A Wake Up Call for those in Labor and the Left who Who Wait for Hillary Clinton by Norman Markowitz

Below I have pasted two articles for both liberals, labor members of various left organizations and parties.  In should be a wake up call for those who are observing while Hillary Clinton plays traditional patronage politics to win over leaders of trade unions and prominent Democrats to  gain the Democratic presidential nomination.  For trade union leaders out of touch with their members and seeking either positions in or protection from a Clinton administration, this makes a certain sense.  For prominent Democrats used to taking their mass constituents for granted who seek either local patronage or positions for themselves and their underlings in a Clinton administration, this makes some sense.  But  for leaders of broad left organizations and parties, who will receive nothing directly from a Clinton administration, it makes little sense.  Doing organizatoinal work and running propaganda interference for a candidate like Clinton before she is nominated  under the delusion that this will somehow hold her to the left and/or strengthen the left organization or party among the masses of people doesn't make sense.  Communists did this effectively after Franklin Roosevelt was elected President for example, both moving him to the left and advancing mass organizations and struggles and the CPUSA after his administration moved to the left, forming a center left coalition with the administration.  Bernie Sanders is the candidate of the broad left.  He has used the word socialism in a way that no one, including Franklin Roosevelt ever did.  Full support for him to to and through the convention and  opposition to those who endorses Clinton now is the only rational policy for left organizations and parties that seek to avoid business as usual cooptation and or marginalization.  And rank and file people in trade unions, left organizations of all kinds and of course the liberal wing of the Democratic party are taking that position.

For many in labor and left organizations, the standard argument is that we will have to support Clnton when she is nominated against any Republican, who will represent the "ultra-right."  That is a legitimate argument, but it should not be used as an excuse to follow those  who are the right and ultra-right in our own ranks, who have used that argument over and over again to deny or apologize for both the failed leadership of the candidates that they have supported and their own failings

 

The first article below is from the Sanders campaign on the  movement  in ttiche SEIU against their leadership's endorsement of Hillary Clinton, an endorsement filled by misstatements about what her positions are 

The seond is an article by Michael Blecher in Op-Ed News expressing confusion and anger about why liberals and Democrats are crticizing Sanders and avoiding the Elephant in the Room, which is of course Clinton's long record as a Center Right Democrat, in the tradition of her husband, the leader when he became President of the "Democratic Leadership Council," which sought to" rescue" the party from  New Deal Great Society Democrats, anturyd called themselves "New Democrats"  Their aversion to concepts like the Welfare State and Franklin Roosevelt's Economic Bill of Rights was even greater than then some self styled "21st century Communists" are to Lenin and even the term Communism.  Bill Clinton was the most conservative Democratic President in the 20th century and worked with Republican Congresses to repeal both the Federal Aid to Families with Dependant Children legislaiton(1935) thus ending "Welfare as we have known it(a promise he made in 1992) from the far right and the separation of commercial from investment bankiing in the National Banking Act(1935) aka, Glass Steagall, the only two major pieces of New Deal legislation every repealed and both with disastrious consequences, the first to low income women and children, the second to  the whole economy as it became a central factor in the stock market crash and "great recession of 2008  to the present.

 

I would take some issue with Blecher's overall view of the Democratic party(whose Southern white supremacists and corrupt political machines both cut deals with and worked to undermine the New Deal and great Society administrations.  But his analysis of Clinton's positions is accurate and his interpretations as I see it quite fair.

 

 

Rank and file revolt as SEIU endorses Clinton

   
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Hillary ClintonPhoto via foxaudiovisual/Flickr

On November 17th, the International Executive Board of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced its early endorsement of Hillary Clinton. Despite SEIU’s leadership in the Fight for $15 movement, this announcement comes just days after Clinton opposed a nationwide $15/hour minimum wage, instead favoring a $12/hour, during a Democratic Party debate.

In addition to SEIU, the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the dockworkers’ International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and the National Education Association (NEA) have endorsed Clinton.  In total, these unions represent nearly 10 million working people across the U.S. and have massive resources.  Labor for Bernie, a grassroots network of rank and file union members, released a statement on November 20th calling SEIU’s national endorsement “short-sighted and unprincipled” and based on a “failed strategy of purely transactional politics with corporate liberals.”

While National Nurses United and the American Postal Workers Union have endorsed Sanders on a national level, most of Sanders’ union support has come from thousands of rank and file union members and the dozens of locals that have endorsed him.  SEIU Local 1984, New Hampshire’s second largest union, broke with their leadership to endorse Sanders.  Across the country, SEIU members have overwhelmingly voiced their support for Bernie Sanders on social media.

For example, Linda Davis states: “Was she [Clinton] fighting for workers when she was on the board at Wal-Mart? Is she fighting for $15.00/hr for low wage employees? She is mouthing what she THINKS voters want to hear. Then she will do the bidding of those who bought and paid for her political office once she is elected. Bernie Sanders is the only one who is not owned by corporate America. If you cannot support Bernie Sanders, SEIU, then you do not truly support your members, and I cannot support YOU.”

Bernie Sanders’ campaign has put the issues ordinary people face into the spotlight and popularized socialism for a whole new generation.  This presents an important opportunity to build movements and a new party of working people and youth.  While Democratic Party “super delegates,” more than 150 elected officials, and corporate donors line up behind Hillary Clinton, Sanders has generated tremendous grassroots support with his bold demands and call for a “political revolution against the billionaire class.”  Over 650,000 people have donated to Sanders campaign – the highest ever for any presidential campaign at this stage of the election cycle.

From serving on Wal-Mart’s Board of Directors to supporting a plethora of anti-worker policies, Hillary Clinton doesn’t deserve the support of working people.  On the contrary, Sanders has consistently supported unionization efforts and working class movements.   From a $15/hour minimum wage, to single-payer health care, to tuition-free public college, achieving Sanders’ platform will require a movement independent of the two parties of the billionaire class.

Over the past four decades, union membership in the U.S. has declined and many union leaders have made huge compromises with employers, giving up hard-won gains such as benefits and higher wages.  Likewise, most major unions have continuously supported Wall Street Democrats, such as Hillary Clinton.  In order to revive and rebuild a fighting labor movement, it is integral to break with these corporate politicians.

As SEIU members continue to fight for $15, the strategy of supporting the “pragmatic” candidate, Hillary Clinton, ultimately means settling for $12/hour and prolonging the status-quo.  At a time when social movements around inequality and racism are exploding, the short-sightedness of the SEIU union leadership to endorse corporate-backed Clinton is astonishing. Instead of lining up with an ally of Wall Street, SEIU could have struck a blow to corporate politics and put its resources behind the growing number of activists supporting Bernie’s call for a political revolution. This also poses in front on SEIU members the need to build a democratic, fighting union that will be on frontlines of social struggles and for independent political action.

The political revolution called for by Sanders has to also include a rejection of the corporate-based Democratic Party and the building of a new political party of the 99%.

Through building a grassroots campaign, 15 Now, and electing an independent, open socialist to the Seattle City Council, Kshama Sawant and Socialist Alternative fought and won the first $15/hour minimum wage in a major U.S. city.

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Hillary Clinton's glaring vulnerability
(image by Salon.com)
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Op-Ed News

Michael Blecher

I do not understand how any true Democrat can so blindly support Hillary Clinton. How can so many people call themselves progressives yet stubbornly endorse or stay silent to a candidate that stands in opposition to the very platform they're supposed to represent? I am appalled by how many articles in the past 48 hours attacked Bernie Sanders' stance on gun control. The saddest part about these attacks is they came largely from the Left.

If we want to argue that Bernie Sanders is not as progressive as we would like or is far from the perfect candidate, that's fair. Nevertheless, I am not a Democratic purist who feels my candidate will perfectly align with all my views. I feel simplistic idealism and this immature drive for perfectionism is both damaging and impossible (e.g., Lawrence Lessig's candidacy).

However, we can't lie to ourselves and act like Hillary Clinton resembles anything close to what the Left once represented. What has always amazed me about attacks from the Left on Bernie Sanders is how few mention that Hillary Clinton has taken a more conservative view on every issue (even on gun control at one point). Facts are facts and I'm tired of so called Democrats that defend Hillary religiously. The only criticism I ever see is the email scandal but the scary truth is Hillary Clinton's email scandal should not be the piece that significantly contributes to her downfall. It should be her past policies. But where are the Rachel Maddow's, or the Bill de Blasio's (who hypocritically wrote this article a year ago)? I can't help but be reminded of The Emperor's New Clothes when I think of the way the Left mischaracterizes Hillary Clinton.

Have we forgotten the fact that it was her husband who created and championed the term "New Democrat"? Have we overlooked the fact that it was her husband who pushed his party so far to the center that by 2000, many people couldn't tell the difference between the Republicans and Democrats? Have we forgotten that in 2008, Ann Coulter even stated that she wanted Hillary Clinton over John McCain because she felt Hillary was the more conservative candidate?

Many Democrats will blame Ralph Nader for costing Al Gore the 2000 election. How quickly it is that we forget the progressive ideas that Nader championed and that he was once, a Democrat. We forget the fact that Nader ran largely because the Democrats had moved too far to the center. 15 years later, we see the Democratic Party already crowning a candidate that reaffirms what many on the Left feared, the Democratic Party has lost its soul.

Now, Hillary Clinton will state her view on this issue or that issue has evolved and so on, or will reveal her "progressive platform" after being asked about her position multiple times but it will often if not always be largely shaped by the polls. This is not always a bad thing to have in a leader. We should want one that will try to represent the people. However, it can also be incredibly detrimental. At times, it is up to our leaders to vote in favor of their principles, to vote what they know is best for the country, and it is their job to then convince the majority of Americans why this is the right position. We saw this with FDR and the New Deal which was very unpopular at the time. We saw it again with LBJ and the Great Society. We saw it in Kennedy's A Strategy of Peace Speech. This is what great leaders do. They shift the direction the country is going in because they have a certain wisdom that the common individual may not yet have but will acquire.

We can continue down this path of electing those who will only help maintain the status quo, where significant changes to the middle class and poor are not likely to occur as the elected on both sides are corrupted by the lobbyists. Or we can fight against it, against the accusations that this party has abandoned the working-class, the poor, and the minorities. Obama pushed this country slightly to the left and in 2016, we have a wonderful opportunity to win the presidency regardless who our candidate is simply because the GOP will alienate so many voters in key swing states. But truth be told, Democrats may win the general election and still lose in the long run by electing the wrong person. Let us not return to the center by nominating Hillary Clinton. We have been burned once before by a Clinton.

What follows is a list of reasons why no one can strongly endorse Hillary Clinton and call themselves a Democrat. If you want to favor Hillary Clinton because you cling to the argument of electability or because you actually agree with the policies of the New Democrats, then that's valid. But, please do not tell me that you somehow endorse Hillary Clinton because she champions Democratic values the same way FDR or LBJ did. The values of the old Democrats and the 1990s New Democrats are very much in opposition to each other.

Let us now review every time Bill Clinton and/or Hillary either endorsed a view or helped implement a policy that the Left was supposed to oppose, shall we. Up first is Hillary Clinton. Let us review the various things she has gone on record saying.

Hillary Clinton said she adamantly opposed illegal immigration in 2003, and felt they should go after the employers for hiring them. In 2006, she only reemphasized her very Republican-like views on illegal immigration. On several occasions in 2007, she stated she was against providing driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. She also went on record saying that the thousands of minors that were crossing the border illegally into South Texas last year should be sent back, once we identify who the responsible adults in their families are.

In regards to abortion, in 2008, she stated that abortion should be "safe, legal and, rare, and by rare I mean rare." In fact, when we further investigate her record on abortion, she has not only stated this view at previous events, but she even advocated for abstinence. When videos were released earlier this year, exposing a so-called scandal at Planned Parenthood, Hillary Clinton did not give a veryringing endorsement of Planned Parenthood at first. She called the videos disturbing, and didn't oppose a congressional inquiry into the abortion process.

Perhaps, the oddest thing is that we even find inconsistencies when we examine her views on guns, which Hillary Clinton and the beltway media claims she is running to the left on when we compare her to Bernie Sanders. However, in 2008, she felt gun legislation was best left up to the states. In fact, she even mentioned her own love affair with guns. In 2005, she enhanced the narrative that gun violence can be partly attributed to the sale of violent video games, and tried to make the sale of such games to minors a federal offense.

Not only did she vote for the War in Iraq but her foreign policy has often been described as neoconservative. Even in her recent speech on the Iran Deal at the Brookings Institution, her speech could be described as very hawkish. In her most recent interview on the Daily Show, which occurred in 2014, (an interview I might add was appropriately scolded by Andrew Sullivan at the time), her foreign policy seemed to revolve around this idea that America needs to go around the world reminding other countries again why America is great. 

Despite what certain liberal revisionists will tell us about her 2008 presidential campaign, her campaign was accused of using racist undertones. For example, sociologist Orlando Patterson, writing in the New York Times in 2008, discussed the implicit racism found in Hillary Clinton's now infamous 3 am commercial. Hillary Clinton's campaign also provided a photo of Obama in a turban to the Drudge Report. At the time, Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, described it as "the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we've seen from either party in this election." During the campaign, Bill Clinton also once made the remarks that a few years ago, Barack Obama would have been carrying their bags. At another point in the campaign, Bill Clinton insinuated Barack Obama doesn't loveAmerica. In addition, Hillary Clinton surrogates, such as Andrew Cuomo went on record saying that Obama can't "shuck and jive at a press conference"

In regards to civil liberties, she voted for the Patriot Act in 2001, and voted to reauthorize it in 2006. In 2005, she co-sponsored legislation that would criminalize the desecration of the American flag. In regards to the rights of the LBGT community, she was late to the party (no pun intended) when it came time to support gay marriage and even in the most recently disclosed emails, she didn't seem to be the most sensitive to same-sex parents. She also supported the Workplace Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which the ACLU strongly opposed because they felt it could lead to discriminatory behavior.

And let us not forget her ties to big banks and Wall Street as her top 10 cumulative donors included Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley. In addition, her son-in-law manages a hedge fund that was formed by him and several former Goldman Sachs employees. Nor should we forget the role she has played in expanding the use of fracking, her reluctance to take a stand on the TPP agreement, and the delay in disclosing her view on the Keystone Pipeline. We should also remember how Elizabeth Warren condemned Hillary Clinton in 2005 for helping pass bankruptcy legislation that would help credit card companies at the expense of the American people. Let us also note that Hillary Clinton voted for the Wall Street bailout.

What is intriguing is how even today, I see Hillary Clinton presenting this façade that she is more to the left than Bernie Sanders because she does not want to provide free tuition to rich kids. Of course, on this logic, Republican Presidential candidates in 2012 like Chris Christie and Mitt Romney should be hailed as Robin Hoods then as they offered a similar idea regarding social security. However, people on the Left knew the real motives behind this plan. There is also her complex relationship with charter schools, and her history as a board member for Wal-Mart.

Now, let us review Bill Clinton's presidency, and ask ourselves if we want another Clinton in the White House. Let us not forget how many people have suffered or died because of Bill Clinton. There was the federal crime bill that he signed in 1994. This bill included the "three strikes" law (i.e., if one is convicted of two prior felonies, a third felony conviction would lead to a life sentence). This bill also included mandatory minimum sentences for minor non-violent offenses (e.g. drug-related crimes). There was the so-called welfare reform bill. Peter Edelman, a policy maker that worked for Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton would resign in protest of this bill because he knew how much it would harm millions of poor children, and legal immigrants. I urge everyone to read the article written by Edelman in 1997, as many of his criticisms and concerns were proven to be valid. His article is also a reminder that many Democrats were on the right side of history (Tedd Kennedy called the bill "legislative child abuse"). I wish I could say the same for Bill Clinton.

Then there was the number of bills that Bill Clinton signed that helped Wall Street run amok. He signed the Gramm-Leach Bliley Act, which abolished the Glass-Steagall law. He made it possible for a derivative market to exist without any kind of regulation. Bill Clinton also appointed guys like Larry Summers to the Treasury. Larry Summers was not just one of the guys to blame for the 2008 Financial Crisis, but he even played a disturbing role in dismissing Gary Davis' concerns about Enron's suspicious tactics, and instead, preached this idea that overregulation was the real cause of the problem happening in California, not Enron.

The list goes on and on. Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement which significantly slashed the amount of manufacturing jobs in America. There was the Defense of Marriage Act which deprived same-sex couples of having the same benefits and rights that all other couples had. Bill Clinton also expanded the Drug War, and was perfectly okay with putting a mentally challenged person to death when he was Governor of Arkansas. In fact, many argued that it was a strategy he used to help him get elected as president. In 1996, Bill Clinton also signed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. The New York Times would go on to describe this bill as "the law that keeps people on death row despite flawed trials".

I won't even review other scandals in depth, like the way Bill Clinton turned Lincoln's Bedroom into a fundraising condo, or the attack Bill Clinton unleashed on Sister Souljah which Jesse Jackson rightfully criticized. Nor will I go into detail about how many feminist organizations turned a blind eye every time Bill Clinton was accused of sexual misconduct, or the way they threw Monica Lewinsky under the bus, even blaming the whole scandal on her. As Susan Faludi once said when referring to the Lewinsky affair, "it sounds like she put the moves on him."

The fact is this list can actually be expanded. Nevertheless, the point has been made. It is time the so-called champions for the principles of the Left to scrutinize Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton's past. A vote for Bernie Sanders will send a ripple effect to the Democratic Party that the era of New Democrats is over. It is time we take our party back.

 

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  • I appreciate these two articles and Markowitz' preface. I suppose it is possible that some labor endorsements for Clinton, instead of for Sanders, are based on a fear of alienating the candidate who many think will inevitably be the nominee. And I suppose a rebuttal to that is, while she will probably be much better in many respects to any GOP nominee, her presidency could very well represent a Democratic Party rightward tacking back away from the center. I think our CPUSA and the left in general could greatly benefit from articles discussing the strategy and tactics of this Democratic Party primary contest and post-primary candidacy.

    Posted by Michael Arney, 12/07/2015 8:53pm (2 years ago)

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