Monday, July 25, 2016


Politics, Power and Purple – twelve minutes of Missing Point madness wrapped around a quote from Mr. Spock and a cool little chart from Tony Brasunas.

Dedicated to Leonard Nimoy, LLAP–IDIC!

Sunday, July 10, 2016


I’m working on a Missing Point video currently, a bit of an experiment, something that I have been hammering away at for more than a month now. But the events of the past month have got me feeling like we’re on a downward spiral to who knows where. Orlando. Istanbul. Dhaka. Baghdad. Baton Rouge. Falcon Heights. Dallas... So many tragic stories. So many questionable narratives. One thing I am not hearing: we train people to kill.

We reinforce these lessons with honor, nobility, and heroism narratives, not to mention the promise of monetary reward for a job well done. When these individuals do what they have been trained to do, we hold them individually responsible for their actions (or not responsible at all), scrambling to define what dark motivations they may have been harboring all along. Politicians tell us we need to make sure that guns don’t get into the wrong hands. Clearly it is much more than this.

Teaching that killing is not only acceptable, but necessary; empowering the powerless with a sense of purpose that revolves around the domination and control of others, with the power to decide who lives and who dies, is it really surprising that this course of action leads to undesirable outcomes?

Several years back I saw a film called Jarhead. It got me thinking about what happens when we take young men searching for a sense of purpose, and provide them with a task to perform to establish a sense of self/self worth. If killing, and doing a good job of it, is at the core of this sense of self/self worth, what happens when they come home? When we train young men (and women) to expect conflict and resolve it through force, and reward them for this, why does it surprise us when this pattern becomes the norm?

Related posts on The Missing Point:
Are we courageous enough to face the why?

Monday, April 25, 2016


I have read multiple articles reporting on the purge of 126,000 Brooklyn Democratic voters, but I have yet to see anything that explains how this specifically impacted the vote in Brooklyn. Brigid Bergin quotes Mayor Bill de Blasio in her WNYC article,

“This number surprises me,” said de Blasio, “I admit that Brooklyn has had a lot of transient population – that’s obvious. Lot of people moving in, lot of people moving out. That might account for some of it. But I'm confused since so many people have moved in, that the number would move that much in the negative direction.”

The New York Daily News writes,

Of 62 counties statewide, 61 saw an increase in total voter enrollment since November — including Hamilton County, the smallest in the state. And then there was Brooklyn — the state’s single most populous county. The borough lost an off-the-charts 8% of its active voters (102,717) and 6.5% of its total voters over that brief period.

A statement released from the Mayors office on primary day begins “It has been reported to us from voters and voting rights monitors that the voting lists in Brooklyn contain numerous errors, including the purging of entire buildings and blocks of voters from the voting lists.” It ends with the line, “The perception that numerous voters may have been disenfranchised undermines the integrity of the entire electoral process and must be fixed.”

NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer sent a letter to Michael J. Ryan, Executive Director of the New York City Board of Elections, expressing his “deep concern over widespread reports of poll site problems and irregularities as New Yorkers headed to the polls on Primary Day, ranging from faulty ballot scanners and polling locations that opened late (or not at all) to poorly staffed polling sites and voters whose registrations were seemingly purged from the rolls without any effective notification.”

The voter hotline set up by the NYS Attorney General’s office received more than 1000 complaints on primary day, compared to 150 on the day of the 2012 general election. AG Eric Schneiderman also issued a statement concerning voting irregularities, and will be launching an investigation. 

And the cherry on top? NYC Board of Elections sent out a registration confirmation notice to some 60,000 newly registered voters with an incorrect September primary date. Then they sent out postcards with the corrected September 13th date, but didn’t bother to mention the April 19th presidential primary. William Neuman at the New York Times writes,

Officials initially played down the contretemps. But on April 5, Mr. Schneiderman sent a letter to Michael J. Ryan, the election board’s executive director, saying that the mix-up “may have misled eligible voters and could prevent their participation” in the primary. He asked for “immediate corrective actions.”

Ultimately, this isn’t really about who won or lost for me. As much as I might have liked to see Bernie continue his winning streak in New York, I am much more concerned with the disturbing pattern of voter suppression that seems to grow more acceptable with each passing caucus/primary. The New York Post is suggesting a single individual is being “scapegoated” for the Brooklyn voter purge. Certainly not the first time I have seen voter disenfranchisement disappeared through a campaign of distraction.

My partner and I were excited to finally have the opportunity to vote for Bernie Sanders. Over the weekend we had rallied and marched in Manhattan with thousands of other New Yorkers who were feeling the bern. Our favorite sign of the day simply read: “FINALLY A REASON TO VOTE.”

On election day, I was frankly amazed how light turnout seemed at my Brooklyn polling place. The calm trickle of voters stood in stark contrast to the tens of thousands of cheering Bernie supporters we had witnessed at multiple NYC rallies over the last weeks. We knew that a Sanders win in New York was all about turnout. We knew there was a surge of new voter registrations across the state, my partner just one of the many volunteers registering new voters for weeks prior to the March 25th deadline.

We knew that a huge number of Sanders supporters would not be able to vote for him, because they were not registered Democrats. Election Justice USA filed a lawsuit on Monday asking for an emergency declaratory judgment that would make Tuesday’s primary open, allowing independents (some 27% of New Yorkers) to vote in the primary. They pressed the lawsuit as a remedy for a group of New Yorkers whose saw their party affiliations mysteriously switched and would therefore not be able to vote for the candidate of their choice in the primary.

The morning of the vote I spent some time consoling folks online who felt they had been forced into voting for Clinton delegates. For example, our ballot listed 7 Clinton delegates and only 6 for Sanders, instructing us to “vote for any 7.” Our poll worker told us we could vote for less than 7 if we wanted, but he didn’t really know why that was the case. My understanding is that this is a preference vote: delegates go to convention only if the candidate they are pledged to gets a large enough percentage of the vote to send them. So, while voting for a Clinton delegate without voting for Clinton may increase the likelihood of that particular delegate going in place of another Clinton delegate, it doesn’t cause that delegate to go in place of a Sanders delegate. Make sense? That’s ok, it’s not supposed to.

I mention this to demonstrate how opaque the voting process actually is in New York. There are only two things on this ballot to vote for, yet one would be hard pressed to find folks who can explain how the delegate vote actually works. What is the minimum percentage of the vote your candidate needed to receive any delegates at all? Do they need that percentage statewide, or just in your district? If your candidate gets 100% of the vote in your district do they get all their district delegates regardless of their percentage of the vote statewide? Shouldn’t we know all this before going to the polls? 

Even before I went to vote, I had already heard Mayor de Blasio and Comptroller Stringer “demanding” answers from the New York Board of Elections. I couldn’t help but think of Arizona – again.

Maricopa County – the largest in Arizona, with over 60% of the state’s population. The largest county in the United States to contain a capital city (Phoenix). The fourth most populous county in the United States: Los Angeles County, Cook (Chicago) County, Harris (Houston) County, Maricopa. For comparison: Kings (Brooklyn) County, the most populous in New York State, comes in eighth.

Maricopa County is home to the 5th largest Hispanic/Latino population in the United States, approximately 1,250,000 people (in a state of 8 million). By comparison, the Bronx (County, the only majority Hispanic/Latino borough in New York City) has a Hispanic/Latino population of approximately 750,000 (in a city of 8 million, in a state of 19 million).

In 2008 there were 400 polling places in Maricopa County.
In 2012 there were 200.
On March 22, 2016 (primary day) – there were 60.

In other counties there was, on average, one polling place for every 2,500 voters.
In Maricopa there was, on average, one polling place for every 21,000 voters.

As if this isn’t bad enough, within Maricopa itself, the breakdown appears even more extreme. In a letter requesting a U.S. Department of Justice Investigation Into Disparate Distribution of Polling Locations in Maricopa County, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton writes,

For example, in Phoenix, a majority-minority city, County officials allocated one polling location for every 108,000 residents. The ratios were far more favorable in predominantly Anglo communities: In Cave Creek/Carefree, there was one polling location for 8,500 residents; in Paradise Valley, one for 13,000 residents; in Fountain Hills, one for 22,500 residents; and in Peoria, one for every 54,000 residents.

The limited number of polling places, resulted in 5 hour lines. Ari Berman at The Nation writes,

Previously, Maricopa County would have needed to receive federal approval for reducing the number of polling sites, because Arizona was one of 16 states where jurisdictions with a long history of discrimination had to submit their voting changes under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. This type of change would very likely have been blocked since minorities make up 40 percent of Maricopa County’s population and reducing the number of polling places would have left minority voters worse off.

Republican Governor Ducey issued a statement calling the long lines “unacceptable,” but then, Ducey did sign that budget cutting election funding. Similar to the New York statements, Ducey goes on to say, “Our election officials must evaluate what went wrong and how they make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell apologized (repeatedly) to the voters and took full responsibility for her error. But as it turns out, “sorry” is not democracy, so no one that lost their vote will be getting it back.

On April 14th the DNC released a statement concerning a joint lawsuit over voter disenfranchisement and voting irregularities in Arizona,

The Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are filing a joint lawsuit in the United States District Court of Arizona on Friday on behalf of voters affected by voting irregularities resulting from the actions of state officials. The suit is a response to decisions that caused extremely long lines and needlessly disenfranchised voters, especially minority voters, during the state’s March 22nd presidential primary election, and includes affected voters, Former Chairman and First President of the Navajo Nation Peterson Zah, the Arizona Democratic Party, and the Ann Kirkpatrick for Senate campaign as plaintiffs.
The Clinton and Sanders campaigns joined the lawsuit after it was filed on the 15th. Bernie’s lawyer, Chris Sautter, was on the ground in Arizona immediately following the voting “fiasco.” According to the Washington Post, Arizona will be the fifth state that Marc Elias, Clinton campaign general counsel, has sued.

Wow – Democrats are all over this shit. Or are they? All but the Arizona lawsuit, were filed before this primary cycle. These lawsuits seek to “fix” problems in the future, not to make sure that every voter gets to vote and every vote is counted now. While our elected officials express their “deep concern” over “voting irregularities,” and the DNC positions itself as fighting the good fight against Republican voter suppression, the votes lost in this primary cycle go uncounted.

And this brings me back to what I mentioned earlier – the normalization of disenfranchisement. I’ve written frequently about the patriarchal (matriarchal), defensive posturing of the Democratic Party; protecting all of us from Republican efforts to strip us of our rights. Throughout this election cycle, we have seen two dramatically different outlooks. While the Clinton camp adheres to this pragmatic protectionist ideology, a hallmark of the Obama administration (and DNC election strategy), the Sanders campaign looks forward to what we can accomplish when we come together for the common good. When the DNC goes after Republican voter suppression, are we expecting outcomes that will insure free and fair elections, or is this just another “fighting for us” talking point? Is the public “outrage” of the Clinton endorsers I cited earlier – the NYC Mayor, the NYC Comptroller, the NYS Attorney General, and even the Mayor of Phoenix – meant to satiate our thirst for justice?

Thank goodness someone is doing something. Be prepared.


Related articles/updates:
BOE boss finally apologizes for 126,000 vanished voters – Rich Calder
Over 120,000 NYers Were Forced To Vote Via Affidavit Ballots In Last Week’s Primary – Nathan Tempey

Get involved:
Election Justice USA
Common Cause

Monday, April 18, 2016


Over the last few weeks the mainstream media (MSM) has had a field day recontextualizing a few cherry picked moments from a lengthy interview with Bernie Sanders conducted by the New York Daily News Editorial Board. MSM points to the interview as validation of their relentless months long campaign to smear Sanders as an imposter who can’t back up his political rhetoric with policy specifics. As Hillary Clinton expresses her heartfelt concern for (chastises) young people that “don’t do their own research,” the MSM is banking on their sound bite consumers not having the time, nor the inclination, to actually read (or even listen to) the damn thing all the way through. Conflict narratives always work best when their given “truth” is untraceable...

The Missing Point is, in part, a conscious response to 24-hour news cycle sound bites and 140 character reductive reasoning. In a culture that seeks to keep us trapped inside the vacuum of vicarious second hand “experience,” taking the time to actually do it yourself can be an act of rebellion. So I listened to the damn thing – all the way through. Such a rebel.

But I get it – too busy, maybe later, how’s your schedule looking next month? My last post was a two cuppa coffee marathon, so I’m gonna keep this one brief, and just call attention to one particularly ironic moment in the interview. You may have heard a line or two of it already in the MSM:

Daily News: Okay. So, um, you would then leave it to JPMorgan Chase or the others to figure out how to break, it, themselves up? I’m not quite...

Sanders: What you’ve determined is that if a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist. And then you have the secretary of treasury and some people who know a lot about this, making that determination. And if the determination is that Goldman Sachs or JPMorgan Chase is too big to fail, yes, they will be broken up.

Daily News: Okay. Um, you saw, I guess, what happened with Metropolitan Life. There was an attempt to, um, bring them under the financial regulatory scheme, and the court said no. And what does that presage for your program?

Sanders: It’s something I have not studied, honestly, the legal implications of that.

It’s that last line the MSM jumped on as proof that Sanders hasn’t put in the time to research what he is talking about. But what the hell is the interviewer talking about?

Well, I did some research, and here’s the basics: MetLife is branded as “too big to fail” (Systemically Important Financial Institution or SIFI) under Dodd–Frank, the first “nonbank” (yes, that is a word) to be categorized as such. MetLife sells off its banking assets in order to give the appearance that they are not a potential threat to the economy (look ma – no bank!). MetLife sues the Financial Stability Oversight Council (set up under Dodd–Frank specifically to do the kind of “determination” that Bernie references in the above quote) in order to remove the “too big to fail label and WINS the case. This didn’t happen last year, or even last month – it was literally last week! The Daily News Editorial Board brings it up in the interview just days later and Bernie says he doesn’t know the legal implications of that. GOTCHA! Told ya so :b

So what is the take away? Is it that Bernie doesn’t know what he is talking about? Or is it that Dodd–Frank isn’t getting the job done, as Hillary has been claiming it will in every single debate? This is exactly why Bernie has consistently said we need a modern Glass–Steagall.

The interviewer is using the court decision as an example of how the banks will push back against anyone who tries to break them up, but SO WHAT? Does that mean we’re supposed to back down and just leave the fate of the world economy in their grabbing hands? The financial institution in question isn’t even a “bank,” which may have given them just enough legal wiggle room to escape being labeled “too big to fail.” Probably not a winning strategy for Goldman Sachs or JPMorgan Chase.

The New York primary is tomorrow – BREAK THEM UP.


Oh yeah, there’s also this from last week. And Happy Birthday Mom!

Saturday, March 19, 2016


Today is the 13th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War – will there be a protest?

Will we see any mention of this in the media? The anniversary? The protest? Perhaps a temporary news cycle spike of attention to the issues of war and peace on the campaign trail?

In my last Speaking Their Language post I dove into the “tax and spend liberal” conflict narrative and how it is employed by both Republicans against Democrats and Democrats against other Democrats. When I come up for air I ask the question whose taxes are they anyway? Who gets to decide how we are going to spend them, and who is going to get paid?

I actually started
writing Part I prior to Count Every Vote, so all three pieces are related. It has been an odd couple of months politically. Within such a deluge of doublespeak, it can be challenging to keep track of who said what, or even to decipher what the hell was actually said. Language once easily tracked back to a particular political perspective, is ever more fluid; blurring boundaries, demanding deference. It’s the filmic dream within a dream sequence, where you wake up only to find that you are still asleep.

The other day I read this on Reuters:

“LaVoy was not ‘charging’ anyone. He appears to have been shot in the back, with his hands in the air,” the family of the Arizona rancher said in a statement through their attorney.

And this in the Washington Post:

Michele Fiore, a Republican assemblywoman in Nevada who is close to the occupiers, though, tweeted that Finicum was “murdered with his hands up.”

Robert “LaVoy” Finicum is, or rather was, the de facto spokesman for the militiamen occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He was killed on January 26th.

The initial media frenzy surrounding this latest flare up of the so called Sagebrush Rebellion saw armed militiamen widely referred to as simply “occupiers.” Dena Takruri produced several informative videos questioning double standards in response to the “protest.” Some questioned why men who had participated in an “armed takeover of a federal building” were not being called “terrorists”?

Janell Ross brings up some interesting points regarding the specificity of language used in conjunction with these events (or lack thereof) in her article for The Washington Post blog The Fix, but I find myself coming at this from a slightly different angle. Take this quote from her interview on Democracy Now:

And the fact that these occupiers have come to this space, they certainly have a right to assemble, they have a right to protest—this is the United States, that is certainly true. But to occupy a building is perhaps a different thing. It is not exactly the same as a protest.

Certainly, not all occupations are protests, and not all protests are occupations. The armed occupation of Iraq for instance, clearly not a protest. But while I can appreciate the passionate pursuit of specificity, I think we must take care not to demand an equivalency of terms that cedes control of the larger narrative. For example, how would the narrative surrounding the 2013 Dream Defenders occupation of the Florida State Capital be affected if we were to allow “occupation” to be defined as “not exactly the same as a protest”? How about the narrative concerning the 2011 occupation of the Wisconsin State Capital? The occupation of Liberty Square (Wall Street)? The occupation of Hillary Clinton’s NYC Senate office the day before her Iraq War vote? Five students occupied her office for 9 hours while she delivered her speech, “Therefore, on no account should dissent be discouraged or disparaged. It is central to our freedom and to our progress, for on more than one occasion, history has proven our great dissenters to be right.”

Photo by Fred Askew

Some things to consider from a slightly different angle. Is trespass the same as terrorism? Can the militiamen be called terrorists in the absence of actual violence? Does property damage count as violence? Does it make a difference if that property is private or public? Is “armed takeover of a federal building” an accurate description when the Refuge headquarters was, in fact, empty at the time of the “takeover”?

It’s not rocket science – those who wish to suppress dissent benefit from our acceptance of a narrative that limits protest to marching and chanting (with a permit of course), that delegitimizes any action beyond that narrow definition, that characterizes civil disobedience and direct action as inherently violent. When that doesn’t work, they use the “threat” of violence to justify a forceful response. As I have pointed out in multiple earlier posts, those who struggle against oppression must be cast as a malevolent force in order to make a defensive response seem reasonable. If they can be successfully cast as a threat, then their oppression appears warranted. If we accept this justification, in a rush to judgement, or out of some desire to see a more uniform response to address a double standard, then who gets to define what constitutes that “threat” going forward?

At the same time I’d just like to say, Chris, that you know, the answer isn’t to necessarily treat these white protesters the way that black protesters have been treated. The answer quite frankly is just the reverse. To say hey, if we don’t need the National Guard to deal with armed white men, maybe we don’t need the National Guard to deal with unarmed black men.

Former NAACP president Ben Jealous makes a good point here. If we demand that these armed “occupiers” be met with a pre-emptively violent response, does this set precedent for some sort of perverse equality of oppression, some blanket validation for the equal use of force elsewhere? Who benefits from this narrative?

Taking this a step further, who gets to define the demonstration (protest) narrative, its objectives, etc.? The authorities charged with keeping the “protest” under control? The media? Politicians and pundits that were not even in attendance? Whose revolution/rebellion is it anyway?

On that same show Chris Hayes asked then presidential candidate Rick Santorum about the “standoff in Oregon.” I imagine many of my readers probably don’t give a rat’s ass what Santorum thinks, but the way that Occupy Wall Street gets pulled into the conversation is pretty telling...

CH: Let me just sort of ask you about this finally about this standoff in Oregon.

RS: Yeah

CH: Which it feels weird to even call a stand off because there’s only one side to the standoff. There’s these folks occupying the sanctuary, there’s not like…

RS: Yeah and I mean people are talking about violence, I mean there’s no violence. Nobody’s threatening any violence. Everyone’s basically…

CH: Well they’re all armed right?

RS: Well…

CH: I mean it’s a little different. Look I mean I’ve watched protestors sit in Rahm Emanuel’s office in Chicago right? It would have been real different if they were all packin’. I mean let’s be honest.

RS: Well you had the Occupy Wall Street people and you had no idea what the heck was going on in those places. So…

CH: Well they weren’t – yeah, but you knew that they weren’t…

RS: You don’t know, you don’t know what was going on there…

CH: But it would have been very different if they all had long guns on them

RS: Well…

CH: If they were saying we’re here armed.

RS: Yeah, but, but the point is no one is threatening – if – just because they have those guns doesn’t mean there threatening to do something with those guns.

CH: But do you support what they’re doing?

RS: I support the cause. I mean – what the cause is that the Federal Government is through eminent domain and regulation basically robbing these people of their livelihood. Yeah I mean this is a huge issue in the West. It’s not just an issue in the West, it was an issue in Pennsylvania. This is a huge problem of government overreach and I think at some point people are just saying you know hey (ay?) if you guys aren’t going to pay attention to us we’re going to do something to make you pay attention. Now, do I support the fact that people are sitting there with guns? I…I.. You know I’d probably feel a little bit more comfortable if they didn’t have guns. And I don’t think frankly that they need to have guns, but the bottom line is they have every right to protest this. (CH: Sure, yeah. Well, to protest of course yeah) They have every right just like the Occupy Wall Street people. I didn’t agree with everything they wanted to do, but I agreed with their right to protest. And…

CH: Well there was… we should just make the distinction right? There was a protest, and then there was this occupation. I mean there were folks that did the protesting thing, and that’s the sort of majority, and then there’s this small group of people that are actually occupying… a bird sanctuary. (hahaha)

RS: Well… and the same thing… well…they were occupying… you know… what… Bryant Park… whatever the park was here…

CH: Zucotti Park, Yeah…right.

RS: Yeah whatever the park was here… they occupied and they did so for a long time and the government did what I think the government should do here – practice restraint.

Photo by Louise Macabitas

I think a major part of my inspiration for this post comes from repeatedly hearing Hillary Clinton attack Bernie Sanders with what sound like Republican talking points. But it is more than that – it is the disinformation that she vociferously presents and that is subsequently parroted by an acquiescent media. As I mentioned earlier, it can be hard to even keep up – another deceptive new talking point revealed with every debate. Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver released a statement addressing some of these falsehoods a while back.

Clinton delivered this carefully crafted attack
during the Flint, Michigan debate:

Well — well, I’ll tell you something else that Senator Sanders was against. He was against the auto bailout. In January of 2009, President-Elect Obama asked everybody in the Congress to vote for the bailout.

The money was there, and had to be released in order to save the American auto industry and four million jobs, and to begin the restructuring. We had the best year that the auto industry has had in a long time. I voted to save the auto industry.

He voted against the money that ended up saving the auto industry. I think that is a pretty big difference.

This kind of language is typical of Clinton’s attacks.
Qualifying statements mixed in with half-truths, dependent on a lack of specific information on the part of the audience. She launched a similar attack during the New Hampshire debate concerning the Commodity Futures Modernization Act. Let’s see if we can decipher the truth:

Bernie was not against the auto bailout.

2. Bernie Sanders voted against Bush’s $700 Billion Wall Street bailout (TARP) in October 2008. Clinton voted for it despite widespread opposition and protest across the country: “you broke it, you bought it – the bailout is bullshit.” Bush’s Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs, would oversee the distribution of the TARP funds.

3. Sanders supported and voted for a separate $14 Billion auto industry bailout bill in December 2008. Clinton also voted for this bill. The bill failed due to Republican opposition.

4. In January 2009 Sanders voted against the second disbursement of Bush’s TARP funds. This is the vote that Clinton is referencing when she says
In January of 2009, President-Elect Obama asked everybody in the Congress to vote for the bailout.” This was not specifically an auto bailout vote, but the release of the second half of the original $700 Billion Wall Street bailout. He released this statement after the vote passed:
Today I voted to withhold more funding from the Troubled Asset Relief Program.  I have deep respect for President-elect Obama and I very much appreciate the difficult job he has in trying to remedy the economic damage done by the Bush administration’s reckless policies.
Nonetheless, I have strong reservations about continuing this bailout without strong taxpayer protections written into law. I also object to using middle-class taxpayer money to bail out the exact same financial institutions whose greed and recklessness led to the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression. 
Furthermore, we need a major investigation into how this financial crisis occurred and who exactly was responsible.
5. In lieu of the passage of an actual auto bailout bill, $80 Billion in TARP funds was ultimately used to provide bridge loans and capital injections to the auto industry. There was no congressional vote to approve this specific use of the TARP funds.

Political revolution isn’t about deference to authority. It’s not about desperately handing over the people’s power to the “smartest guys in the room” so that they can decide how best to save us from a crisis they themselves have engineered.

It’s a strange kind of leadership that retrospectively validates delivering our treasure (our taxes, our labor, our resources, our commons) into grabbing hands by citing how much worse off we would be if some small part of that treasure had not been generously given back to us. Reagan’s “smartest guys” called that trickle-down economics. I don’t know what Hillary calls it but the proper term is neo-liberalism, and the Clintons are big fans.

When Clinton attempts to justify her Wall Street war chest by pointing out that “President Obama took more money from Wall Street in the 2008 campaign than anybody ever had,” citing his record of “taking on Wall Street” and “getting results,” she gets applause. But the point falls flat. Three of the four largest financial institutions are 80% bigger today than they were before we bailed them out, and there has not been one single arrest (or prosecution) of any senior Wall Street executive in connection with the events leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder has returned to corporate defense law firm Covington & Burling, that counts among its clients Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup.

“Break them up.”

Clinton claims that she is a “progressive that gets things done.” In 1984, Orwell gives us the concept of doublethink, where two contradictory ideas are accepted as true simultaneously. At face value it sounds like she could be touting her progressive policy accomplishments (whatever those may actually be), but underneath, the statement seems to be a coldly calculated jab at progressive policy makers who can’t get things done. It presents progressivism as ineffectual with the exception of the specific manner in which she claims to practice it. Her statement serves to give her ownership of the terminology while simultaneously neutralizing its actual meaning. Her claim on the term during the debate seems based on her ability to cite other “progressive” legislators who have taken corporate cash/Wall Street money.

I was looking around for my foam brick when Clinton brought up Paul Wellstone in this context. I was yearning for a Lloyd Bentsen moment via Bernie Sanders: Secretary, I served with Paul Wellstone. I knew Paul Wellstone. Paul Wellstone was a friend of mine. Secretary, you’re no Paul Wellstone.

Speaking of Wall Street money (and doublespeak), during the New Hampshire Town Hall Clinton said “I’m proud to have 90% of my donations from small donors and 60%, the highest ever, from women, which I’m really, really glad about.” As a percentage of contributors this 90% number appears accurate, but as a percentage of money raised the small donor number is actually only 24%. Taken one way, likely the way it was intended, it sounds like Clinton has a small donor base that rivals the Sanders campaign. But in actuality the 90% is simply a mirror of income inequality in the United States: 90% of donors giving small donations that add up to less than a quarter of her total money raised. More than three quarters of her total coming from 10% of her donors.

For comparison, the Federal Election Commission shows small donations to the Sanders campaign for the same period made up 85% of total money raised.

Even the language regarding delegates is doublespeak. Pledged vs. unpledged delegates. “Pledged” delegates are awarded proportional to the vote. Superdelegates are classified by definition as “unpledged,” but it would appear that a whole lot of these have already pledged to support Clinton. Of course, unlike the proportional pledged delegates, superdelegates can change their affiliation at any time. Despite this flexibility, these pledged unpledged superdelegates are being added into the totals we see in media coverage, as if they have actually been awarded through the election process. For example, Bernie Sanders won New Hampshire 60% to 38%, and the proportional pledged delegate split was 15 to 9 respectively. Clinton had 6 New Hampshire “unpledged” superdelegates (Sanders had 0), so the delegate totals were reported as 15 to 15. So who won the state? Was it a tie?

One person, one vote.

When I saw the CNN video of the protestors that shut down the Trump rally in Chicago, my first thought was how the incident could be spun to fit into a Chicago 1968/72 George McGovern narrative. The protestors are out of control – those peace loving hippies are actually violent communist radicals! As I mentioned earlier, I’ve seen many protests derailed and delegitimized through this kind of manipulation. I was concerned about the role of infiltrators and instigators. I thought briefly about who stood to gain from provoking a conflict – who would look more reasonable, who would look more presidential, who would play the victim and “need to defend themselves.” But when I looked more closely at the video, the “protestors” didn’t look like the usual provocateurs I have seen deployed at other “protests” in the past. They looked, strangely, like – the people. Imagine that.

Photo by Tannen Maury

Back in January, during the South Carolina debate, 23 year old vlogger Connor Franta asked “how are all of you planning on engaging us (young voters) further in this election?” Clinton (the only candidate allowed to answer his question) brought up making college affordable, helping people pay off student debt, and creating more good jobs. All solid campaign talking points, but utterly predictable. She then moved into (just as predictable) defending our rights, saying “turning over our White House to the Republicans would be bad for everybody especially young people.”

Here was a young man asking a specific question about political engagement and being given an answer that basically amounted to, vote for me (us) or else (you risk losing everything). Growing up with supportive parents, that taught me to see my young self as an equal to the adults around me, has allowed me to recognize and value young voices, young people, in a way that many in our hierarchical society do not. Engagement is more than just “voting,” it is about being part of the process all the way through. It is about mutual respect and empowerment. It is about creating space for everyone to speak for themselves rather than forcing them to choose among sanctioned choices.

I think Bernie gets this. The political revolution he speaks of, and the decentralized organizing model his campaign is using are a demonstration of these ideas. One that over time, with each new person that gets involved, gradually replaces a top down vision of what we don’t want with a self actualized vision of what we do.

I don’t think the so called “enthusiasm gap” in the Clinton campaign is really about young voters. It is more likely a systemic organizing problem, one that I have seen countless times before. A kind of organized demobilization. Asking (or threatening) people to support something that they are not passionate about already, is a non-starter. Engaging people where they are is essential, but this only works if you genuinely care where they (we) are, and what matters to them (us). And ultimately, you have to be willing to prioritize caring for one another, over controlling one another. Savior politics just will not cut it anymore. “They don’t have to be for me, I’m going to be for them,” isn’t a dialogue, and there’s no democracy without dialogue.  

The media is spending a helluva lot of time building fear, pushing us to feel that events are beyond our control. Fear of a Trump presidency. Fear of a political revolution. There is a lot of hand-wringing and shoulder shrugging. Who will save us from ourselves? The air is thick with inevitability. So, just for a moment – S T O P.

Take a breath. In... and Out...

Remember. You are living in a democracy. This “political revolution,” it’s not just yours – it’s YOU. You, in solidarity with all your sisters and brothers, can and will make this all happen. The fear is meant to immobilize you, to restrain you, to distract you. Don’t let it. Move past it. The doublespeak is meant to confuse you, to mislead you, to discourage you. Don’t let it. Move past it. You know the score. You’re no spring chicken. The establishment (or are they the anti-establishment? whatever they call themselves) is trying its damnedest to provoke a fight, because that is what they do best, and because that is all they got. It’s up to you, to us, to all of us, to decide how we want to move forward.

I’ll end with this bit from an earlier post appropriately called SHUT IT DOWN:

You decide to make some vegetable soup. The recipe calls for Thyme, but all you have on hand is Oregano. You could always switch the labels on your spice bottles. Of course renaming your spices will not change the flavor of your soup. But then sometimes soup is like that - made out of whatever is on hand. Now, if you switch the label every time you need another spice, you’re just going to end up with a big pot of Oregano Soup. Not a particularly desirable outcome unless you’re in the business of selling Oregano. Politics is like that. Lots of politicians in the business of selling Oregano (or weapons, or oil, or debt, or indentured servitude, or some other damn thing), constantly switching the labels to make it more palatable to the public, but no matter what you call it - Oregano is always Oregano. This political switching of labels isn’t just about not having the right spice, it’s about making sure that no one uses any other spice. That’s what we used to call a monopoly, and we used to have anti-trust laws that guarded against it. Switching labels is also great strategy for keeping constituents off balance and dependent on “knowledgable” leadership. After all, how can you hope to make your own soup when you can’t tell one spice from another? With all this label switching can you tell Republican Soup from Democrat Soup? With so many of the same ingredients can you taste the difference between Neo-Liberal and Neo-Conservative Soup? Switching labels ultimately makes the selection process meaningless. You never know what you are going to get in that bottle. More importantly, it makes dialogue concerning the process equally meaningless by removing any common point of reference. This obfuscation is the real objective 1% is after, a complete disruption of your ability to make any political decision for yourself. He’s not just looking to discourage you from choosing what kind of soup you want (voting), but looking to make it impossible for you to write your own recipes - grow your own spices - make your own soup.

Related articles:
The Six Questions Missing From the 2016 Election Debates – Andrew J. Bacevich
These Quakers Are Asking Tougher Questions Than Many in the Press
– Lee Fang
Goldman Sachs chief: Sanders’s criticism is “dangerous” – Peter Schroeder
The End of the Establishment? – Robert Reich
The Problem With Hillary, Chez, Is I Don't Vote Republican – Russ Belville
The Nation is Not Divided and Still Prefers Bernie Sanders – Gregory Harms

Sunday, February 7, 2016


The call:
This is a genuine question. This is a real question. If Bernie Sanders is the nominee there will be hundreds of millions of dollars spent to say every vote he’s taken, and to say he wants to raise your taxes. He just said the other night on the forum, honestly, I will raise your taxes.

And the response:

And there will be hundreds of millions of dollars spent against Hillary Clinton, and they will say the same thing about her. What Bernie Sanders can do, speaking with integrity and credibility and an authenticity that Secretary of State Clinton can’t, is marshal that political revolution even before he’s elected, which is to mobilize, and this will be an election of mobilization not persuasion, mobilize millions of people to ramp up their giving to him and be un-bought and liberated to advance bold ideas.

It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure watching Chris Hayes banter back and forth with other political policy wonks on his show, often playing devil’s advocate, pointing out the obvious elephant in the room. Listening to The Nation editor Katrina Vanden Heuvel respond to his question, I am struck by the utter simplicity of her initial point: the attacks will be the same regardless of who wins the nomination. I am reminded of this little nugget from a piece I wrote just after the 2012 election:

When the Bush tax cuts were originally supposed to sunset in 2010, the Republicans played their tried and true “tax and spend liberal” card to flip the switch and claim that allowing the tax cuts to expire was in fact Obama raising taxes. A clear majority of the country was not in favor of extending the tax cuts for the wealthy, but Bush & Co. were crafty enough to design the tax cuts as a reduction of rates across the board. The tax cuts for the lower tax brackets were a pittance next to the windfall for the 1%, but tethering the two together allowed Republicans to push the idea that Obama would be “raising taxes” on everyone.

The “tax and spend liberal” narrative that I mention above has been used in every single election cycle that I have witnessed. It isn’t particularly concerned with what or how much those taxes specifically are, or who it is that will pay them (or avoid paying them). The narrative persists even when candidates who have pledged not to raise taxes renege on their pledge, and – raise taxes. It’s a conflict narrative – liberals raise taxes, conservatives do not. Democrats expand government, Republicans shrink government. Vote for more taxes or less taxes, vote for more government or less. Of course, a little comparative research into how these two parties allocate our taxes quickly reveals that this who spends more narrative is nonsense. Republicans have even taken to attacking other Republicans for not being true conservatives, in a desperately cynical attempt to distance themselves from the “big government” crony capitalist policies of recent Republican administrations.

Grover Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge is a well known recent example of this narrative, but the mythos of it tracks all the way back to the Boston Tea Party: the quintessential anti-taxation protest that sparked the Revolutionary War, and the ideological anchor for the Tea Party movement. Here’s the thing: the “destruction of the tea” as it was referred to, was a “no taxation without representation” protest, not simply anti-tax. Colonists with no representation in the British Parliament were being taxed without their consultation or consent. The Tea Act of 1773 actually cut taxes on British tea with the objective of undermining the lucrative sale of smuggled tea by colonists, leaving only minimal (but highly symbolic) tariffs in place. Significantly more complicated than tax or no tax.

While the narrative has most commonly been employed as a Republican talking point to universally discredit Democrats, candidate Barrack Obama famously pledged not to raise taxes on households earning less than $250,000 during the 2008 election cycle. He was joined in 2008 by Hillary Clinton who has now doubled down on the pledge in 2016. During recent debates the narrative has been used to discredit Bernie Sanders’ policy proposals by insinuating that his policies would levy high taxes on the middle class. During the recent CNN Iowa Town hall, Anchor Chris Cuomo characterizes Bernie’s single payer Medicare for all proposal as “one of the biggest tax hikes in history” and goes on to question Bernie, not once, but three times (paraphrasing): “What about the idea that you’re bringing back the era of big government, and making it bigger than ever?”

Cuomo’s heavy handed initial formulation of this “question” even offers former President Clinton (with obvious implications) as a direct foil to Sanders:

Right. Senator, then the pushback becomes how you pay. Now, in this room, you’re preaching to the converted somewhat, right? These are presumptively Democrats. But, you will hear people say that your paying for it is actually punitive. You’re going to punish people who make money, you’re going to punish the financial district, you’re going to punish and wind up changing the idea of an open and free economy ’cause you’re going to punish them for speculating. Which means they won’t speculate as much, which means you won’t get as much activity. And, if you do a checklist of how you pay for everything, what you’re doing is amassing the biggest government ever, after President Clinton said the era of big government was over, seems like Bernie Sanders is saying, not only it’s over, I’m going to do it bigger than ever.

Wow. What a pile on. Sanders did an admirable job of responding to Cuomo’s long-winded commentary, but is there an alternative to speaking their language? “But just to be clear, you are going to raise taxes to do this?” “Yes, we will raise - we will raise the - we will raise taxes, yes, we will. But...” As Admiral Ackbar from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi famously exclaims, “It’s a TRAP!” The question is intended to draw Sanders into a narrative specifically designed to be beyond his control. While I applaud the Sanders campaign for coming at these issues head on, courageously redefining (or is it simply accurately defining?) and reappropriating terms commonly used to discredit and defame (socialist, revolution, electability, etc.), I do believe there could be more emphasis on the introduction of narratives that have not been pre-defined by the opposition.

For example: you get what you pay for. When the Kucinich campaign put forward a not-for-profit single payer Medicare for all proposal in 2004, the core of their narrative was to point out that the health insurance industry makes their profits not by providing health care, but rather by denying coverage. So the underlying problem is not simply cost, but that you are actually paying the insurance industry to deny you health care. You get what you pay for.

Rather than taking a defensive posture within a conflict narrative designed to constrain the dialogue, why not script a different narrative entirely? Maybe talk about Social Security (taxes) raided to fund emergency appropriations for the Iraq War, in attempts to validate a bogus privatization campaign by jeopardizing program solvency? Or how ’bout the majority of taxes allocated for research & development being used to subsidize the weapons industry rather than to find cures for cancer, aids, ebola, etc.? Or maybe taxes used to subsidize the destruction of food in order to stabilize market price, rather than as an incentive to feed the hungry. Taxes used to subsidize the fossil fuel and meat industries to perpetuate a myth of profitability, masking their true costs, both financially and in terms of the continuation of life on our planet. You get what you pay for.

I prefer this narrative (and this is just one possible alternative narrative), because it tracks back to the idea that taxes are supposedly collected in order to pay for something we want instead of defaulting to the idea that taxes are simply some kind of punitive measure forced on the citizenry, a penalty we pay for the privilege of living in the United States. Our government may currently operate like an oligarchy, a plutocracy, but it was clearly not intended to be a monarchy where we all pay fealty to some oppressive overlord. If our government is truly of the people, by the people, for the people, then we must be clear that our system of taxation should benefit us.

“I don’t see how you can be serious about raising working and middle-class families’ incomes if you also want to slap new taxes on them—no matter what the taxes will pay for.” I could give Clinton the benefit of the doubt here, and just attribute her rhetorical commentary to a lack of vision in terms of how
our system of taxation should benefit us. Maybe she actually can’t imagine how pooling our resources will reduce our individual costs, how standing together protects us from the predatory practices of the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries? If she really is as versed in the particulars of universal health care as she claims, I’m pretty sure she understands this. And this is why it is so disturbing that she cynically chooses to go with the “tax and spend liberal” narrative here.

Our government splits spending into two categories, mandatory and discretionary. So called entitlement programs (Medicare, Social Security, etc.) fall under mandatory spending, this money will be spent, it is not simply an option if it turns out we have enough cash on hand. The Republican (& Democrat?) personal responsibility narrative would have us believe that everything should be discretionary spending, on the budgetary chopping block. The government can’t spend money it doesn’t have. But this is ridiculous on a couple levels. One – our government is actually spending money it “doesn’t have” all the time. That’s just how it works. That is why we pay taxes – to give our  government money it doesn’t have. And two – this isn’t like an individual buying a flat screen TV or some fancy new shoes, we are talking about people’s lives here.

Thom Hartmann wrote a piece month’s ago pointing out that the question isn’t if we are going to spend the money on health care, it is how we are going to spend it, and who is going to get paid. This isn’t about personal responsibility or fiscal responsibility, and it’s not about hard choices and self-sacrifice, it’s ultimately about who is going to control our tax dollars and what we choose to spend them on. Do we want perpetual war (more than 50% of our taxes)? Do we want to continue subsidizing industries that are destroying our planet? Do we want to continue sinking our health care dollars into an insurance industry that profits from denying us health care? How ’bout a pharmaceutical industry profit model that prioritizes illness over wellness? Do we allow 1%, whether in Republican or Democratic guise, to continue dictating austerity policy to us with catastrophic results, or do we stand up and take back our government and our taxes?

Related articles:
Hillary Clinton’s no-tax pledge is Republican policy sprinkled with Third Way politics
by Jon Green

These Quakers Are Asking Tougher Questions Than Many in the Press by Lee Fang
The Most Disingenuous Attack on Bernie Yet by Thom Hartmann
Bernie Sanders for President – The Nation

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Looking at the results from Iowa, I am not at all surprised by the Ted Cruz victory. I’ve never really bought into the presumptive Republican front–runner’s reality TV inspired spectacle. I find it far more likely that this experiment in extremity is intended to make the Tea Party darling(s) appear reasonable by comparison... I am, however, quite surprised by the uneasy feeling of déjà vu I have reading the Democratic caucus results.

Watching the presumptive Democratic front–runner declare “victory” without declaring victory, hearing media trumpet definitive “victory”– currently defined by a margin of 0.2%, reading multiple accounts of delegates allocated through the flip of a coin; I am reminded of darker days when hanging chads and provisional ballots trumped the democratic maxim of one person, one vote. I am supposed to be reassured that Microsoft has democracy well in hand, and forget about those Diebold days of old. I am supposed to trust that the Iowa caucus process is free from the kind procedural manipulation I have witnessed more times than I can count. You say you aren’t familiar with Robert’s Rules? That’s ok, I assure you it will not affect the delegate count. Call the question. Can I get a second?

In 2000 and 2004, legal challenges to vote counts throughout the country were dismissed, claiming that vote discrepancies in individual districts were not large enough to individually shift the outcome of the national election. Of course, those were discrepancies between Republican and Democratic votes. I don’t suppose we are likely to see lawsuits filed between Democrats questioning the Iowa caucus results. Perhaps this is why it feels strangely surreal to me. One big happy Democrat family, with your best interests at heart (or is it head?). “After thorough reporting – and analysis – of results, there is no uncertainty and Secretary Clinton has clearly won the most national and state delegates. Statistically, there is no outstanding information that could change the results and no way that Senator Sanders can overcome Secretary Clinton's advantage.” So says the Clinton Campaign.

Sorry Hillary / DWS / DNC / IDP / Microsoft, but I just don’t trust you. I want an accountable and verifiable democratic process that doesn’t require me to trust you. I can still recall the “sore loser” narrative that was bandied about in 2000, and I can still clearly remember protesting the coronation in DC, but more importantly I can remember when 15 million people around the world said NO to the war that our stolen election enabled, only to have our (s)elected leader dismiss us as a mere “focus group.” You see, this isn’t really about who wins, it’s about democracy itself. It is about knowing that the voice of the people counts. And so in 2016, I say, once again – Count Every Vote!

Related articles:
Editorial: Something smells in the Democratic Party – The Des Moines Register
Iowa Democratic party altered precinct’s caucus results during chaotic night – The Guardian
Could the 2016 Election Be Stolen with Help from Electronic Voting Machines?
 – Democracy Now!

Friday, January 22, 2016


So to those on Wall Street who may be listening to my remarks, and I’m sure there are many of them (laughter from the crowd), let me be very clear. Greed is not good. In fact the greed of Wall Street and corporate America is destroying the very fabric of our nation. And here is a New Year’s Resolution that I will keep if elected president. And that is, if Wall Street does not end its greed, we will end it for them.

Bernie Sanders recently gave a speech on Wall Street Reform and Financial Policy. Watching the speech it struck me how often Bernie uses the word “we” where another candidate might choose to use the word “I.”

My opponent says that, as a senator, she told bankers to “cut it out” and end their destructive behavior. But, in my view, establishment politicians are the ones who need to “cut it out.” The reality is that Congress does not regulate Wall Street…(crowd interrupts and chants “Wall Street regulates Congress!”) You got it! And you know what, as President we’re gonna end that reality.

As President we’re gonna end that reality. For more than a decade my political advisor and I have been talking about a paradigm shift in which the United States Presidency could be seen as something more than a singular office occupied by an individual decider. Our dialogue explored the possibility of electing a President who understood the potential of shared governance in addressing the challenges we face. This went far beyond the President seeking counsel from his cabinet on individual issues. I was working on the 2004 Kucinich campaign at the time and our emphasis on volunteer participation got me thinking about what it might be like to have a President who swept into office surrounded not by crony capitalist politicians looking for payback on their electoral investment, but by a group of the nation’s most brilliant minds from disciplines across the spectrum. At the time I was satisfied to imagine this group topping out at around 100 people, a sort of council of elders if you will, but without the minimum age requirement.

This kind of thinking goes way back for me. Growing up watching campaign after campaign, I could simply not believe that the chosen candidates were the best we could come up with (in a nation of over 200 million). I remember wondering why there were not more people who wanted the job? I was not yet aware of all the political machinations that figured into the process of selecting a candidate, but even then it was fairly obvious to me that running for President was a risky proposition. The vicious character attacks made on candidates could quickly and quite definitively end a political career. So then why put all your eggs in one basket to begin with? If one candidate was so terribly fallible, then why not expand the process, not just to multiple candidates, but to multiple people running to hold the office together?

Crazy idea? Maybe – but it gets at something that seems central to me: do we really need a patriarchal savior to keep the whole enterprise going, or can the American people govern themselves? Is our “leader” more qualified to represent our interests than we are? The more I hear candidates try and tap into our passions and frustrations, calling for peoples’ mobilizations and the like, the more I wonder if this hierarchical system we use to funnel our ideas up to our selected leader may itself be creating a lot of the conflict narrative scripts that keep us stuck. The duality of the two party system, the overt opposition to the President himself, etc. If the point of these structures is to be representative of the will of the people then why doesn’t the government actually do what the majority of us want?

But let me rephrase your question because I think, in all due respect, your expression, in all due respect, you’re missing the main point. And the main point in the Congress it’s not that Republicans and Democrats hate each other – that’s a mythology from the media. The real issue is that Congress is owned by big money and refuses to do what the American people want them to do.

The real issue is that in area after area, raising the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour, the American people want it. Rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, creating 13 million jobs, the American people want it. Pay equity for women, the American people want it. Demanding that the wealthy start paying their fair share of taxes, the American people want it. The point is, we have gotta make Congress respond to the needs of the people, not big money interests.

Since the fourth democratic debate (which the above Bernie quote is from), I have read a spate of articles from the mainstream media, who it would seem have only now suddenly become aware that a Senator named Bernie Sanders is running for President. Many of these articles question the viability of running a campaign that aims to mobilize the public beyond the immediate objective of voting for President toward a sustainable involvement in the political process. Perhaps I am being generous here in my phrasing, so consider this quote from one such recent article:

Sanders’s version involves the mobilization of a mass grassroots volunteer army that can depose the special interests. “The major political, strategic difference I have with Obama is it’s too late to do anything inside the Beltway,” he told Andrew Prokop. “You gotta take your case to the American people, mobilize them, and organize them at the grassroots level in a way that we have never done before.” But Obama did organize passionate volunteers on a massive scale — far broader than anything Sanders has done — and tried to keep his volunteers engaged throughout his presidency. Why would Sanders’s grassroots campaign succeed where Obama’s far larger one failed?

When I wrote my conflict narrative piece I considered including a section about the “polarization” narrative. This is a self-supporting narrative that claims our government is so evenly split on two sides of each and every issue that no matter what the intention, the outcome is and will always be gridlock. The quote above, and the article it is quoted from, start with a tacit acceptance of this narrative.

I don’t buy it.

First, adherence to the polarization narrative is at its essence an argument against the viability of democracy itself. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why should I vote for a candidate who can’t win? Why should I support proposals that have no possibility of becoming law? The people rise up and nothing changes, so why should I bother to get involved? Well, the short answer is: because that is how democracy works. The more people who show up and take action, the more representative our democracy is. Congress is not supposed to be a permanent residency. If our representatives don’t represent our interests, then it is up to us to replace them with representatives that do.

Second, drawing this kind of false equivalency between the mobilization around Obama’s campaign and the mobilization inspired by Bernie’s campaign fails to take several things into account.

It presumes that the Obama administration actually had the intention of mobilizing their 13 million volunteers to do more than fund raise and voice generalized support for ‘reform,’ taking their failure to do so as proof that all such mobilizations are ineffectual. It doesn’t consider the impact the demobilzation of OFA (Obama for America / Organizing for America) had on their disillusioned “army” of millennial volunteers, and how that decision relates to the rise of Occupy Wall Street. It certainly doesn’t consider the possibility that OFA (Organizing for Action, as it is called today) may be little more than a marketing campaign to keep us engaged, keep us busy, keep us quiet.

Perhaps most importantly it gives no thought to the clarity of language and purpose that makes the Bernie Sanders mobilization different from what we saw in 2008. During the run up to that election (and even long after), the rallying cry of “hope” and “change” had all but consumed the specific policy positions of Barrack Obama, leaving many of his supporters unclear what they were actually voting for beyond the President himself. This appears quite different from the policy positions that Bernie is happy to discuss at every possible opportunity, specific positions that actually resonate with his supporters because they share them with him.

And that brings me to the third thing: this guy Bernie himself appears quite different than what we have seen before. He calls for a “political revolution” (if you are not quite sure what he means by that – here is a good video to watch) citing specific goals that go beyond winning the Presidency. His unassuming, plain speaking, policy wonk legislative style provides us with a preview of what’s to come. He seems to be a truth teller, utterly disinterested in spinning the media to support any view point that runs counter to the good of the people. He’s got a record of finding common ground and moving legislation forward without giving away the house we all live in to do it. He knows he can’t do it by himself and he’s asking for our help.


That 100 person council of elders I mentioned earlier has expanded over the years, no longer restricted to a few representative experts or exceptional individuals, it encompasses something that sounds kinda like this political revolution that Sanders speaks of. Now, I’m not harboring any illusions that the Presidency is suddenly going to subvert its hierarchical structure in favor of a horizontal organizing model, but I do think it is important to recognize the opportunity here. Populism is perennial in politics, and using the Presidency as a bully pulpit to mobilize the American people in response to a particular policy is not new strategy. What is new here is that this particular mobilization may actually elect a President that is responsive to the mobilization as well...

If you haven’t yet seen Killer Mike’s six part interview with Bernieit is brilliant!