Don’t look now, America, but socialism is all around you

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Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, currently the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, is a self-described “democratic socialist.”

With Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on a trajectory to win the Democratic nomination for president, socialism is the talk of the nation. Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, has proposed big reforms, including universal healthcare, tuition-free college, and more than doubling the federal minimum wage. His ascent has the Democratic establishment and corporate pundits concerned. What the media doesn’t acknowledge is that socialism is everywhere in America already. And whether they realize it or not, Americans like it.

In American politics, socialism has a broad definition. Essentially, anything that taxpayers fund and government administers is socialism, from food stamps to oil subsidies. This differs radically from the Marxist conception, but it’s been used in America since at least the 1930s. Corporate interests attacked President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal proposals as socialist. Among Roosevelt’s New Deal accomplishments were bringing electric power to rural areas and establishing Social Security. Roosevelt became one of America’s most popular presidents and was elected four times.

New Deal programs became so essential to American life that Republican President Dwight Eisenhower wrote, “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs you would not hear of that party again in our political history.” President Harry Truman said, “Socialism is a scare word that [special interest lobbies] have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years… Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all people.”

Truman proposed a version of Medicare-for-All as early as 1945. Eisenhower expanded Social Security and kept the top income tax bracket at 91 percent. Bernie Sanders wouldn’t seem very radical to these former golden age presidents at all. Many of Sanders’s policies have been proposed before and most of them exist, in some form or another, in the world’s other major industrialized countries, including Canada, Germany, and Japan.

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The Works Progress Administration, a New Deal-era program, put millions of Americans to work on public projects.

Socialism surrounds American life to this day. Libraries, public schools, public parks, fire departments, police departments, public utilities, municipal garbage pickup, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, disability protection, labor rights, unemployment insurance, airports, bridges, roads, sewer systems, child protective services, the FDIC, environmental protections, and water treatment plants are all socialist success stories. Wherever a corporation can’t squeeze out a profit, socialist government is there to pool community resources and deliver a public necessity.

Americans don’t hate socialist programs; they just hate the word. Socialism still divides Americans in polling, but socialist programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security remain very popular. There is, perhaps, no clearer illustration of this miseducated dichotomy than the protesters who, during the Obamacare debates of 2009, demanded the government keep its hands off of their Medicare.

Dissemination of far-right propaganda on talk radio, FOX News, and the internet has been stunningly successful at turning Americans against their own best interests. Ronald Reagan, who effectively ended the New Deal era, famously said the nine scariest words were, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” Among the modern Republican Party’s greatest enemies have been city workers, schoolteachers, and firefighters’ unions. Public service itself is often dismissed as socialist and un-American. It’s difficult to grasp the depth of hatred for your nation and your neighbors such an attitude reveals.

It is no small irony that those most ardently opposed to “socialism” are also frequently the most enthusiastic about the military. During World War II, the US military expanded into the largest state project in human history, and it has remained so ever since. Propped up by trillions of taxpayer dollars, that massive public investment has produced and perfected innovations like GPS, jet engines, microwaves, and the internet. When a politician asks for a bigger military budget, very few pundits question it.

Unfortunately, Americans don’t have the same attitude when it comes to protecting themselves from other threats. Poverty, illiteracy, and sickness have done far more damage than every terror attack combined. President Trump isn’t accused of socialism when he requests $2.5 billion to fight an emergency like coronavirus, but securing the long-term health and prosperity of Americans through sustained public investments is considered too radical.

Pundits frequently worry about Sanders’s socialism morphing into authoritarianism. MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews became nearly hysterical that a socialist administration might execute him in Central Park. Such fears are plainly absurd. Sanders has denounced authoritarianism. The left-wing movement that backs him opposes it and pushes actively for less authoritarian police and criminal justice reforms. Nothing Sanders has proposed would look out of place in Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia, or even New Deal-era America.

A strong society invests in the health, education, and welfare of its people. Most Americans have no problem publicly funding the first 12 years of their children’s education. Tuition-free colleges merely extend that to the next four years, enabling American kids to keep pace with the global economy. Americans believe in containing pandemics and protecting the health of their communities. The best way to do so is to ensure everyone has access to care. These are investments, not handouts.

Socialism helped to civilize America. Before socialist intervention, laborers were brutally exploited, polluters went unchecked, the elderly were left behind, and children grew up illiterate. Now, we are again in need of socialist reform. Billionaires pay starvation wages, students are forced into crippling debt, and life-saving healthcare is gated off by insurance companies. That cruel, greedy, inhuman system is far more extreme than anything proposed by Bernie Sanders. Placing people before profit, by socialism or any other name, is the way forward for America.

Michael Bloomberg is an odious billionaire who wants to buy the presidency

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Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his presidential debate debut on Wednesday. His performance was widely panned.

After pouring some $500 million of his own fortune into his presidential campaign, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg finally joined his Democratic rivals on the debate stage Wednesday night. He turned in a remarkably despicable performance in which he unapologetically refused to address allegations of harassment and offered only tepid explanations for the stop-and-frisk policy that repeatedly violated the civil rights and basic humanity of hundreds of thousands of innocent black and brown New Yorkers.

For all the problems the Democratic field has, Bloomberg’s emergence on the debate stage was the first time it seemed possible the party could actually nominate someone even more odious than Donald Trump. Bloomberg’s remarks on race, women, LGBTQ issues, and more are often as loathsome as Trump’s and, in some cases, are even worse. Continue reading

Why Bernie Sanders is the best candidate to take down Donald Trump

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Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is now the frontrunner in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.

Hot off the heels of winning the popular vote in the contentious Iowa caucus, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is in the best position of his campaign. He is polling well against, if not ahead of, longtime frontrunner Joe Biden in important early primary states like New Hampshire, Nevada, and California. Rising on a tide of donations averaging around $20 a piece, Sanders has forced the Democratic establishment and the news media to reckon with the real prospect of his nomination.

This is great news for anyone who wants to see Donald Trump evicted from the White House. Sanders’s strengths as an independent populist play perfectly well against Trump’s weaknesses as a corrupt, incompetent billionaire. Trump’s strongest argument, which has been to paint his opponents as Washington insiders, fall flat against Sanders, a sincere outsider whose convictions have held over his long career.

Perhaps Trump’s greatest gift as a politician is his ability to dispatch an opponent using only a single phrase or nickname: “Lyin’ Ted,” “Low-energy Jeb,” or “Crooked Hillary.” It’s childish bullying, but it’s effective. Elizabeth Warren has demonstrated that Trump can bait her into public embarrassment. Biden has no comeback to “Sleepy Joe” or “Where’s Hunter?”; his deteriorating mental state and family corruption are matters of fact. Sanders, on the other hand, owns the “socialist” label and makes it palatable to an America beset by longer hours, harder work, and runaway inequality.

Trump knows that Sanders is his toughest opponent. In leaked audio from April 2018, Trump admits Hillary Clinton would’ve been stronger with Sanders as her vice president, saying, “He was the only one I didn’t want her to pick.” Trump reportedly grapples with the appeal of socialist policies, telling advisers that the cancellation of student debt is “a tough one to run against.” He even offered faint praise for Sanders in his Super Bowl interview, saying, “At least he’s true to what he believes.”

Sanders is fighting for healthcare, a living wage, debt reduction, and tuition-free college for everyone in America. Within the current Washington dynamic, those policies are written off as unrealistic or too extreme despite their popularity across a broad swath of the American people. Even those who support Sanders and his policies often fear that his progressive agenda will never pass through a far-right, obstructionist Congress. In order to overcome gridlock and establishment opposition, Sanders has pledged to govern as an organizer-in-chief, encouraging Americans to keep the pressure up on elected politicians.

Democratic Presidential Candidates Participate In Presidential Primary Debate In Des Moines, Iowa

Much of the media have declared Sanders and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg co-winners of the messy Iowa Caucus. Sanders beat Buttigieg by some 6,000 popular votes, but they will likely receive the same number of delegates.

Even if he doesn’t pass his entire legislative agenda, Sanders has gotten the nation talking about it. Moderate Democrats like Pete Buttigieg now have to make their arguments against Medicare for All. In addition to his New Deal-like domestic policies, Sanders is the most antiwar candidate running and the most aggressive on climate change. Dozens of nations outperform America in healthcare, education, housing, labor rights, and/or environmental protection, and Sanders has shifted the national conversation toward doing better.

Sanders’s biggest obstacles may well come from his own party. Hillary Clinton questioned Sanders’s electability and recently said, “Nobody likes him… nobody wants to work with him.” Insider reporting suggests that Barack Obama, John Kerry, and other top Democratic figures desperately want to avoid a Sanders nomination. Billionaire Howard Schultz has threatened a third-party run if Sanders is the nominee and Michael Bloomberg has already spent some $200 million on his own campaign.

The problem isn’t that Sanders is unelectable; he consistently polls well against Trump, and better in many polls than any other Democrat. The problem is that the Clinton wing of the party doesn’t like him. A Sanders presidency may threaten the interests of corporate Democrats even more than a Trump presidency, fraying their close relationships with wealthy donors. So much the better for ordinary Americans, as those relationships have turned the party away from working-class interests.

Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign is most instructive of all. Her campaign focused more on the evils of Trump than the good she planned to do. Though she won the popular vote, she lost the election. To rally the support and enthusiasm necessary to retake the White House and move America forward requires an inspirational message of your own.

Sanders has no misunderstandings about the danger posed by Trump’s corruption, authoritarianism, and bigotry. But Sanders also knows that Trump cannot be the only focus. The Sanders campaign is centered around class solidarity, environmental innovation, and social supports to guarantee every American a fundamental standard of dignity. That message has made him the Democratic frontrunner. Not only is Bernie Sanders the best choice to stop Donald Trump, he is the best president for this moment.

The embarrassing futility of ‘principled Republicans’ who attack Trump

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President Trump has repeatedly criticized former Arizona Senator John McCain, seven months after McCain’s passing.

Every now and then, the craven indecency of Donald Trump pushes some members of the Republican Party to stand up and say that this time, the president has gone too far. These are supposedly the GOP’s respectable men of stature. They may agree with virtually all of Trump’s policies, but they can’t abide his dirty language or disrespect of sacred cows. Whenever one of these so-called “principled Republicans” chides Trump in public, though, Trump just mops the floor with them. Continue reading

Howard Schultz and the billionaire establishment’s preference for Trump over leftist Democrats

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Howard Schultz, 65, oversaw the expansion of Starbucks into a global brand and now feels qualified to run the United States.

Whether or not Howard Schultz, the billionaire former CEO of Starbucks, runs for president in 2020 hinges largely on what direction the Democratic Party goes. Schultz, who has no political experience, is concerned that the party has become too left-wing, pushed by prominent congresspeople like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In order to save the country from a choice between socialism and Donald Trump, Schultz may be compelled to run as a “centrist independent.”

In a media blitz late last month, Schultz slammed Trump, calling the president “despicable” and accusing him of doing “almost everything possible to discredit the dignity, the civility, the values, the respectfulness of the Oval Office with no degree of any sense of responsibility to the American people.” Schultz’s remarks were notably lacking in specifics. While his most sanctimonious denunciations were of Trump’s demeanor and vulgarity, his strongest policy critiques were directed at Democrats, particularly Ocasio-Cortez. Continue reading

A view of the restraint of President Trump

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President Trump has held firm to his position of unilaterally holding the federal government hostage for his border wall, much to the delight of his base.

The presidency of tabloid star, game show host, and brand entrepreneur Donald J. Trump has been a rowdy one. Currently, the federal government of the United States is, like so many of Trump’s former ventures, shut down. As Trump threatens to declare a national emergency and circumvent Congress in order to build his promised southern border wall, commentators are speculating just how far Trump will go to undermine American institutions and empower himself.

Throughout his many decades of public life, Trump has been openly petty, vulgar, racist, conspiratorial, and narcissistic. The presidency hasn’t matured him an iota. As president, he’s continued to lie, flirt with dictators, enrich himself and his family, and show no compunction about stripping away benefits and even disaster relief from vulnerable people. Given how brazenly he’s gotten away with it all, though, it’s almost a marvel that he hasn’t gone even further. Continue reading

The real reason Trump wants a border wall

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Trump addressed the nation from the Oval Office for the first time as president on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump addressed the nation from the Oval Office, telling Americans there is a national security crisis on our southern border that only his wall – or fence, or barrier – can protect us from. The US federal government has been shut down for three weeks as Trump refuses to reopen it without funding for his project. Democrats have largely held firm, issuing a rebuke of Trump’s arguments and refusing to give him what he wants.

In his address, the president described the southern border as a warzone under constant attack by enemies of America. Trump connected America’s heroin epidemic with border crossings and ran down a short, cherry-picked list of Americans killed by undocumented immigrants to imply that none of them can be trusted. He blamed illegal immigration for job loss and stagnating wages. Continue reading

Positives of the Trump presidency

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President Trump’s unabashed, unapologetic awfulness could have a few inadvertent positive consequences for American politics.

Every day brings new revelations about the extent of President Donald Trump’s crookedness, the corruption of his administration, and the damage he’s doing to our political system, foreign relations and the environment. The deluge of negative coverage has caused Trump and his supporters to accuse the media of a conspiracy against the president, but the truth is far simpler than that: Trump truly is that awful. In fact, in most ways, he’s even worse than the mainstream media portrays.

Still, it’s worth entertaining some potential positives that could emerge out of Trump’s presidency. None of them justify his presidency but, mostly indirectly and by accident, there are ways in which Trump’s complete lack of convention could lead to a positive jolt to the system. Most of these fall under one of three categories: blundering into a decent foreign policy move, breaking our staid expectations of what a politician should be, and accidental admission of the truth. Continue reading

Brett Kavanaugh’s personal record is bad – but so is his judicial record

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Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before Congress.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote on President Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, for Friday, September 28 at 9 a.m. Republicans are anxious to hold the vote on Kavanaugh because each day seems to bring new allegations and scrutiny against the 53-year-old, whose appointment would be for life. Over the last two weeks, three women have come forward with allegations of sexual assault at the hands of Kavanaugh in high school and college. Continue reading

A compendium of Donald Trump’s criminality

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Left to right: Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, plead guilty to eight counts; Trump; and Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, who was convicted of eight more charges.

Within minutes of one another, two former high-level associates of President Donald Trump were found guilty of felonies last week. Paul Manafort, the chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign throughout the pivotal summer of 2016, was convicted on eight charges, including tax fraud and bank fraud. Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney, pleaded guilty to eight charges, including tax evasion and making an excessive campaign contribution at the request of a candidate – the hush money paid to one of Trump’s mistresses.

Five of Trump’s former close associates have already been indicted in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Manafort and Cohen join Michael Flynn, Trump’s former National Security Adviser; George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign; and campaign aid Rick Gates. Dozens of others have also been indicted. The president has thus far managed to stay just beyond reach, but the indictments and convictions underscore Trump’s lifelong adjacency to criminal activity. Continue reading