s Iran strategy is to assert maximum economic, political and military pressure to change Iran’s behavior and threaten, if not cause, collapse of the regime.” That strategy, they added, “has left Iran the option of either capitulation or war.”

Many in Congress are worried that Trump may be gunning for Iran. They are trying to prevent him from mounting a preemptive strike.

Will Congress Stop an Attack?

On Sept. 28, Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), joined by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), introduced the Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act of 2018. It would prohibit the United States from appropriating money that could lead to war with Iran unless Congress expressly approves. The legislation makes clear that a preemptive attack on Iran would be illegal under the War Powers Act and the US Constitution.

The Udall bill notes that “the International Atomic Energy Agency repeatedly verified that Iran has continued to comply with it nuclear-related obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” US noncompliance with the JCPOA, the bill continues, “risks an unnecessary conflagration with Iran through the use of sanctions against both allies and adversaries in the region and throughout the world, absent a clear diplomatic path for resolving the crisis.” The bill quotes Trump’s tweet that Iran “[w]ill suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.”

Congress explicitly provided in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019, “Nothing in this Act may be construed to authorize the use of force against Iran or North Korea.”

In April, a bipartisan bill to replace the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Force (AUMF) was introduced in the Senate and is currently pending in the Foreign Relations Committee. The proposed bill would allow the president “to use all necessary and appropriate force” against Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Somalia, al-Qaeda, ISIS (also known as Daesh), the Taliban and their “associated forces.” But by its terms, “associated forces” specifically excludes “a sovereign nation.” So, the new AUMF would not cover Iran.

That wouldn’t stop Trump from purporting to rely on the 2001 AUMF to attack Iran, however. Although specifically limited to those responsible for 9/11, Bush, Obama and Trump have all used it to justify at least 37 military operations, many of them unrelated to 9/11.

Copyright Truthout. Reprinted with permission.

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and an advisory board member of Veterans for Peace. The editor and contributor to The United States and Torture: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues, Cohn testified before Congress about the Bush interrogation policy.




The Limits of Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren was pushed to her limit at the National Press Club, entrapped by a system she says she wants to debate, but clearly can’t, as Sam Husseini explains.

By Sam Husseini
Special to Consortium News

Senator Elizabeth Warren at the National Press Club in Washington on Tuesday launched into a blistering attack on unfettered corporate power in America but waffled when asked about military spending and Israel’s recent brutal reaction to Palestinian resistance.

Warren outlined with great specificity a host of proposals for eliminating financial conflicts, closing revolving doors between business and government and reforming corporate structures.

She pilloried former Congressman Billy Tauzin for having done the pharmaceutical lobby’s bidding by preventing a bill for expanded Medicare coverage to include a program to negotiate lower drug prices. “In December of 2003, the very same month the bill was signed into law, PhRMA — the drug companies’ biggest lobbying group — dangled the possibility that Billy could be their next CEO,” Warren said.

“In February of 2004, Congressman Tauzin announced that he wouldn’t seek re-election. Ten months later, he became CEO of PhRMA — at an annual salary of $2 million,” Warren said. “Big Pharma certainly knows how to say ‘thank you for your service.'” 

But Warren’s laudable tenacity in ripping corporate lobbyists’ “pre-bribes” evaporated when faced with questions on the bloated U.S. military budget and ongoing Israeli assaults on Palestinian children. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic progressive who shocked the party by upsetting incumbent Congressman Joe Rowley in a New York primary election in June, had been mentioned earlier in the press conference. So I asked Warren if she agreed with Ocasio-Cortez who has proposed “slashing the military budget to help pay for human and environmental needs.” I also asked Warren if she would consider introducing and sponsoring [a version of] Rep. Betty McCollum’s (D-MN) bill on Palestinians children’s rights in the Senate? 

Warren responded:

I now sit on Armed Services and I have been in the middle of the sausage making factory on that one. And that has pushed me even more strongly in the direction of systemic reforms. I want to be able to have those debates. I want to be able to get them out in the open and talk about these poor issues that affect our government, affect our people. I want to be able to debate them on the floor of the senate. I want to be able to do amendments on them. Right now the whole of big money over our government stops much of that. It chokes off much of the debate we should have. So I am going to give you a system-wide answer because I think that’s what matters here. This is not about one particular proposal, this is all the way across. How is it that we get the voices of the people heard in government instead of over and over the voices of the wealthy and the well connected. The voices of those with higher armies of lobbyists. So for me that’s what this is about.

It was a classic politician’s evasion of sticky questions. She tells us she’s on the inside, invoking the cliché of “sausage-making.” She says she wants to debate the system. But she says she can’t. Warren seems to be crying out, trapped as she is in the compromise of power.

We’ve been here before with would-be champions of the people who run up against the “system.”  I could not help but think of Bernie Sanders in his 2016 presidential run when he was remarkably vague on foreign policy.

It reached almost comical proportions when, during a CBS debate right after the November 2015 bombings in Paris, instead of answering a foreign policy question he pivoted back to income inequality. No doubt Sanders was treated unfairly by the Democratic Party and media establishments. But he was greatly diminished by not having serious foreign policy answers. 

Sanders began addressing foreign policy towards the end of his campaign and has since. But his answers are still problematic. At best they are too little, too late. Warren and other “progressive” candidates seem poised to follow suit.

What are Warren’s real goals? If she really wants to enact legislation to rein in corporations, why hasn’t she found a rogue Republican to work with? Questioned at the press conference by a New York Post reporter, Warren couldn’t name a single Republican she could pair with.

If her intent is to become the leading contender for the Democratic nomination will she simply play the sheepdog role of keeping the public on the “reservation” on behalf of the party’s elite?  

“Inside Washington, some of these proposals will be very unpopular, even with some of my friends,” Warren said at the Press Club. “Outside Washington, I expect that most people will see these ideas as no-brainers and be shocked they’re not already the law.”

The public would probably also be shocked to learn that funding perpetual war, unauthorized by either Congress or the U.N., is already against the law.

Sam Husseini is an independent journalist, senior analyst at the Institute for Public Accuracy and founder of VotePact.org. Follow him on twitter: @samhusseini.

f you enjoyed this original article please consider making a donation to Consortium News so we can bring you more stories like this one.




Democratic Elite Scrambles to Respond to Ocasio-Cortez

Stunned by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory, the Democratic Party establishment is trying to contain the rebellion challenging its class interests and may try to stem the tide with a compromise on super-delegates, as Norman Solomon reports. 

By Norman Solomon

Conventional wisdom said that powerful Congressman Joseph Crowley couldn’t be beat. But his 20-year career in the House of Representatives will end in January, with the socialist organizer who beat him in the Democratic primary in the deep-blue district of the Bronx and Queens poised to become Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

In a symbolic twist of fate, the stunning defeat of Crowley came a day before the Rules and Bylaws Committee of the Democratic Party voted on what to do about “superdelegates,” those unelected Democratic Party elite who’ve had an undemocratic and automatic vote in presidential nominations since 1984 to prevent leftwing candidates from being nominated.    

Crowley’s defeat shows how grass-roots movements can prevail against corporate power and its pile of cash. The Crowley campaign spent upward of $3 million in the Democratic Party primary. The Ocasio-Cortez campaign spent one-tenth of that. He wielded the money. She inspired the people. 

As the 28-year-old Ocasio-Cortez was quick to say after her Tuesday night victory, her triumph belongs to everyone who wants social, economic and racial justice. She ran on a platform in harmony with her activism as a member of Democratic Socialists of America and an organizer for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.

Conventional wisdom said superdelegates—who exerted undemocratic power over the selection of the party’s presidential nominee in 2016—couldn’t be stopped from once again putting the establishment’s thumbs on the scale.

But on Wednesday afternoon, the party committee approved a proposal to prevent superdelegates from voting on the presidential nominee during the first ballot at the 2020 Democratic National Convention. (The last time the party’s convention went to a second ballot was 1952.)

As NPR reported, the committee “voted to drastically curtail the role ‘superdelegates’ play in the party’s presidential nominating process. The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee voted 27 to 1 to block officeholders, DNC members and other party dignitaries from casting decisive votes on the first ballot of presidential nominating conventions.”

Make no mistake: Those in the top echelons of the Democratic Party aren’t moving in this direction out of the goodness of their hearts. Grass-roots pressure to democratize the party—mounting since 2016—is starting to pay off.

Feeling the Heat From Below

Corporate power brokers of the national party are in the midst of a tactical retreat. But it’s not surrender.

During the latest Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting, former DNC chairs Donald Fowler and Donna Brazile voiced strong—and in Fowler’s case, bitter—opposition to changing the superdelegates status quo. They may be indicating an escalation of insider pushback before the full DNC votes  on rules at the end of August.

Norman Solomon is the coordinator of the online activist group RootsAction.org and the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He is the author of a dozen books including “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”




Polls Show Being Anti-Trump Isn’t Enough to Beat GOP

Instead of addressing demands for social progress, such as single-payer insurance, Democratic leaders find it much easier and more comfortable to denounce Trump. But it’s not working, as Norman Solomon explains.

By Norman Solomon

With six months to go before the midterm election, recent national polls are showing that the Democratic Party’s much-touted momentum to gain control of the House has stalled. The latest numbers tell us a lot about the limits of denouncing Donald Trump without offering much more than a return to the old status quo.

Under the headline “Democrats’ 2018 Advantage Is Nearly Gone,” CNN on May 9 reported that nationwide polling found “the generic congressional ballot has continued to tighten” — “with the Democrats’ edge over Republicans within the poll’s margin of sampling error for the first time this cycle.”

With so many gerrymandered districts as well as widespread voter-ID laws and other GOP-engineered voter suppression, Democrats will need a substantial margin in vote totals to prevent Republicans from retaining a majority in the House of Representatives. (The prospects are worse in the Senate, where Democrats are defending a lopsided number of seats this year.)

While “47 percent of registered voters say they back the Democratic candidate in their district, 44 percent back the Republican,” according to CNN. “Voters also are divided almost evenly over whether the country would be better off with the Democrats in control of Congress (31 percent) or with the GOP in charge (30 percent). A sizable 34 percent — including nearly half of independent voters (48 percent) — say it doesn’t matter which party controls Congress.”

The CNN survey comes on the heels of other grim national polling. A recently released Reuters poll concluded that “enthusiasm for the Democratic Party is waning among millennials.”

The online survey of more than 16,000 registered voters ages 18 to 34 shows their support for Democrats over Republicans for Congress slipped by about 9 percentage points over the past two years, to 46 percent overall,” Reuters reported. “And they increasingly say the Republican Party is a better steward of the economy.”

Young people overwhelmingly supported Bernie Sanders during his 2016 campaign for president. With their votes in Democratic Party primaries and caucuses two years ago, the young showed that they want truth about the destructive effects of corporate power — and forceful action against its manifestations, whether economic injustice or climate change.

No Clear Alternative

Overall, the latest generation of adults is negative about the demagogue in the White House. But most Democratic leaders aren’t offering a clear and compelling alternative. As Reuters put it, “Although nearly two of three young voters polled said they do not like Republican President Donald Trump, their distaste for him does not necessarily extend to all Republicans or translate directly into votes for Democratic congressional candidates.”

Six months ago, the independent report Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis pointed out that young people “increasingly want politics to be for something profoundly positive rather than just against Republicans.” As a member of the task force that worked on the report, I was struck by how the top echelon of the Democratic Party keeps trying to insulate itself from — and fend off — the tremendous energy that mobilized behind Sanders during the primaries.

In short, the Democratic Party is still dominated by elected officials and power brokers who appear to be deeply worried that a future progressive upsurge of political engagement could loosen — or even end — their corporate-funded grip on the party. As the Autopsy report saidEmerging sectors of the electorate are compelling the Democratic Party to come to terms with adamant grassroots rejection of economic injustice, institutionalized racism, gender inequality, environmental destruction and corporate domination. Siding with the people who constitute the base isn’t truly possible when party leaders seem to be afraid of them.”

The Sanders campaign was “mostly propelled by millennials,” the report noted, and the campaign “turned what conventional wisdom had pegged as an obscure, 2-percent campaign into a photo finish with the establishment’s preferred candidate. Once the nomination was settled, much of this grassroots energy dissipated as the Clinton campaign declined to adopt positions like single-payer health care and free public college that resonated with young voters.” 

Those kinds of positions have gained some traction in the aftermath of 2016, but they still have a steep climb in the hidebound upper reaches of Democratic Party power. For the people atop the party, it’s so much easier and more comfortable to selectively denounce Trump — while opposing genuinely progressive agendas that would really challenge income inequality or take aim at the warfare state’s bloated budget or cross up the big donors who funnel vast quantities of money into the party.

With the world facing the dual threats of climate change and nuclear holocaust, it’s no exaggeration when Noam Chomsky describes the present-day Republican Party as “the most dangerous organization in human history.” The latest national polling reflects the reality that Democrats’ feeble partisan maneuvers are ill-suited to ousting the Republicans from power. Methodical grassroots organizing will be necessary — to bring down the GOP’s deranged leadership, and to defeat the forces of corporate power and militarism that continue to hold sway at the top of the Democratic Party.

This article first appeared on Common Dreams.

Norman Solomon is the coordinator of the online activist group RootsAction.org and the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He is the author of a dozen books including “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”




U.S. Media Whitewashes Gaza Massacre

As Israel killed more than 50 Palestinians in cold blood protesting the American embassy move on Monday, U.S. corporate media failed to accurately report what happened in Gaza, once again meekly protecting the government line, argues Joe Lauria.

By Joe Lauria  Special to Consortium News

Typical of the mindset of corporate media reporting on what happened in Gaza on Monday as Israeli soldiers killed more than 50 protesting Palestinians, is this tweet from CNN. It says: “Death toll rises to at least 52 people during clashes along the border fence between Israel and Gaza, Palestinian officials say. More than 2,400 people have been injured.” CNN’s new slogan is “#FactsFirst.”

Adam Johnson, who writes for the media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, responded to CNN with a tweet of his own:

This one’s got it all:

  • ‘death toll rises’ — no one was killed and no one specific party did the killing, the death toll just mysteriously ‘rises’
  • ‘clashes’ — launders all power asymmetry
  • ‘2,400 people have been injured’ — all 2,400 are Palestinian but lets go with ‘people’.”                    

Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, said on his blog that he did a Google News search for the word “massacre” and found not one reference to Gaza.  

New York Times headline on Monday said: “Dozens of Palestinians have died in protests as the U.S. prepares to open its Jerusalem Embassy.” Journalist Glenn Greenwald responded: “Most western media outlets have become quite skilled – through years of practice – at writing headlines and describing Israeli massacres using the passive tense so as to hide the culprit. But the all-time champion has long been, and remains, the New York Times.#HaveDied.”

[Perhaps because of pressure from Greenwald and others, the Times on Monday night changed its headline to “Israel Kills Dozens at Gaza Border as U.S. Embassy Opens in Jerusalem.”]

Yet another CNN headline simply read: “Dozens die in Gaza.” Journalist Max Blumenthal responded: “Maybe they were old. Perhaps they were very sick. They just up and died! Who will solve the mystery behind these deaths?”

Blumenthal later offered a possible solution to the mystery: “According to the White House, Khhamas launched 41 protesters into unsuspecting Israeli bullets.”

Projecting

Deflecting blame from Israel is one thing. But projecting it onto the victim is quite another. Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon on Monday called for the U.N. Security Council to, “Condemn Hamas for their war crimes,” because “every casualty on the border is a direct victim of Hamas.” 

He said in a statement released by Israel’s U.N. mission:

“Condemn Hamas for the war crimes they commit. Not only does Hamas incite tens of thousands of Palestinians to breach the border and hurt Israeli civilians, but Hamas also deliberately endangers Palestinian civilians. The murder of Israeli civilians or deaths of the people of Gaza – each one of them is a desirable outcome for Hamas. Every casualty on the border is a victim of Hamas’ war crimes, every death is a result of Hamas’ terror activity, and these casualties are solely Hamas’ responsibility.”

That’s one way to wash the Israeli government’s (blood-soaked) hands of the matter. Especially if you fear Israel will be accused of war crimes itself for its actions on Monday. Danon mentioned “breaching the border.” But it is virtually impossible to get in or out of Gaza without Israeli permission. Burning kites lofted over the barrier that pens in nearly two million Gazans subject to an internationally unrecognized economic blockade, supposedly constitutes “breaching,” in Danon’s mind.

He would do well to consider the words of Moshe Dayan, one of the Israel’s Founding Fathers, who said in 1956:

“What cause have we to complain about their fierce hatred to us? For eight years now, they sit in their refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we turn into our homestead the land and villages in which they and their forefathers have lived.” He went on: “We are a generation of settlers, and without the steel helmet and gun barrel, we shall not be able to plant a tree or build a house. . . . Let us not be afraid to see the hatred that accompanies and consumes the lives of hundreds of thousands of Arabs who sit all around us and wait for the moment when their hands will be able to reach our blood.”

So on the day, 61 years later, when the United States declared Jerusalem/Al Quds as the capital of Israel by moving its embassy there, rather than leaving its status to negotiation, people still trapped in Gaza protested at the gate fencing them in while Israeli military snipers picked off more than 50 of them and wounded thousands more for protesting their entrapment.

U.S. Parrots Israel, Media Parrots U.S.

Danon’s position was callously promoted by the White House on Monday. Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah was asked several times to condemn Israel’s military response. “We believe Hamas is responsible for these tragic deaths,” he said. “Their rather cynical exploitation of the situation is what’s leading to these deaths and we want it stopped.” He later blamed Hamas for a “gruesome and unfortunate propaganda attempt.”

Unsurprisingly, Congress also lined up behind the Jewish State, mostly ignoring what went on in Gaza.

At the ceremony opening the embassy, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, called Monday “a monumental day in United States-Israel relations.” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who was among four senators and 10 members of the House of Representatives present, incredulously said moving the embassy “furthers the chances of peace in the Middle East by demonstrating that America’s support for Israel is unconditional and will not be bullied by global media opinion.”

Back in Washington, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, proclaimed: “Every nation should have the right to choose its capital. I sponsored legislation to do this two decades ago, and I applaud President Trump for doing it.”

Ajamu Baraka, the Green Party vice presidential candidate in 2016, tweeted: “Where are the democrats condemning the slaughter in Gaza? If this was Assad they would be joining the republicans calling for military action pretending like they cared for Arab life.”

Handful of Democrats Speak Out 

Bernie Sanders of Vermont mildly criticized Israel’s murderous response. Hamas violence does not justify Israel firing on unarmed protesters,” he said. “The United States must play an aggressive role in bringing Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and the international community together to address Gaza’s humanitarian crisis and stop this escalating violence.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, was more critical: “It’s just heartbreaking. The humanitarian situation in Gaza is desperate. Instead of cutting aid, the Trump administration must restore our leadership role and do what it can to alleviate the Palestinians’ suffering. The location of the embassy is a final-status issue that should have been resolved as part of peace negotiations where both sides benefit, not just one side. Israel will only know true security when it is at peace with its neighbors.”

Representative Betty McCollum, a Democrat from Minnesota, tweeted: “Today’s @USEmbassyIsrael opening in Jerusalem & killing of dozens of Gaza protesters advances @netanyahu agenda of occupation & oppression of Palestinians. @realDonaldTrump policies are fueling conflict, abandoning diplomatic efforts to achieve peace.”

Pressure to support Israel on The Hill is infamously intense. But what is the media’s excuse for being afraid to simply report facts, such as that Israeli soldiers “killed” Palestinians on Monday. They didn’t just simply die.

Just because U.S. government figures are apologists for Israel, does not mean the media must be too. But that would require the U.S. having an independent mainstream media. 

When control of powerful mainstream communications breeds self-aggrandizement and adherence to a line pushed for so long because it got you where you are in the pecking order of media culture, it seems virtually impossible to shift gears and take another look at what you are reporting. 

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He can be reached at joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe .




The ‘Values,’ ‘Vision,’ and ‘Democracy’ of an Inauthentic Opposition

Average Americans, whose economic survival is threatened, have no political party to represent them, including deceptive Democrats who claim to be their champions and blame others when their deception fails, says Paul Street.

By Paul Street Special to Consortium News

Never underestimate the capacity of the United States’ Inauthentic Opposition Party, the corporate Democrats, for self-congratulatory delusion and the externalization of blame.

Look, for example, at the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) recently filed 66-page lawsuit against Russia, WikiLeaks, and the 2016 Donald Trump campaign. The document accuses Russia of “mount[ing] a brazen attack on the American democracy,” “destabilize[ing] the U.S. political environment” on Trump’s (and Russia’s) behalf, and “interfering with our democracy….”

“The [RussiaGate] conspiracy,” the DNC Complaint says, “undermined and distorted the DNC’s ability to communicate the [Democratic] party’s values and vision to the American electorate” and “sowed discord within the Democratic Party at a time when party unity was essential…”

Yes, Russia, like numerous other nations living under the global shadow of the American Superpower, may well have tried to have some surreptitious say in 2016 U.S. presidential election. (Why wouldn’t the Kremlin have done that, given the very real and grave threats Washington and its Western NATO allies have posed for many years to post-Soviet-era Russian security and peace in Eastern Europe?)

Still, charging Russia with interfering with US-“American democracy” is like me accusing the Washington Capital’s star left winger Alex Ovechkin of interfering with my potential career as a National Hockey League player (I’m middle aged and can’t skate backwards). The U.S. doesn’t have a functioning democracy to undermine, as numerous careful studies (see this,this,this,this,this,this,this,this, and this) have shown.

We have, rather, a corporate and financial oligarchy, an open plutocracy. U.S.-Americans get to vote, yes, but the nation’s “unelected dictatorship of money” reigns nonetheless in the United States, where, as leading liberal political scientists Benjamin Page (Northwestern) and Marin Gilens (Princeton) find, “government policy…reflects the wishes of those with money, not the wishes of the millions of ordinary citizens who turn out every two years to choose among the preapproved, money-vetted candidates for federal office.”

Our Own Oligarchs

Russia and WikiLeaks “destabilized the U.S. political environment”? Gee, how about the 20 top oligarchic U.S. mega-donors who invested more than $500 million combined in disclosed campaign contributions (we can only guess at how much “dark,” that is undisclosed, money they gave) to candidates and political organizations in the 2016 election cycle? The 20 largest organizational donors also gave a total of more than $500 million. The foremost plutocratic election investors included hard right-wing billionaires like casino owner Sheldon Adelson ($83 million disclosed to Republicans and right-wing groups), hedge-fund manager Paul Singer ($26 million to Republicans and the right), hedge fund manager Robert Mercer ($26 million) and packaging mogul Richard Uihlein ($24 million).

How about the multi-billionaire Trump’s own real estate fortune, which combined with the remarkable free attention the corporate media oligopoly granted him to help catapult the orange-tinted fake-populist beast past his more traditional Republican primary opponents? And what about the savagely unequal distribution of wealth and income in Barack Obama’s America, so extreme in the wake of the Great Recession that Hillary’s primary campaign rival Bernie Sanders could credibly report that the top tenth of the upper U.S.1% possessed nearly as much wealth as the nation’s bottom 90%? Such extreme disparity helped doom establishment, Wall Street- and Goldman Sachs-embroiled candidates like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Mrs. Clinton in 2016. Russia and WikiLeaks did not create that deep, politically- and neoliberal-policy-generated socioeconomic imbalance.

Double Vision

And just what were the Democratic Party “values and vision” that Russia, Trump, and WikiLeaks supposedly prevented the DNC and the Clinton team from articulating in 2016? As the distinguished political scientist and money-politics expert Thomas Ferguson and his colleagues Paul Jorgensen and Jie Chen noted in an important study released three months ago, the Clinton campaign “emphasized candidate and personal issues and avoided policy discussions to a degree without precedent in any previous election for which measurements exist….it deliberately deemphasized issues in favor of concentrating on what the campaign regarded as [Donald] Trump’s obvious personal weaknesses as a candidate.” Strangely enough, the Twitter-addicted reality television star Trump had a lot more to say about policy than the former First Lady, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a wonkish Yale Law graduate.

The Democrats “values and vision” in 2016 amounted pretty much to the accurate but hardly inspiring or mass-mobilizing notion that Donald Trump was an awful person who was unqualified for the White House. Clinton ran almost completely on candidate character and quality. This was a blunder of historic proportions, given Clinton’s own highly problematic character brand. Any campaign needs a reasonably strong policy platform to stand on in case of candidate difficulties.

By Ferguson, Jorgenson, and Chen’s account, Hillary’s peculiar policy silence was about U.S. oligarchs’ campaign money. Thanks to candidate Trump’s bizarre nature and his declared isolationism and nationalism, Clinton achieved remarkable campaign finance success with normally Republican-affiliated capitalist sectors less disposed to abide the standard, progressive-sounding policy rhetoric of Democratic Party candidates than their more liberal counterparts.

One ironic but “fateful consequence” of her curious connection to conservative business interests was her “strategic silence about most important matters of public policy. … Misgivings of major contributors who worried that the Clinton campaign message lacked real attractions for ordinary Americans were rebuffed. The campaign,” Ferguson, Jorgenson, and Chen wrote, “sought to capitalize on the angst within business by vigorously courting the doubtful and undecideds there, not in the electorate.”

Other Clinton mistakes included failing to purchase television ads in Michigan, failing to set foot in Wisconsin after the Democratic National Convention, and getting caught telling wealthy New York City campaign donors that Trump’s white supporters were “a basket of” racist, sexist, nativist, and homophobic “deplorables.” This last misstep was a Freudian slip of the neoliberal variety. It reflected and advanced the corporate Democrats’ longstanding alienation of and from the nation’s rural and industrial and ex-industrial “heartland.”

Fake Progressives

As left historian Nancy Fraser noted after Trump was elected, the Democrats, since at least the Bill Clinton administration, had joined outwardly progressive forces like feminism, antiracism, multiculturalism, and LGBTQ rights to “financial capitalism.” This imparted liberal “charisma” and “gloss” to “policies that …devastated…what were once middle-class lives” by wiping out manufacturing, weakening unions, slashing wages, and increasing the “precarity of work.”

To make matters worse, Fraser rightly added, the “progressive neoliberal” blue-and digital-zone Democrats “compounded” the “injury of deindustrialization” with “the insult of progressive moralism,” which rips red-and analog-zone whites as culturally retrograde (recall candidate Obama’s problematic 2008 reflection on how rural and small-town whites “cling to religion and guns”) and yet privileged by the simple color of their skin.

Such insults from elite, uber-professional class neo-liberals like Obama (Harvard Law) and the Clintons (Yale Law) would sting less in the nation’s “flyover zones” if the those uttering them had not spent their sixteen years in the White House governing blatantly in accord with the wishes of Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and the leading multinational corporations. Like Bill Clinton’s two terms, the Obama years were richly consistent with Sheldon Wolin’s early 2008 description of the Democrats as an “inauthentic opposition” whose dutiful embrace of “centrist precepts” meant they would do nothing to “substantially revers[e] the drift rightwards” or “significantly alter the direction of society.”

The fake-“progressive” Obama presidency opened with the expansion of Washington’s epic bailout of the very parasitic financial elites who recklessly sparked the Great Recession (this with no remotely concomitant expansion of federal assistance to the majority middle- and working-class victims), the abandonment of campaign pledges to restore workers’ right to organize (through the immediately forgotten Employee Free Choice Act), and the kicking of Single Payer health care advocates to the curb as Obama worked with the big drug and insurance syndicates to craft a corporatist, profit-friendly health insurance reform. Obama’s second term ended with him doggedly (if unsuccessfully) championing the arch-authoritarian global-corporatist Trans Pacific Partnership.

This Goldman Sachs and Citigroup-directed policy record was no small part of what demobilized the Democrats’ mass electoral base in ways that “destabilized the U.S. political environment” to the benefit of the reactionary populist Trump, whose Mercer family-backed proto-fascistic strategist and Svengali Steve Bannon was smartly attuned to the Democrats’ elitist class problem.

There was a major 2016 presidential candidate who ran with genuinely progressive “values and vision” – Bernie Sanders. The most remarkable finding in Ferguson, Jorgenson, and Chen’s study is that the self-declared “democratic socialist” Sanders came tantalizingly close to winning the Democratic presidential nomination with no support from Big Business. The small-donor Sanders campaign was “without precedent in American politics not just since the New Deal, but across virtually the whole of American history … a major presidential candidate waging a strong, highly competitive campaign whose support from big business was essentially zero.”

Sanders was foiled by the big-money candidate Clinton’s advance control of the Democratic National Committee and convention delegates. Under a formal funding arrangement it worked up with the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in late September of 2015, the depressing “lying neoliberal warmonger” Hillary’s campaign was granted advance control of all the DNC’s “strategic decisions.” The Democratic Party’s presidential caucuses and primaries were rigged against Sanders in ugly ways that provoked a different lawsuit last year – a class-action suit against the DNC on behalf of Sanders’ supporters. The complaint was dismissed by a federal judge who ruled on the side of DNC lawyers by agreeing that the DNC was within its rights to violate their party’s charter and bylaws by selecting its candidate in advance of the primaries.

How was that for the noble “values and vision” that “American democracy” inspires atop the not-so leftmost of the nation’s two major and electorally viable political parties?

Under Cover of Russia-gate

That’s what “sowed discord within the Democratic Party at a time when party unity was essential…” Russia didn’t do it. Neither did WikiLeaks or the Trump campaign. The Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party establishment – themselves funded by major U.S. oligarchs like San Francisco hedge-fund billionaire Tom Steyer– did that on their own.

Could Sanders – the most popular politician in the U.S. (something rarely reported in a “mainstream” corporate media that could barely cover his giant campaign rallies even as it obsessed over Trump’s every bizarre Tweet) – have defeated the orange-tinted beast in the general election? Perhaps, though much of the oligarchic funding Hillary got would have gone to Trump if “socialist” Bernie had been the Democratic nominee. It is unlikely that Sanders could have accomplished much as president in a nation long controlled by the capitalist oligarchy in numerous ways that go far beyond campaign finance alone.

Meanwhile, under the cover of RussiaGate, the still-dismal and dollar-drenched corporate-imperial Democrats seem content to continue tilting to the center-right, purging Sanders-style progressives from the party’s leadership and citing the party’s special election victories (Doug Jones and Conor Lamb) against deeply flawed and Trump-backed Republicans in two bright-red voting districts (the state of Alabama and a fading Pennsylvania canton) as proof that tepid neoliberal centrism is still (even after Hillary’s stunning defeat) the way to go.

Along the way, the Inauthentic Opposition’s candidate roster for the upcoming Congressional mid-term election is loaded with an extraordinary number of contenders with U.S. military and intelligence backgrounds, consistent with Congressional Democrats repeated votes to give massive military and surveillance-state funds and power to a president they consider (accurately enough) unbalanced and dangerous.

The trick, the neoliberal “CIA Democrats” think, is to run conservative, Wall Street-backed imperial and National Security State veterans who pretend (see Eric Draitser’s recent piece on “How Clintonites Are Manufacturing Faux Progressive Congressional Campaigns”) to be aligned with majority-progressive left-of-center policy sentiments and values. It’s still very much their party.

Whatever happens during the next biennial electoral extravaganza, “the crucial fact” remains, in Wolin’s words nine years ago, “that for the poor, minorities, the working class and anti-corporatists there is no opposition party working on their behalf” in the United States – the self-declared homeland and headquarters of global democracy.

Paul Street is an independent radical-democratic policy researcher, journalist, historian, author and speaker based in Iowa City, Iowa, and Chicago, Illinois.  He is the author of seven books. His latest is They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Paradigm, 2014)




Responding to Bernie’s Promotion of the New Cold War

In this op-ed, Caitlin Johnstone responds to Bernie Sanders’ promotion of unproven allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

By Caitlin Johnstone

In an otherwise fine video response to Tuesday night’s vapid, flag-waving State of the Union address, Bernie Sanders once again promoted the neocon think tank-generated and unproven claim that Russia interfered in America’s 2016 elections via “cyberwarfare,” and repeated the completely baseless insinuation that they colluded with Trump to do so.

“How can he not talk about the reality that Russia, through cyberwarfare, interfered in our election in 2016, is interfering in democratic elections all over the world, and according to his own CIA director will likely interfere in the 2018 midterm elections that we will be holding?” asked the Vermont Senator. “How do you not talk about that unless you have a very special relationship with Mr. Putin?”

This is not an exception to the rule for Sanders, but one more addition to an already consistent and deliberate pattern. In February of last year Sanders delivered a widely viewed video message to his massive online audience solely geared at promoting the Russiagate narrative. At the end of March, he did it again.

In May, he did it againOver and over and over again, month after month after month, Sanders has been using his immense platform as the most popular and trusted politician in America to sell these world-threatening cold war escalations to the millions of Americans who adore him.

This is a big deal. This is not some petty quibble with Sanders’ policies like disagreeing with the specifics of his stance on free trade or fracking. This is not some minor detail which can be dismissed with accusations of purism and impracticality and “Hey, no politician is perfect.” This is the single most pressing issue of our time, and Bernie Sanders is currently, actively marching our world in the exact opposite direction of where it needs to be heading. There is no threat to our species more imminent and dangerous than the threat of annihilation in a nuclear holocaust, and Sanders is helping to manufacture consent for escalations which make that possibility more and more likely. This is a huge problem, and we need to talk about it right now.

I keep getting shushed and dismissed by American progressives whenever I try to bring this up, and that pushback is getting a lot more heated now that Sanders is preparing for the possibility of a 2020 presidential run. As an aggressive promoter of Bernie-or-Bust in the Democratic primary contests, I must say that some of the “DO YOU WANT TRUMP TO WIN??” responses I’ve been getting have been giving me flashbacks, and they aren’t coming from the direction I’m used to.

I sit in a weird space on the political left with regard to Senator Sanders because I have never been one of the nasty, vituperative lefties who constantly shit on Bernie and call him a “sheepdog” or anything like that, but I also haven’t been able to look past his dangerous capitulations to the establishment, so I tend to catch flak from both sides of the debate. I recognize how pervasively toxic the US political climate is and how sane Sanders is in comparison, but at the same time his relentless promotion of a blatant psyop designed to manipulate the public into consenting to geopolitical agendas which have been in place since long before Russiagate is a very big problem that needs to be addressed.

It’s like if you found the perfect boyfriend with a great personality, a rockin’ bod, and an amazing lifestyle… who also happens to murder a prostitute once in a while. All the other truthful and undeniable things Sanders said in his State of the Union response were eclipsed by his promotion of an extremely dangerous agenda like a tiny piece of cat poo on an expensive French cuisine. It’s absolutely unforgivable, and it should be loudly and aggressively resisted by every clear-eyed rebel on earth.

I’m not even saying I’ll oppose Bernie’s presidential run if it comes down to that in 2020. If that’s the direction the American people want to take this thing as part of the awkward two-steps-forward, one-step-back shuffling movement that any shove toward freedom will necessarily look like, I don’t imagine that I will try and stop them. As horrible as Sanders’ foreign policy is I understand that Americans are in an abusive relationship with oligarchy, and if they genuinely feel he’s their best shot at sane domestic policy and a real healthcare system I don’t at this time think it’s my place as an Australian to tell them not to go that route to escape the abuse.

I can however promise that I will never, ever stop aggressively fighting the Russiagate establishment propaganda that Sanders has been consistently promoting. The further into cold war escalations we get, the more likely it is that a nuclear weapon could be discharged in the chaos and confusion. There are too many small moving parts to be able to predict and control how these escalations will unfold, which is why we came within a hair’s breadth of total annihilation on more than one occasion in the last Cold War.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on FacebookTwitter, or her website. She has a podcast and a new book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.




National Democrats Resist Reforms

Still refusing to face why Donald Trump and the Republicans won in 2016, the national Democratic Party rebuffs proposals from progressives to make the party more democratic and less corporate-dominated, writes Norman Solomon.

By Norman Solomon

With the Democratic Party’s “Unity Reform Commission” now history, major political forces are entering a new stage of contention over the future of the party. Seven months after the commission’s first meeting — and nine months after Hillary Clinton backer Tom Perez won a close election over Bernie Sanders supporter Keith Ellison to become chair of the Democratic National Committee — the battle lines are coming into focus for next year.

The commission’s final meeting adjourned on Saturday after a few steps toward democratizing the party had won approval — due to the grassroots strength of progressives. But the recommendations from the commission will go to the Rules and Bylaws Committee, which was one of the DNC decision-making bodies that Perez subjected to a purge two months ago. Now, in the words of Jim Zogby (who was removed from the Executive Committee by Perez), “There are virtually no Bernie supporters on the Rules and Bylaws Committee.”

When the latest Unity Reform Commission meeting got underway, Perez talked a lot about unity. But kicking Sanders supporters off of key DNC committees is the ugly underside of an ongoing dual discourse. (Are we supposed to believe Perez’s soothing words or our own eyes?) And party unity behind a failed approach — internally undemocratic and politically hitched to corporate wagons — would hardly be auspicious.

“Emerging sectors of the electorate are compelling the Democratic Party to come to terms with adamant grassroots rejection of economic injustice, institutionalized racism, gender inequality, environmental destruction and corporate domination,” says the recent report “Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis” (which I co-authored). The report adds: “Siding with the people who constitute the base isn’t truly possible when party leaders seem to be afraid of them.”

DNC Chairman Perez and allied power brokers keep showing that they’re afraid of the party’s progressive base. No amount of appealing rhetoric changes that reality.

“We pride ourselves on being inclusive and welcoming to all,” the Democratic National Committee proclaimed anew at the start of this month, touting the commission meeting as “open to the public.” Yet the DNC delayed and obscured information about the meeting, never replying to those who filled out an online RSVP form — thus leaving them in the dark about the times of the meeting. In short, the DNC went out of its way to suppress public turnout rather than facilitate it.

Rebuking the DNC

One member of the task force that wrote the Autopsy, Karen Bernal, is the chair of the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party. After traveling across the country and sitting in the sparse audience during the first day of the Unity Reform Commission meeting, she took the liberty of speaking up as the second day got underway. Bernal provided a firm rebuke of the DNC’s efforts to suppress public attendance.

“For all of the talk about wanting to improve and reform and make this party more transparent, the exact opposite has happened,” Bernal told the commission. (Her intervention, which lasted a little more than two minutes, aired in full on C-SPAN.)

On Sunday, a mass email from Zogby via Our Revolution summed up: “We are fighting for racial, social, economic, and environmental justice. The Democratic Party needs everyone, regardless of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, country of origin, language, or socioeconomic status, to be deeply involved in order to change the course of this country.”

For those reasons, he added, “we are calling for an end to superdelegates, [for] open primaries and caucuses, [for] same-day registration, and [for] more transparent, fair, and accountable leadership at the helm of the DNC.”

Overall, the commission approved some recommendations that were partial victories for progressives. Among the most notable: It called for reducing the number of notoriously undemocratic superdelegates to the national convention from 712 to about 300, while the only democratic number would be zero. [Superdelegates are party insiders who are not chosen through a primary or caucus but nevertheless get to vote for the party’s nominees. In 2016, they broke overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton.]

The commission somewhat improved transparency for often-dubious DNC contracts with high-paid consultants and vendors, while defeating sensible amendments by commission member Nomiki Konst — who spoke with notable clarity about the need to clamp down on financial conflicts of interest among DNC decision-makers.

The eight Sanders appointees — Konst, Zogby, Larry Cohen, Lucy Flores, Jane Kleeb, Gus Newport, Nina Turner and Jeff Weaver — put up a good fight as members of the Unity Reform Commission. They were outnumbered, and on key issues were often outvoted, by the 13 who’d been selected by Clinton or Perez. Next year, the odds to overcome will be much worse.

With the purged Rules and Bylaws Committee now overwhelmingly stacked against progressives, only massive pressure from the grassroots will be able to sustain momentum toward a democratic Democratic Party. Meanwhile, corporate forces will do all they can to prevent the Democratic Party from living up to its first name.

Norman Solomon, the national coordinator of the online activist group RootsAction.org, is a member of the task force that wrote “Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis.” His books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.




Democrats Rely on Blame-Shifting

By riding hatred of President Trump and spurring on the Russia-gate hysteria, Democrats hope to win in 2018 without a serious examination of why they lost support of key working- and middle-class voting blocs, says Andrew Spannaus.

By Andrew Spannaus

Victories in state-level elections in New Jersey and Virginia on Nov. 7 have buoyed Democratic hopes for an anti-Trump wave among the population that will lead to a big victory in next year’s mid-term elections, and permanently damage President Trump heading towards 2020. Yet there is significant risk in hoping that anti-Trump sentiment will be enough for the Democrats to return to power.

The danger is that the considerable differences between the centrist faction, which for the most part controls the party structure, and the progressive wing of the party, will be swept under the rug in the name of unity, perpetuating the substantive problems that have alienated important sections of the population from the party.

The power of opposition to Trump has been on display from the very beginning: It was more than a bit ironic to see feminist protestors – properly exercising their right to protest against a President who has made many derogatory comments towards women – hold up signs defending the CIA during the Women’s March on Inauguration Day.

Yes, in their zeal to oppose Trump, both the center and the far left have been willing to embrace the battle led by a limited but powerful grouping in the intelligence community to stop the President from his stated intention of improving relations with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

This has become such a cause célèbre that people who would normally look suspiciously at the motives of the CIA or other similar agencies seem unable to recognize that the basic “crime” Trump is accused of is favoring diplomacy with a country most of the institutions consider an enemy. With the media’s help, it has apparently been decided that this President does not have the right to influence policy, if the majority of the establishment disagrees with his positions.

The major issue in the Democratic Party is obviously the economy. Sen. Bernie Sanders, officially an Independent from Vermont, won 43 percent of the vote in the 2016 Democratic primaries because he pushed a “populist,” anti-system message that was heavily critical of globalization, Wall Street and trade deals that have weakened the American middle class.

There were numerous similarities with the positions of Trump himself, although without the offensive language and scapegoating of various ethnic groups. Yet the Democratic élite did its best to ensure a Hillary Clinton victory, both legitimately based on the notion that Hillary would be the strongest candidate, and through actions that have led to accusations of a rigged nomination process.

A Deeper Problem

The recent spat raised by the publication of Donna Brazile’s new book Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House (Hachette, November 2017) shows that the issue is still being fought out.

Indeed in October, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez unveiled his picks for the party’s Executive Committee, and many Sanders supporters immediately complained that their faction was being sidelined. One of the key removals was that of James Zogby, whose pro-Palestinian positions are clearly unappreciated by many higher-ups, who prefer to avoid criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In terms of economic policy, the question is whether the party will embrace the progressive message espoused by Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts or maintain a centrist tone by avoiding positions considered “unrealistic” according to Washington veterans; many of these political operators fear losing their influence if the terms of the debate change.

Two of the major issues Sanders and Warren have been fighting for are incisive reforms regarding healthcare and the banking sector. In September, Sanders presented a bill for a single-payer health care system under the name of Medicare-for-All, and has been holding numerous public events on the issue, joined by Warren and various other Senators.

Policymakers and industry representatives tend to shudder at such “radical” proposals, but the political calculus is clearly that you need to set your sights high if you want to achieve anything at all. This proposition was proven – although negatively – by the numerous compromises made by Barack Obama in the first year of his presidency.

On financial reform, the key issue is the restoration of Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era law that separates commercial banks and investment banks, in order to protect the real economy from financial speculation. The law was officially repealed in 1999, at the end of Bill Clinton’s administration, in the context of a gradual loosening of financial regulations that began in the 1980s.

The results are before our eyes: the crash of 2007-2008 – despite the weak attempts by Wall Street defenders to divert attention from deregulation as a cause for the crisis – and its political aftermath; this includes the election of Donald Trump, which certainly would not have happened if there had been a more effective response to the crisis, rather than bailing out the banks while imposing austerity and lower wages on the population.

Excuses, Excuses 

The Democratic Party platform adopted the call for Glass-Steagall in 2016 (as did the Republicans), although Clinton had repeatedly stated her opposition to the measure, claiming she would be really tough on Wall Street in other ways. Many people clearly didn’t believe her; and taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from large banks for speeches exemplified the candidate’s lack of credibility.

Why should workers in states such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania trust someone who was soft on Wall Street, and had trumpeted international trade deals for years?

This is the issue that the Democratic Party must tackle. To say that Hillary won the popular vote, and thus essentially the election, but was robbed by Russian interference or fake news on the Internet, means to ignore the fundamental problem. A realignment is underway of electoral politics throughout the Western world.

Profiling voters based on their ethnicity, gender or social group showed its limits in 2016, as people followed an anti-establishment instinct fomented by the economic difficulties associated with globalization.

There were other factors, but this protest vote was enough to swing the election despite Trump’s obvious weaknesses as a candidate, so any notion of going back to old models should be recognized for what it would produce: a Pyrrhic victory in which the underlying problems before the country are not faced.

If the Democrats hope to ride an anti-Trump wave, they would do best to look below the surface and recognize the tectonic shifts taking place, that much of the political establishment seems to prefer to ignore.

Andrew Spannaus is a freelance journalist and strategic analyst based in Milan, Italy. He is the founder of Transatlantico.info, that provides news, analysis and consulting to Italian institutions and businesses. His book on the U.S. elections Perchè vince Trump (Why Trump is Winning) was published in June 2016. [This article originally appeared as Aspenia online at http://www.aspeninstitute.it/aspenia-online/article/risks-democratic-party-unity ]




The Push for a Medicare-for-All Plan

America’s complex and inefficient healthcare system ends up being both very expensive and limited in its coverage, a problem that Sen. Bernie Sanders is targeting in his Medicare-for-all plan, reports Dennis J Bernstein.

By Dennis J Bernstein

Sen. Bernie Sanders has unveiled a new single-payer healthcare plan which would provide all Americans with government-sponsored health coverage. Sanders’s plan, supported by some 16 Democrats in the Senate, calls for an overhaul of the healthcare system with what would essentially be a tweaked and revitalized version of Medicare-for-all.

“Today we say that a function of a rational healthcare system is to provide quality care to all in a cost-effective way,” declared Sanders, an independent from Vermont, “and not to continue a system which allows insurance companies and drug companies to make hundreds of billions in profits each year and makes healthcare industry CEO’s extremely wealthy.”

Flanked by supporting senators in making his Wednesday announcement, Sanders also noted that a Medicare-for-all program would end “the complexity of a system which adds enormous stress at a time when people need it the least.”

I spoke on Sept. 13 to Russell Mokhiber, founder of The Corporate Crime Reporter and of SinglePayerAction.org. Mokhiber has long been an advocate of the single-payer option. He is also someone who watches closely the deadly nature of corporate greed.

Dennis Bernstein: Please give us your initial reaction. Bernie has a number of senators who say they believe in single-payer. Several presidential hopefuls are among those who jumped on the Sanders Single-Payer bandwagon. You think their playing early presidential politics with single-payer, or are they true believers? Do they support Sander’s vision?

Russell Mokhiber: That is what they are saying, and it is obviously because of the grassroots prairie fire that has been lit by single-payer activists over the years. It is truly out of our hands now.

Usually when you go to these meetings with your member of congress, the single-payer activists would be the only ones raising the issue. Now we are standing in line screaming at our congress people, demanding it, because the situation on the ground has become so bad.

Nine years ago, when the insurance industry-written Obamacare was introduced, there were 23 people testifying. They refused to listen to any of us who wanted to put single-payer on the table. In fact, they had us arrested. Six months ago, Bernie’s healthcare person told us that there wasn’t going to be a single-payer bill because they didn’t want to risk a Democratic Senate in 2018 and they thought that single-payer would hurt them. But once they saw the grassroots pressure, they totally flipped. Just a month ago, Bernie had in this bill co-pays and deductibles.

So this is all about the grassroots pressure. Obviously it has now become a hot political issue. Someone like Kamala Harris would never have touched this just a couple weeks ago. Senator Richard Blumenthal from the insurance state of Connecticut has signed on!

Do we believe that they will push single-payer if we take our foot off the gas? No. We believe the Democratic Party is structurally incapable of being a people’s party. The only way they are going to respond is if the people keep their foot on the gas. This seems very similar to California in 2006 when the Democrats passed single-payer in California knowing that Governor Schwarzenegger was going to veto it.

We are very encouraged by this response but we really want to see this happen, not just political posturing. We are concerned that the Democrats will use this to gain power and then push it aside for something like a public option or to secure the position of the insurance industry in the current system.

I was at a conference this week called by Cornel West and the Green Party to address the fact that the Democratic Party is structurally incapable of being a people’s party. My colleague Bruce Dixon at Black Agenda Report said a few years ago that Bernie is like a sheepdog into the Democratic Party. He is shepherding the left back into the party. My hope is that, if this is what is going on, at least we will get out of it single-payer for all Americans.

DB: Russell, just take a moment to describe what you see as the difference between Obamacare and a single-payer system.

RM: Obamacare was written by insurance industry lobbyists to preserve the position of the insurance industry within the system. This meant that we would continue to have 30 million Americans uninsured, as we have right now, that most people who have insurance are underinsured, they still go bankrupt even with insurance, that thousands of people die every year because of lack of health insurance.

The only way to change the situation is to pursue a single-payer system, meaning you get rid of all the private insurance payers and you have just one: Medicare for all with no co-pays and no deductibles. When every American is born, he or she gets a birth certificate and a Medicare card. You are covered through the tax system.

So yes, we are going to be taxed, but the amount we pay in taxes will be significantly less than the amount we currently pay in premiums, deductibles and co-pays. That money that we save by getting rid of all the administrative waste will ensure that everyone is covered, state of the art.

The amazing thing about this press conference today wasn’t what the senators were saying. For the most part, they were just posturing, maybe with the exception of Bernie. It was the people who spoke before the senators.

A doctor from Canada testified that 97% of Canadians love their single-payer system. She described how, when she was pregnant, there were no bills, no co-payments. There was a businessman from Pennsylvania who started a group of businesses for single-payer, because the reality is that businesses are going crazy trying to cover all their employees and many employees are afraid to leave their jobs because then they will lose their insurance.

It is no longer linked to employment, you are covered from cradle to grave, you have your choice of doctor and hospital. When you need medical care, you go to the best place in your area, there is no in-network or out-of-network.

DB: That is essentially what it breaks down to for most civilized countries–or even not so civilized countries–in this world. How do you explain that the two Democratic leaders–Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi–are mum on single-payer, or worse?

RM: I think it is part of the feud within the Democratic Party. Coincidentally, Hillary is traveling the country right now with her new book, What Happened. She is obviously very critical of Bernie Sanders and what he did during the election.

There is a battle going on right now for the soul of the Democratic Party. I am very concerned about the single-payer movement because the Democrats appear to be using this to take the Senate in 2018 and the White House and then back off on single-payer.

DB: This industry is not going to go down easy. They spend a great deal of money to keep this system in place. These Congresspeople aren’t just voting their consciences here.

RM: The great thing about single payer is that it will drop the cost of healthcare because a single-payer is going to refuse to pay these exorbitant rates for pharmaceuticals, they are going to insist on paying what the rest of the world pays.

The medical industrial complex is in it for a bottom line profit motive. Twenty years ago in The New England Journal of Medicine, a surgeon wrote that medical care is very similar to any other good in America: doctors provide it and you buy it.

So there is a debate now about whether healthcare should be considered a commodity or a right. The Democrats are now getting the message that it is a human right and that the people are demanding it. But as you point out, very powerful forces are bent on defeating it.

Dennis J Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net.