News Releases

Is Sanders a Socialist, or a New Dealer?

Sanders won the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday. In June, he gave a speech on democratic socialism in which he said: “President Trump and his fellow oligarchs hate democratic socialism because it benefits working people, but they absolutely love corporate socialism.”

Rep. Ro Khanna, the co-chair of the Sanders campaign, was recently interviewed by Christopher Matthews and said: “Bernie is an FDR Democrat. … I represent Silicon Valley. Let me tell you, Bernie Sanders is not talking about nationalizing Apple.”

VICTOR WALLIS, zendive at aol.com
Wallis writes in his forthcoming book Socialist Practice: Histories and Theories: “The dynamic of Democrat/Republican collaboration is now long established. On the one hand, Democratic electoral strategists rejoice in the most outlandish (racist, misogynist, etc.) conduct of Republicans, as this allows the Democrats to present themselves as guardians of rationality and decency. On the other hand, Republicans, having no policies to address the economic needs of the majority, revel in being able to tar the Democrats as ‘socialists,’ thereby setting firm limits on the degree to which Democrats, recoiling from the dreaded ‘red’ label, can legislate an authentically popular agenda. The result is that whichever of these two parties working-class people vote for, they are voting — except in rare cases of individual candidates — against their own best interests.

“This dynamic affects the way activists sympathetic to socialism define themselves in the political arena. Given the systematic bias of the electoral system and the mass media against third-party challengers, there are powerful inducements for socialists to seek office as Democrats. This leads them to water down their conception of socialism to the point of rejecting any explicit challenge to the power of capital. What remains, typically, is an invocation of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal policies and his 1944 ‘Economic Bill of Rights.’ Although these expanded the scope of social welfare, thereby strengthening the economic power of the working class (for which they were widely denounced as ‘socialist’), they stopped short of questioning the legitimacy of the profit-system as such. The resulting political order has been variously dubbed ‘mixed economy,’ ‘welfare capitalism,’ and ‘social democracy,’ but some of its advocates in the U.S. – notably, Senator Bernie Sanders – refer to it as ‘democratic socialism.’

“Given that the New Deal agenda did not entail dissolution of the capitalist class, the practice of implying that it was somehow socialist is highly misleading. Its socialist aspects, although real enough (as far as they went) in terms of their benefits, were in the nature of partial and transitory concessions. What the New Deal meant was that capital gave up a portion of its power in order — as Joseph P. Kennedy said at the time – not to face the prospect of losing all of it. But when the historical moment was right, capital struck back. …

“[I]n the U.S. political context, programs even far more limited than that of Sanders do not escape the accusation of being socialist (recall the attacks made beginning in 2008 against Barack Obama). It therefore makes political sense for Sanders — especially considering the more fully socialist (including anti-imperialist) position he staked out earlier in his career, as well as his lifelong public admiration for Eugene Debs — not to disown his association with the word socialism. What his acceptance of the word ultimately reflects is the fact that socialism, despite any negative historical baggage and (above all) despite its sustained stigmatization, embodies the positive social goals that most people seek.”

Wallis is author of Red-Green Revolution: The Politics and Technology of Ecosocialism (2018) and Democracy Denied: Five Lectures on U.S. Politics (2019). See his website: VictorWallis.com.

Behind Sanders’ Win in New Hampshire

ARNIE ARNESEN, nharnie at gmail.com, @pchowder
Arnesen is host of “The Attitude” on WNHN in Concord. She recently appeared on “Democracy Now!” and CNN.

She said today: “Something that Trump likes to take credit for is some limited economic improvement for poorer people. But much of the reason for that is the movements in states and cities across the U.S. to raise the minimum wage — which has been championed by Bernie Sanders.

“The campaign might seem muddled in some ways because the more establishment candidates are responding to the message that Sanders has set. It’s largely with generic nice-sounding things. Pete Butteigeg talks about turning the page. My question is, what’s on the page? He is appealing to people who are not hurting. Sanders is appealing to those who are.

“We cannot forget that Bernie’s message has set the agenda for 2020. Bernie has moved the entire agenda of the Democratic Party not to the left (left/right is so yesterday) but to where the essence and soul of the party has historically been. About workers, about justice, about investment in infrastructure, about healthcare as a right and an environment that sustains us and does not serve the interests of corporate success and America’s failure. The New Dems under Bill Clinton moved the party into the arms of Wall Street and had more in common with a moderate Republican party that no longer exists in America. Our job is not to replace the GOP but to speak to the needs of the 90 percent.”

El Salvador Military Force Way into Parliament

BBC is reporting: “Heavily-armed police and soldiers in El Salvador have forced their way into parliament, demanding the approval of a $109m (£85m) loan to better equip them.” See video.

ALEXIS STOUMBELIS, alexis at cispes.org, @CISPES
Stoumbelis is with the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, which just released a statement: “Human rights organizations in El Salvador, political parties and institutions on both the left and the right and international bodies including the UN High Commission on Human Rights decried actions over the weekend by President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, to use military force to compel legislators to attend an extraordinary legislative session he convened for Sunday, February 9, in order to approve a $109 million loan to fund his national security plan.

“On Friday, Bukele threatened legislators who did not comply and incited the public, via Twitter, to exercise their constitutional right to popular insurrection if legislators did not comply with his order, despite its dubious constitutional grounds.

“Bukele then deployed members of the armed forces into the legislative palace for the first time since El Salvador’s brutal civil war. On Sunday, social media networks were ablaze with photos and videos of heavily armed soldiers flanking mostly empty seats in the legislative hall. …

“Both the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) and the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) — El Salvador’s largest political parties — condemned the president for using military force to intervene in legislative decisions. Members of both parties have also reported harassment by National Civilian Police agents.”

Distortions About Medicare for All

Norman Solomon recently wrote the piece “Why the Buttigieg Campaign Tried to Have Me Arrested for Handing Out These Medicare for All Fliers.”

DAVID HIMMELSTEIN, M.D., himmelhandler at comcast.net
Himmelstein is a distinguished professor of public health at the City University of New York at Hunter College. He said today: “There are distortions on many fronts regarding Medicare for All.”

He noted NPR recently reported on Pete Buttigieg “pushing back against [Bernie] Sanders’ more extreme positions, like mandatory ‘Medicare for All’ with his own voluntary Medicare buy-in for those who want it.”

Said Himmelstein: “NPR reports this as if Medicare (for seniors) isn’t currently mandatory, which it is.

“Buttigieg’s Medicare buy-in would merely permit those who lack insurance but have plenty of money to buy into Medicare by paying a high premium. Buttigieg’s plan is Medicare for those who can afford it. It leaves out people who need insurance but don’t have the thousands of dollars to pay the premium. It leaves out the millions of people who have skimpy insurance but that’s all their employer is offering. Under Buttigieig’s plan, private insurers would continue to push high cost patients onto Medicare. Medicare would become an expensive high risk pool that absorbs all the losses while private insurers get all the profits. There’s no chance that Buttigieg’s plan would get us to universal health coverage.

“Many media reports around Elizabeth Warren’s plan cited an Urban Institute report about how the plan would allegedly raise healthcare costs, but that study is a unique outlier among the 19 cost estimates of Medicare for All — almost all the rest projected that Medicare for All would save money, and none predicted costs nearly as high as the Urban Institute.

“Some media and candidates claim that people love their private insurance plans, which is simply laughable. Surveys actually show most people don’t trust insurance companies to place enrollees’ health needs above their profits. People are much more satisfied with Medicare. And surveys find that whatever positive feelings voters might have toward a ‘choice’ of private insurance plans, that evaporates when people are told that under Medicare for All, they would get a choice of doctor and hospital. Medicare for All widens choice, it doesn’t narrow it.”

Himmelstein co-wrote the piece “The ‘Public Option’ on Health Care Is a Poison Pill.”

Social Security Defenders Warn of Buttigieg “Right-Wing Talking Points” on Austerity

LINDA BENESCH, lbenesch at socialsecurityworks.org, @ssworks
Benesch is communications director of Social Security Works. She said today: “Austerity is a lie. America is the wealthiest country in the history of the world. We can fully afford expanded Social Security, Medicare for All, universal childcare, and many other progressive priorities — so long as millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share.

By saying that Democrats should focus on cutting the deficit, Pete Buttigieg is promoting right-wing talking points and serving the interests of his billionaire donors. These billionaires want to pit working class Americans against each other by creating a false sense of scarcity, while continuing to hoard their ill-gotten wealth.

“Buttigieg’s comments raise serious concerns about how he would govern. Senator Mitch McConnell says he wants to work with the next Democratic president on cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, so that the Republican Party isn’t blamed for the cuts. McConnell uses the deficit as a pretext for demanding cuts to earned benefits, even though Social Security (unlike the $2 trillion Republican tax scam) doesn’t add a single penny to the deficit.

“We need to make sure the Democratic nominee is someone who would never take McConnell’s bait.”

Media Bias: Debates and Election

ABC is holding a debate in coordination with the Democratic National Committee tonight.

SAM HUSSEINI, sam at accuracy.org, @accuracy2020
Husseini is senior analyst with accuracy.org, which has just launched accuracy2020. The project is organizing “voters, students, and local activists who care about fair debates and clean elections to gather in front of ABC headquarters in downtown Washington at noon on Saturday, Feb. 8, to challenge ABC and other major media corporations on their handling of the Democratic presidential candidates’ debates.”

Said Husseini: “We saw corporate media bias during ABC’s Sept. 12 debate and CNN’s Jan. 14 debate. Most of all, we’ve seen a skewing and marginalization of real issues, which this election should be all about. The public deserves far better.” See Facebook page for event and new Twitter feed.

JULIE HOLLAR, jhollar at fair.org, @FAIRmediawatch
Hollar is senior analyst for FAIR’s Election Focus 2020 project. In September, she wrote the piece “ABC Debate Lowlights” about the last time ABC ran a debate.

Her recent pieces include “Corporate Media Are the Real ‘Sanders Attack Machine’” and “The Big Loser in the Iowa Debate? CNN’s Reputation.”

JIM NAURECKAS, jnaureckas at fair.org, @JNaureckas
Naureckas is the editor of FAIR.org and just wrote the piece “How Corporate Media Make Pete Look Like He’s Winning.”

He writes that New York Times “polling maven Nate Cohn has a note nearby that states that SDEs [state delegate equivalents] are ‘the metric we use to call a winner.’ But — why? SDEs are a meaningless intermediate step between the number of votes cast and the pledged delegates awarded — the latter being what actually matters in terms of winning the Democratic nomination for president, which is what this is all about. Why not use those as the metric you use to call a winner — the way, you know, the Democratic Party does?”

Also see:

By Jeff Cohen: “7 Pointed Questions for Corporate Media About Their Anti-Progressive Biases.”

By Norman Solomon: “It’s Corporate Media, ‘Moderate’ Democrats, and the Oligarchy vs. Bernie Sanders and a Movement.”

Banana Republic, USA

THOMAS FERGUSON, thomas.ferguson at umb.edu
Ferguson is professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and the author of many books and articles on money and elections. Short recent pieces include “Big Money — Not Political Tribalism — Drives U.S. Elections” and “The 2020 Election in Three Graphs.”

He said today: “Suddenly all the jokes about the U.S. income distribution looking more and more like Latin America’s aren’t funny. The first member of the Forbes 400 ever to sit in the White House survives impeachment after his lawyers and followers argue that what he did in the Ukraine wasn’t a high enough crime or misdemeanor. Meantime, rival oligarchs are laying siege to the official opposition party and denouncing proposals for modest rises in their taxes and Medicare for All as ‘socialism.’ Amid a frenzy of political money without precedent, they are pushing to change the Democratic Party’s rules to make sure one of them or somebody just as safe is the only alternative offered to voters in November. And the first time any voters were officially asked what they think, democracy itself inexplicably goes down for the count in Iowa. Whether or not he really said it, the famous claim ascribed to Justice Brandeis that a country can have either democracy or lopsided disparities in wealth but not both seems right on target.”

Ferguson’s books include Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems (University of Chicago Press). He emphasizes that his views are his own and not that of any institution he is affiliated with.

Iowa and Democratic Party Corporate Corruption

The Intercept reports: “Sanders Campaign’s Internal Caucus Numbers Show Them Leading Iowa, With Biden a Distant Fourth.”

Max Blumenthal reports in The Grayzone: “Pro-Israel Buttigieg backer Seth Klarman is top funder of group behind Iowa’s disastrous voting app.”

Monday night, Chris Hayes asked Democratic Party consultant David Plouffe about his ties to the firm in question, Shadow Inc. and its backer, ACRONYM.

KEVIN GOSZTOLA, kevin at shadowproof.com, @kgosztola
Managing editor of Shadowproof, Gosztola’s just had a viral Twitter thread on Shadow Inc. His Twitter thread of a week ago about new Democratic National Committee moves also went viral  — see from Commondreams: “Tom Perez Stacks 2020 Convention Committees With ‘From the Swamp’ Nominations.” Gosztola recently wrote the piece: “DNC Defends Diverse Group of Corporate Democrats Appointed to Convention Committees.”

Today, he emphasized the pattern of corporate corruption in the Democratic Party establishment. He also scrutinized recent statements by Neera Tanden, former Clinton campaign aide and now president of the Center for American Progress, who tried to blame the Sanders campaign for the confusion in Iowa: “Just remember which campaign asked for reporting of three sets of data.” And: “As we wake up and still have no results from the caucus debacle, it’s a good time to remember the committee to set the Dem primary calendar was the Unity and Reform Committee. There were defenders of caucuses on the committee. Folks like me argued caucuses were anti-democratic.”

Gosztola said today: “But Bernie Sanders’ campaign had no role in contracting a startup company to create an app for the caucuses. All his people advocated for as part of the Unity and Reform Committee’s recommendations was public reporting of the raw vote totals in caucus states. That could’ve easily been handled by the Iowa State Democratic Party if they had not added non-essential technology into the mix.

“In fact, Sanders advocated reforms that led Iowa State Democrats to adopt a paper trail that has become the fail-safe for tabulating and verifying caucus results.

“Plus, Iowa Democrats have prided the role these ‘neighborhood gatherings’ play in the presidential election. They have not wanted to do away with the caucus system so it is not all Sanders’ fault for keeping caucuses in the 2020 presidential primary.”

Regarding Shadow, Inc., Gosztola said: “The Iowa State Democratic Party kept the public in the dark when it came to the company that was involved in developing the app that was added to the process of reporting results. No explanation has been given for why the company’s name was treated as a state secret. As it turns out, individuals who were software and tool developers for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign founded Shadow  Inc. It was acquired by a dark money group called ACRONYM in 2019, which was founded by Tara McGowan, a former campaign official for Barack Obama. Her husband works for South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign, and McGowan has expressed support for Buttigieg.

“It is evident the Iowa State Democratic Party offered a contract to friendly Democrats and failed to take steps to ensure an app could be used by precincts. The net effect of this was to bury the story of Biden doing incredibly poorly in Iowa and that Sanders has apparently done very well.”

“Additionally, the Des Moines Register reports, ‘Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price worked as Clinton’s 2016 Iowa political director.’ This adds to the corruption around creating a process that could be outsourced to a company staffed with multiple former Clinton campaign developers.”

DNC Falsifying About “Stacking” “From the Swamp”

KEVIN GOSZTOLA, kevin at shadowproof.com, @kgosztola
Managing editor of Shadowproof, Gosztola’s original Twitter thread of a week ago about new Democratic National Committee moves went viral  — see from Commondreams: “Tom Perez Stacks 2020 Convention Committees With ‘From the Swamp’ Nominations.” Also see, from John Nichols of The Nation: “The DNC’s Move to Accommodate Bloomberg Stirs Outrage in Iowa.”

See Gosztola’s interview with Marc Steiner of The Real News: “Dems Load Platform Committee to Stop Progressive Movement.” Gosztola recently wrote the piece: “DNC Defends Diverse Group of Corporate Democrats Appointed to Convention Committees,” which states: “Faced with a backlash, the Democratic National Committee defended the secretive manner in which dozens of lobbyists, corporate consultants, party insiders, think tank board members, and pro-Israel Democrats were nominated by DNC Chair Tom Perez to committees for the 2020 national convention.

“Seventy-five individuals were appointed to the Platform, Rules, and Credentials Committees on January 25 during a DNC executive committee meeting. The current membership of this executive committee is unclear.

“Two chairs and four vice-chairs were appointed to oversee each of the committees. Thirty-one spots on each committee were filled.

“Nearly all of the appointees endorsed Hillary Clinton during her 2016 campaign. Many endorsed Clinton early in 2015, but the DNC said it does not consider ‘past endorsements’ when filling committees.

“The DNC claimed ‘high-profile’ supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders were appointed to the committees, but that is false. Only one ‘high-profile’ supporter was appointed to the Platform, Rules, and Credentials Committees.”

Iowa Caucus and Rank Choice Voting

ROB RICHIE, [currently in Iowa] rr at fairvote.org, @FairVote
Richie is president of FairVote, a nonpartisan electoral reform organization.

He just wrote a piece for the Chicago Tribune in which he states: “Iowa at least gives supporters of weaker candidates a backup vote. If, for example, a candidate earns 5 percent at a caucus and isn’t viable for that precinct, those voters can move to have their vote count for their next choice who has enough support to win delegates. Half of all Iowa Democrats may well end up supporting a backup choice. This makes more votes count, and rewards candidates who can help unify the party by picking up support from trailing candidates.

“But it still doesn’t change the real potential that the ‘winner’ might have lost badly in a head-to-head matchup against the second-place finisher. That’s why parties should fully embrace ranked-choice voting. One of the year’s most encouraging developments is that early Democratic voters in Nevada and all Democratic voters in Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas and Wyoming will cast ranked-choice ballots in their party-run presidential contests.

“With ranked-choice voting, voters rank candidates in order of choice: first, second and so on. If voters’ first choice has enough support to win delegates, their ballots will count for that candidate. Otherwise, those ballots will end up counting for the candidate ranked next who is viable.”

See FairVotes resources on “RCV for Presidential Nominations.”

FairVote commissioned YouGov to conduct a national poll of 1,002 likely Democratic presidential primary voters in the fall, see Vox report: “Elizabeth Warren leads Joe Biden in ranked-choice poll.”

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