Déjà vu: Bernie Sanders reincarnates Eugene McCarthy…
As Yogi Berra noted, it’s déjà vu all over again. As it did forty-eight (48) years ago, the Democratic Party elite-establishment has declared war on its members, particularly the youth and their champion. The target in 1968 was Minnesota Sen. Eugene McCarthy. In 2016, the target is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
1968: The young folks “…brought the country back into the system…”
In 1968, Minnesota Sen. Eugene McCarthy, a “labor union socialist,” ran for president, inspiring the country’s young people and harnessing their energy and idealism. America’s youth were demanding an end to the Vietnam War. Young people were also fighting for civil rights for people of color and women, for worker rights (e.g., the farm worker struggle led by César Chávez), and for a clean environment. They were totally disenchanted with the power brokers, the “establishment,” and loathed the total control that rich donors, special interests and lobbyists, and corporate lackeys exerted over politicians. They sought to put “demo” (the people) back into the Democratic Party.
The Democratic establishment insisted McCarthy was too radical, a one-issue candidate, and “unelectable,” lines parroted by the media. Then came the New Hampshire Primary. Propelled by a huge surge of young people, McCarthy came within 230 votes of defeating President Lyndon Baines Johnson. McCarthy told his ecstatic supporters that evening:
“People have remarked that this campaign has brought young people back into the system. But it’s the other way around. The young people have brought the country back into the system.” (Al Eisele, “New Hampshire 1968: A Primary That Really Mattered,” HuffPost Politics, May 25, 2011)
The Democratic Party elite-establishment panics…
McCarthy’s strong showing panicked the Democratic Party establishment. LBJ quit the race, and the Democratic Party establishment conspired to have a bunch of “favorite son” candidates run and lock up their respective states’ delegates and “give” them to Johnson’s Vice President, Hubert H. Humphrey, who had not run in any primary, assuring his nomination.
Robert F. Kennedy also ran in 1968, and after Kennedy’s assassination, South Dakota Sen. George McGovern entered the race and rallied the Kennedy forces. Despite the fact that 80 percent of the primary voters had voted for McCarthy and Kennedy, McGovern, McCarthy and their supporters were marginalized by the party establishment at the Democratic Convention.
The Humphrey nomination manifested the corrupt nature of establishment politics. Over 10,000 people, virtually all youth with a smattering of “oldsters,” gathered in Chicago in August, 1968, to protest the Democratic Party convention. They were met by 23,000 police and National Guardsmen who proceeded to attack the protesters, injuring hundreds and arresting close to 600.
Democratic Party made changes, but…
After that disastrous convention, the Democratic Party made the nomination process more responsive to the voters. But the party establishment believed the changes gave too much power to voters, and in 1982 the Democratic Party created the “superdelegates,” a new word for an old concept: party bosses.
In a February 12, 2016, CNN interview Debbie Wasserman Shultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, said outright that the purpose of the superdelegates is “…to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grass-roots activists.” Translation: the Democratic Party wants to keep its elite separate from the Democratic riffraff.
Former Vermont governor (and former DNC chair) Howard Dean makes the disconnect between the “superdelegates” and rank-and-file Democrats very clear: Saying that “superdelegates don’t represent people,” Dean plans to cast his superdelegate vote for Clinton, in spite of the fact that Sanders won the Vermont Primary by 72.5 percentage points (86.1 % to 13.6 %). (Ben Swann, “Reality Check: Democrats have a Superdelegate problem,” Freedom Outpost, March 12, 2016)
2016: DNC: “an arm for the Clinton campaign”…
The Clinton coronation campaign began in 2011, when Clinton’s 2008 campaign co-chair, Debbie Wasserman Shultz, became the Chair of the Democratic National Committee, which former Virginia U.S. Senator Jim Webb describes as “an arm for the Clinton campaign.” Amanda Girard detailed occasions that Wasserman Shultz tried to steer events in favor of Clinton (Amanda Girard, “5 Times Debbie Wasserman Schultz Violated DNC Rules and Stacked the Deck in Favor of Clinton,” U.S. Uncut, December 20, 2015). These include:
Scheduling only six debates and at times guaranteed to have low viewership (e.g., opposite NFL playoff games), which limited voters’ exposure to Sanders. The DNC chief financial officer organized a fundraiser for Clinton in San Antonio, Texas, in clear violation of DNC rules.
The DNC allowed the Clinton campaign to have its headquarters in the DNC offices in Nevada. Pete Voelker reported that, “With its walls papered with Hillary Clinton signs … it was hard to tell where the Democratic Party’s office ended and the Clinton office began … (and) there weren’t any (signs) that mentioned the two other Democrats running for president.” (Pete Voelker, “Is the Democratic Party Rigging the Election for Hillary Clinton?” The VICE Guide to the 2016 Election, December 19, 2015)
The people running NGP VAN, the system all Democratic campaigns use to monitor voter patterns and conduct outreach, mistakenly allowed access, for a few minutes, to Clinton’s campaign data to Sanders staffers. The Sanders staffer who saw the data was immediately fired, but the DNC nevertheless cut off the Sanders campaign’s access to the voter database, a fatal blow to any campaign. Sanders had to sue to regain access to the database.
And the DNC helped the Clinton campaign line up “superdelegates” for Clinton months before the Democratic primary debates began.
2016 “superdelegates” are 1968’s “favorite sons” and yet…
Candidates can essentially “buy” superdelegate support. Superdelegates are overwhelmingly elected officials (members of Congress, governors, etc.), and many receive campaign contributions from presidential candidates. Sheila Krumholz of the Center for Responsive Politics notes that the center’s research found a high correlation between presidential candidates’ campaign contributions to superdelegates and superdelegate endorsements.
As of March 3, 2016, Clinton had won 771 delegates in primaries and caucuses, and Sanders had won 552. Since a large majority of states have yet to hold their primaries/caucuses, the race is pretty close by delegate count. However, the media keep reporting that Clinton has 1,220 delegates but do not explain that 449 of Clinton’s 1,220 tally are endorsements by “superdelegates” and not delegates she won in an election or caucus. Marc Rubin characterizes Clinton’s so-called delegate “lead” that includes the “superdelegates” as “a complete fraud … Initiated by Clinton and the DNC” and aided and abetted by “reporters (who) simply swallowed what was thrown at them.” (Marc Rubin, “Hillary Clinton and the DNC’s Super Delegate Fraud,” Tom In Paine, February 23, 2016)
The “superdelegates” seem to be playing the same role for Clinton in 2016 that the “favorite sons” played for Humphrey in 1968.
In spite of this direct attack by the DNC and the party elite and bosses, in a year’s time Sanders has risen 36 points in the polls, from 4.1% to 41%, a gain of approximately 879%, playing havoc with the DNC’s planned coronation of Clinton.
The media holds hand with the DNC…
So as to develop a negative image of Sanders, the Democratic elite slipped a few phrases into the media’s lexicon: Sanders is a one-issue candidate. Sanders is “unelectable.” Clinton is sensible and pragmatic while Sanders is too radical and only has big and impractical ideas. Only white people support Sanders. It’s almost obligatory that any article, column, news piece, roundtable discussion, etc., by the Washington Post, New York Times, and all the major networks throw in some or all of the above phrases.
The title of Lee Fang’s article (The Intercept, Feb. 25 2016) exposes another issue: “TV Pundits Praise Hillary Clinton On Air, Fail to Disclose Financial Ties to Her Campaign.” Fang details many instances where people who are paid consultants to Clinton’s campaign appear on networks such as CNN, MNBC, ABC, NBC to discuss the presidential campaign. They are introduced as “political strategists” or “political contributors,” but their ties to the Clinton campaign are not revealed. Clinton thus gets millions of dollars of free publicity.
“History is being made today…which side will you be on?”
The dynamics of 1968 parallel exactly the 2016 dynamics:
Both McCarthy and Sanders were/are demonized for exciting young people and bringing new voters to the party, something the party claims it wants to do but doesn’t. Both were/are demonized and called “radical” for articulating positions and ideas that the majority of Americans support. In 1968, as today, young people and others were/are rebelling against the political establishment. McCarthy generated huge voter turnouts, as does Sanders. The Democratic Party elite-establishment, on the other hand, benefits from, and wants, low turnouts.
1968 was not about merely tweaking the status quo, and neither is 2016. In 1968, the Vietnam War, civil rights dynamics, huge social and economic changes that were occurring, etc., demanded that candidates come forth with bold new ideas, not warmed-over ones reflecting failed policies. In 2016, economic inequality and the anxiety that causes, American soldiers dying overseas, a new wave of civil rights unrest (immigration, Black Lives Matter, etc.), huge cultural and demographic changes, outrage at the banks and others who caused the 2008 recession and ruined the lives of millions of people, etc., also demand bold solutions.
Indeed, 2016 is a fundamental-change election, a bottom-up phenomenon driven by the grass roots rather than the usual top-down dynamics dictated by the party elite-establishment. This is as true on the Republican side as the Democratic, as witnessed by outsider Donald Trump soundly beating all the establishment candidates.
The chorus to the 1931 union song by Florence Patton Reece, “Whose side are you on?,” comes to mind. The following lyrics from Reece’s song are very relevant to the situation at hand, as the grass roots takes on the political bosses:
“Don’t scab for the bosses,
Don’t listen to their lies,
Us poor folks haven’t got a chance
Unless we organize.”
Come next year, when a new president is being sworn in, people will be asking: whose side were you on when it mattered—the bosses or the people? c/s