Today, the House of Representatives will vote on the American Healthcare Act. Despite, holding both Houses of Congress and the White House, the Republicans are expected to vote down their own bill. The reform will cost 24 million Americans their healthcare. It slashes Medicaid and will raise premiums on all but the young and healthy. After 7 years of opposing Obamacare, the Republicans have managed to write a bill that fails to satisfy any of the ideological metrics that Republicans have used to assault Obamacare. Most prognosticators are certain that the AHCA will fail in a fantastic display of legislative pyrotechnics. TrumpCare, if you ask Paul Ryan or RyanCare, if you ask the Whitehouse, is so unpopular that the Whitehouse and Speaker of the House have publicly jousted regarding which Nom De Plume will go on the bill, with neither side desirous of having the dishonor. As the Republicans tempt fate and court decimation in the midterm elections, where are the Democrats? An article in The Politico offers an answer. “The Democrats New Obamacare Strategy: Get Out of The Way”. As a legislative strategy, this is largely the right approach. Democrats should not try to stall republican attempts to vote on a bill that reveals how their party has abdicated its core principles and were perhaps never sincere in their criticism of Obamacare. However, “Get Out of The Way” also seems to be the ethos of the national party. In an epic failure to capitalize, Democrats nationally have not used the disastrous AHCA as a mobilizing tool. Together, with the equally reviled Trump-Budget, the Democrats could easily assemble the ultimate Megazord to fight the GOP in the midterms. And yet, the Democrats have not begun to lay the foundation for an effective mid-term effort. The Democrats should have already hired new organizers and deployed them in the backyards of rural Republican districts. Organizing wins’ elections but Organizing isn’t about phone-calls or door to door. The foundation of Organizing is about building relationships and as Republicans turn their backs on the voters that elected them by offering policies that gut the programs those voters depend on, Democrats have an unprecedented opportunity to build new relationships with rural voters. As these rural Republican voters are forced to confront the reality that they need government programs just as much as the inner cities Republicans often lampoon, the Democrats have a chance to expose the core Republican obsession with the gutting of government programs as fundamentally flawed. Never before have Democrats had such an obvious opportunity to bring about a fundamental collapse of Republican orthodoxy by laying siege to the foundations and overly simplistic principles of the GOP. As rural Republican voters suddenly realize that they are just as dependent on government funding as liberal bastions and minority communities, Democrats have a real chance to batter the intellectual pillars that have buttressed conservative thought since the era of William F. Buckley. And what are Democrats doing instead: They are Getting Out of The Way. Democrats should have been using this time to reconstitute their army of Organizers and begin deploying them to the rural communities that roundly rejected their message in the last election. They can now show those voters the true cost of Republican cuts and argue forcefully for the power of government to improve their lives. The Dems should be giving Organizers the time it takes to build bonds with these new prospective voters who often hail from regions where being a Democrat is socially synonymous with being a communist. Democrats cannot afford to implement the “tried and failed” strategy of waiting until shortly before the mid-term or the Presidential election to deploy Organizers in the hope of making gains in communities that have believed for generations that being a Democrat is akin to being a traitor. The achilles heel of the Democratic Party is a lack of a sustained presence in these communities that nurtures and builds relationships with these votes. For the first time in a long time, these voters have eyes and ears to hear the message of the Democratic Party. The Democrats cannot afford to miss this opportunity.
Donald Trump has championed a series of controversial ideas. He wants to build a wall, reminiscent of the Great Wall Of China along the U.S. & Mexico border. He wants to ban muslims from entering the United States. While these ideas are terrible, Trump offered two more ideas that are being universally regarded as awful.
The First Terrible Trump Idea is that women who get abortions should face some form of punishment for exercising autonomy in their reproductive decisions. Trump could not say if he would punish women with a fine or jail time but he did emphasize that they must be punished. This extreme position is an idea that goes beyond the pale for even the most ardent pro life groups. March For Life-a perennial pro life organization released a statement saying: “Mr. Trump’s comment today is completely out of touch with the pro-life movement and even more with women who have chosen such a sad thing as abortion,” said Jeanne Mancini, President of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund. “Being pro-life means wanting what is best for the mother and the baby. Women who choose abortion often do so in desperation and then deeply regret such a decision. No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a woman who has chosen abortion. This is against the very nature of what we are about. We invite a woman who has gone down this route to consider paths to healing, not punishment“.
Trump’s second Terrible Idea was to increase the presence of private prisons in our justice system. Perhaps Mr. Trump is unfamiliar with Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. who was convicted of accepting more than 1 million dollars in bribes from private prisons to fill their cells with juveniles. Judge Ciaverella is not the only justice to participate in such schemes. In introducing a profit incentive to incarcerate citizens, we pervert our justice system and undermine the faith citizens have in it’s outcomes.
These ideas represent a continuous decline in the seriousness of our discourse for the 2016 election.
During last night’s MSNBC Townhall, Presidential “struggle” candidate, John Kasich was asked by an African American republican: “what would you do to build trust and reform social and economic injustice in the African American community”. Kasich’s reply was noteworthy as it hearkened back to the GOP posture of yester-year. Instead of offering strategies for attracting businesses and jobs to black communities or addressing inequity in school resource funding or offering initiatives to build thriving charter academies in black communities, Kasich seemed to view the question purely as a Criminal Justice inquiry and only when pressed by moderator Chuck Todd did Kasich discuss jobs or the economy in black communities. Hearing “social and economic justice” Kasich seemed to pigeon hole the question as a stereotype of black interests in police reform. While reforming the criminal justice system generally has profound economic consequences, the tepid police related reforms offered by Kasich missed the mark in a significant policy sense.
Kasich’s reply was to recall his creation of a committee that worked to express to the black community the good will of law enforcement and that officers simply don’t want to be “killed” or “taken out”. While the safety of law enforcement is a primary interest to all, it’s inclusion in his answer serves to curiously reinforce the notion that cops are under-siege and the black “super-predator” narrative damaging Hillary Clinton. It is worth pausing to consider that Kasich was asked how to improve social and economic injustices and his first statement was to emphasize officer safety from the violent impulses presumably in the black community? He went on to note that he revamped the use of deadly force policy and moved to create a police force that looked like the community it was serving. In the field of criminal justice reform, Kasich was offering very low hanging fruit. The primary cause of black incarceration is non-violent drug offense but as numerous studies have concluded blacks are no more likely than whites to use drugs. The outrageously high rates of incarceration are a result of targeting and unequal enforcement of drug laws against black communities. As John Ehrlichmen-former Domestic Policy Chief for Richard Nixon confessed, the drug war was created to target black people. Numerous exposes have uncovered how law enforcement routinely enforces drug laws through greater scrutiny of black and poor communities. Creating diverse police forces seems like a minor reform, given the totality of the issue and it’s profound implications for black families, black businesses and the black economy. He ended his statement by highlighting his attempt to let non-violent felons wipe their records clean, in order to gain employment which does address the economic incentive that generally drives recidivism but he felt the odd compulsion to book-end his statement with “IF YOU’RE A GANGBANGER, YOU WILL NEVER GET OUT”. The response in totality was peculiar. Kasich offered a winding reply that offered the African American questioner a more diverse police force and a potential cleansing of records for non-violent offenders as a paltry sandwich between assurances to the general GOP voting base that he was still tough on crime.
Kasich was asked about social and economic injustice which could broadly be seen as a question relating to the economy in black communities. Only when pressed by moderator Chuck Todd, did Kasich discuss creating minority set-asides for the construction of a road in his state. Kasich could have seen the question as a prompt to opine on entrepreneurship and improving prospects for funding minority start-ups. It could have be seen as a question prompting a discussion of systemic impediments to creating wealth and opportunity. Offering clean records to obtain jobs in jobless communities for individuals that have lost years of potential training and education as a result of being incarcerated for recreational drug use, is a half measure and only a band-aid after the state has already inflicted a severe wound to the family of black communities. For a candidate that has built it’s success on the Tone of it’s candidate this was quite possibly Kasich’s most tone def answer of the political season.
Bernie Sanders was expected to lose the state of Michigan and get trounced in the state of Mississippi. While Sanders was demolished in Mississippi as expected, he was miraculously lifted to victory in Michigan 50% to 48%. The thin margin of victory compels an analysis of what communities drove the razor thin win. The United States has long been a nation that defied common wisdom, transcended division and overcame the stumbling blocks of past conflicts. Tonight, the Muslim community in Michigan contributed a new chapter to our collective story of triumph over tribalism. In the first serious attempt to seek the Presidency by a Jewish American, Muslim Americans in Michigan supported Bernie Sanders by overwhelming margins. It is important to note that Muslims were merely a factor in a multi-variable calculus that caused Sanders to succeed (such as an over-performance among African Americans and under-performance by Clinton). Michigan is one of the few states that hosts a significant Muslim and Arab population. Throughout the Middle East, antisemitism in the Islamic World is not rare. Conflicts like the Israeli and Palestinian struggle for statehood have helped foment strife between the Abrahamic communities. A multitude of terrorist organizations and even some duly elected governments in Islamic states have called for the extermination of the state of Israel and of Jews in general. The cantankerous relationship has resulted in a global stereotype of strife between Jews and Muslims that lead many political observers to presume that Bernie Sanders would be roundly rejected by predominantly Muslim communities. And yet, online periodicals like The Arab American News endorsed Senator Sanders. The Arab American News wrote:
“With the senator from Vermont, we have a historic opportunity to elect a principled politician who has remained true to his message from the days he was protesting with the civil rights movement to the day he proclaimed himself a democratic socialist on national television while running for president.
Most Arab Americans are hardworking, middle class families. The concentration of wealth in the top 1 percent of the nation’s richest people impacts this community directly. Sanders’ tax reforms and promised social programs would level the playing field for Americans to realize the American Dream.
Sanders stands for racial justice and has unequivocally condemned Islamophobia.
Sanders is a Jewish American. This newspaper and the community at large do not have a bias against anyone’s ethnic or religious affiliation. Ideas are what matters.
The newspaper does not trust Clinton’s interventionist inclinations. As secretary of state, she was a leading force behind the bombing campaign in Libya in 2011. There is no doubt that Muammar Gaddafi was a dictator who abused his people. But the hasty war on Libya, which was dubbed as humanitarian, led to that North African nation becoming a failed state. Now, two governments and countless militant groups, including ISIS, rule the once-stable country.
A CNN poll revealed this week that Sanders would beat Trump by a bigger margin than Clinton. According to the poll, the former secretary of state would top Trump 52 to 44 percent; Sanders would beat the real estate mogul 55 to 43 percent.
Even if Sanders does not succeed in winning the nomination, it is important for our community to vote for him, so he can promote his platform and communicate his ideas to the American public, taking his campaign all the way to the Democratic Convention. Between now and then, anything is possible.
Arab Americans need to stand for principles. In Sanders, we have a principled politician who is showing strength and courage in his campaign.
True to the history of America, American Muslims defied the conventional wisdom and at a ratio of 64% to 36% supported Bernie Sanders, who describes himself as proudly Jewish. Some have called the Michigan victory, the most stunning upset in recent political history.
In an early Town-hall hosted by Fox News in Detroit Michigan, Hillary Clinton unveiled a new policy that bares a striking resemblance to the most celebrated policy of her primary opponent. Secretary Clinton’s New College Compact or Debt Free Tuition Policy will undoubtedly be seen as a mimic of Bernie Sanders’ Free Tuition proposal. Both proposals, according to each candidate would cover the cost of attendance at any Community College or Public University. Clinton claims however that the Free-Tuition proposal posited by Sanders would do nothing to curtail the rising cost of education. Clinton claims that by offering “Free Tuition” universities are under no pressure to lower costs. She believes that she improves on the Sanders proposal and halts the precipitous rise of tuition costs by requiring colleges to effectively audit their degree programs and remove costs that are unrelated to the degree students are pursuing. “If its not related to a young person getting a degree that will lead to them getting a job, DON’T CHARGE THE STUDENT” railed Clinton. Clinton says that she will expect states to invest in higher education, noting that “we have enough prisons“! Mrs. Clinton offered no specific details on how states will be convinced to cooperate with her plan but she noted that she has the funding worked out, unlike Bernie Sanders. Clinton offers existing students the possibility of refinancing their student debt and paying back existing loans as a percentage of income, relieving students from high interest rates.
Who is the rightful successor of the Obama Legacy? The fight to become the President’s standard bearer became the central theme of last night’s Democratic Townhall on MSNBC.
During the Townhall Hillary Clinton launched a series of attacks on Senator Bernie Sanders, alleging that he once encouraged disenchanted democrats to launch a primary challenge to President Obama’s second term in 2012. The attack while effective is also tactically blind to Clinton’s own previous actions.
Clinton has been informally running for President longer than any other candidate. One of the early narratives of her campaign was a direct rebuke of the Obama foreign policy. The Washington Post wrote that “there is little precedent for a secretary of state preparing a presidential campaign in part by criticizing the foreign policy being carried out by the administration she helped lead.” In the earliest moments of 2014 Clinton began a very public critique of President Obama’s Foreign Policy, highlighting moments when the President failed to heed her sage advice and the disastrous consequences of his naivete. At one point Clinton mocked the President (and his famous phrase) declaring that “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff is not an organizing principle” effectively attacking his reluctance to get the U.S. bogged down in long engagements.
While Clinton attempts to position Sanders as a disloyal soldier in the democratic ranks, her attacks on the President came at a much more precarious time for the President, while he was bogged down in the tumult of new complications in Iraq and the Ukraine. Clinton went even further, outpacing even right wing critics of the President becoming among the first to blame the President and the failure of his policies for the rise of Isis. Clinton stated in The Atlantic that “The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the Protests against Bashar al Assad-there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle-the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled”. The public spat evolved into a very embarrassing verbal joust, leaving a sitting President to publicly debate his former Secretary of State in the pages of the New York Times, in which he declared that the postulated scenario of success from Clinton’s recommendations had “always been a fantasy” (Washington Post 8/11/14).
Clinton’s early campaign was positioned to seek political benefits by distancing herself from the President. The Atlantic noted that Clinton repeatedly referred to the President’s policy as a “Failure” a remark she now assaults Sanders for making. As one who now seeks the mantle of the Obama Presidency, the inconvenient truth is that in the early months of 2014, Hillary Clinton was tacking right, praising President Bush and attacking President Obama as a failure (to summarize TheWeek.com 7/28/14).
The most costly charge for the Sanders team is the claim that Sanders once sought “someone” as a primary challenger for President Obama in 2012, however it is worth noting that the challenger most speculated about was Hillary Clinton. Team Clinton supporters, were the most vocal proponents of a Primary challenge for the President. In an article posted to TheHill.com frustrated democrats like Peter DeFazio suggested that a primary challenge might salve the wounds of disappointment he and other democrats felt about the President. A primary challenge he stated would “push the president and his advisers a bit……to give us back the candidate we had three years ago”. An unnamed lawmaker told TheHill.Com that Clinton was the only candidate that could “crystallize the issues”. The same liberal lawmaker told The Hill that “She could do the job and hopefully lead us to a better place”. The clamor culminated with articles like the Daily Beast’s “Hillary Told You So” in which numerous democratic acolytes loyal to Clinton asserted that the disappointment voters felt in Obama could have been avoided had voters made the wiser choice of electing Clinton. Redemption they argued could be earned by supporting a Clinton in 2012 primary challenge. While Clinton vociferously denied interest, fuel was given to fire by Clinton attacking her own Commander In Chief while serving as his Secretary of State, suggesting that Obama’s “Failure” economically was making her job harder as early as 2010.
The most common quip, used to discredit the proposals of Bernie Sanders as pie-in-the sky fantasies is that he is offering FREE STUFF. The refrain is designed to caricature his ideas as impractical, poorly conceived and insincere. His primary opponent alleges that the admitted socialist is simply making empty promises to misguided youths that are naive in their belief that anything in life could ever be free. While we should take issue with the lack of a detailed financial manifesto from the rising Presidential powerhouse, we should also lay waste to the notion that Bernie Sanders is offering Americans FREE STUFF.
In reality, Bernie Sanders is uncommonly honest in the level of sacrifice he calls upon from every American. It is common practice for Republicans to propose cuts to the federal budget without paying due deference to the pain that will result as a consequence of those cuts. During the last government shut down, Republicans even suggested that closing the government and it’s associated agencies would be without any inconvenience to Americans. Democrats too are often fond of proposing new government programs without reconciling the costs of those programs and yet these are the voices that are most critical of Sanders and his proposed FREE STUFF.
Senator Sanders has proposed tuition free community colleges and fully paid for Public Universities but he has never suggested that this would be free. Instead he has suggested that this perk of citizenship be covered by the taxes that we all currently pay. We may quibble with the precise cost of the proposal but we cannot say that Bernie Sanders is offering FREE STUFF. He is simply suggesting that instead of borrowing thousands of dollars per semester and carrying with each loan significant interest, students should be permitted to pay for their educations over the course of their entire life-times, in small regularly paid installments also known as TAXES! Far from offering FREE STUFF Mr. Sanders is uncharacteristically honest in confessing that he will raise the taxes of middle class and wealthy citizens. We may as individuals assess if the benefits of collectively purchased amenities to our culture outweigh the proposed increase in taxes but again, He hasn’t offered anything for free!
Despite Mr. Sanders marketing himself as an avowed socialist, I question sincerely why his proposal is derided with such intense cold war heat. In the minds of most Americans we are a Democratic Republic despite offering fully paid for K-12 educations for all. This begs the question of why critics assert that we would suddenly morph into a soviet commune for simply extending our publicly paid for offering from K-12 to K-16? Mr. Sanders is simply suggesting that the term Public have meaning for Public Universities. He is suggesting that Community Colleges should be affordable for those in the community. And he is making provision for each individual to pay for his or her education by obligating them to pay into an admittedly collectivized pool for the entirety of their lives. In some sense Sanders is propheting the conservative notion that every individual has the personal responsibility to pay for an education.
Those that are puzzled by the attraction Americans have to Sander’s proposal should consider that many Americans pay significant portions of their incomes in taxes and feel very little benefit. They drive along roads that are unsightly, transit in Airports that are unworthy of a great nation and protest the expenditure of their tax dollars on wars with which they disagree. The success of Sanders can be seen as the triumph of the notion that Americans want to see a tangible value for the taxes they are currently paying in ways that directly benefit them.
The Sanders proposal for Universal Healthcare is socialized medicine but the notion that socialized or collectively bargained and paid for services are free is a gross misnomer. When citizens pay taxes for services, they have paid for them. They have not been “given” anything. Public Schools are not free. When the government contracts with a private company to pave roads near your home, this service was not free. The term handout cannot be used to characterize services for which an individual has paid her/his fair share of taxes. To do so would be like characterizing a paid buffet as a free meal. They have in fact, paid for their portion. If we are going to criticize the proposals of Presidential hopefuls we should do so with accuracy and an appreciation for nuance.
Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders were finally alone in their last debate before the New Hampshire Primary. The removal of former Governor Martin O’malley proved to be surprisingly impactful as the two hopefuls sparred in the best political match of the season. The event hosted by MSNBC stars Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow was undoubtedly the best of innumerable debates on a multitude of channels. There were no attempts at mockery in this debate and no allusions to the marital status of any other candidates, instead the two politicians engaged in substantive exchanges aimed squarely at the nation’s most pressing issues. Emerging from the debate were fewer distinctions in values and instead a display of the Democratic Party’s struggle between pragmatism and idealism. Hillary Clinton emphasized that she is a battle tested acolyte and a known quantity. Voters, she humorously quipped know just about everything there is to know about her life. Clinton argued with Sanders that she too is a believer in Universal Healthcare but her idealism has been tempered by the political realities of her decades long struggle with America’s most powerful political interests. Sanders positioned himself as the unapologetic advocate for the truest aims of the Democratic base and the ideals of the Great Society. Sanders painted himself as untarnished by Wall-street’s bribery and Clinton struggled to explain how she was not left compromised by her acceptance of speaking fees that soared above a half-a million dollars per hour of speaking. Sanders scored significantly in the domestic discussion, nestled comfortably in his wheel-house as he continued to promote campaign finance reform, wrenching the big banks apart to prevent another “Too Big To Fail” crisis, Universal Healthcare and even his most controversial Free College movement. Sanders was summarily dismissed from the stage once the conversation turned to Foreign Policy which has become the sole dominion of Hillary Clinton. Sanders was visibly out of his element when discussing world affairs and Clinton made her most impressive rational for her candidacy which stands firmly on her level of expertise.
The debate was notable for the sharp tonal edge of what Clinton herself described as a “Vigorous Agreement”. Sanders successfully portrayed Clinton as the spouse of Wall Street while Clinton successfully portrayed herself as the pragmatic advocate of incremental progress. Clinton suggested that she represents competent administration and a plausible means to progressive ends. The debate landed squarely on Sanders as representative of democratic idealism and Clinton effectively arguing that Sanders is well intention-ed but delusional regarding the likelihood of his success.
The New Hampshire Debate was quite simply, spectacular. Who Won the exchange depends simply on the weight one gives toward the Heart or the Head, the Ego versus the Super-Ego and Idealism tempered by Pragmatism.