Where the Revolution Goes from Here and How Bernie Lands the Plane

Following a string of victories last night in New Mexico, New Jersey, and California, Hillary Clinton made history by clinching the Democratic nomination for president. Less than a 100 years after women earned the right to vote, she became the first female presidential candidate of a major political party. Despite one’s feelings about Hillary, this moment deserves its spotlight. Following the wins, Clinton said, “It may be hard to see tonight, but we are all standing under a glass ceiling right now. But don’t worry, we’re not smashing this one…It’s the first time in our nation’s history that a woman will be a major party’s nominee.”

She also noted that her mother was born on the day that Congress passed the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. She then remarked that the first convention dedicated to women’s rights happened in the state where she stood that evening: New York, at Seneca Falls in 1848.

Browsing my social media accounts, I noticed that some Sanders supporters griped that Hillary was anointed the nominee and did no win it fairly. Putting the super delegate issue aside, Clinton had a few more million votes than Sanders, and for that matter, she earned more votes than any of the presidential nominees thus far, including Trump. The question now becomes where does the Sanders campaign go from here? Last night, he vowed to keep fighting until the convention in Philly at the end of July, and I’ve said all along that he should do so. At this point, Sanders has no chance to be the nominee, other than the very remote possibility that Hillary will be indicted over the e-mail saga. That said, Sanders’ campaign has been about remaking the Democratic Party, so that it resembles the party of FDR or LBJ rather than a party led by the DNC or Clintons. So far, Sanders has had some major successes. He got the chance to appoint five members to the DNC platform committee. Clinton appointed six, and the DNC appointed four. His picks have included African American scholar Cornel West and environmental activist Bill McKibben. On the campaign trail, he has forced Hillary to make income inequality a major part of her platform, which will most likely last through the fall, since Trump has been successful, in part, by tapping into white working-class anger. Now that the general election match-up is clear, Clinton can’t ignore the issues that Sanders made relevant.

If Sanders manages to unite the party, while continuing to push for the issues that matter to him, it is likely that he will return to the Senate as one of its most powerful members, and most likely the chair of the banking committee, if the Democrats retake the Senate, which seems likely, considering the map and Trump’s recent self-implosion over the judge remarks and Trump University scandal.

Following the age of Occupy and increasing anger directed at Wall Street, it is unlikely that the Democratic Party will continue to resemble  a party of triangulation. The financial crisis of 2008 and the bank bailouts that followed have made it impossible for the Democratic Party to not address economic inequality and the working-class anger that Trump has managed to tap into when he talks about the devastating effect of some Clinton-era policies, specifically NAFTA, and the gross effect of big money on politics.

As the convention draws closer, Bernie and his supporters need to make a $15 minimum wage, a major jobs plan, universal healthcare part, and campaign finance reform part of the platform. They should also push to rework the primary rules, even the order of states that votes and open primaries v. closed primaries.

Yes, another Clinton will is now the Democratic nominee for president in 2016, but this Clinton has made economic inequality a major part of her platform, and in doing so, she has had to address her husband’s legacy, including the loss of manufacturing that came as a result of her husband’s free trade policies. The Democratic Party is undergoing a major change, and if Bernie and his supporters seriously organize and continue what they started, it is possible policies he advocated will come to fruition. If his supporters remain engaged and come into the fold more, then perhaps next time around, a candidate like Bernie Sanders will win the nomination.

A Fractured Left

After Hillary Clinton’s double digit win in New York last night, the path for Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic nomination for president is impossible. The delegates aren’t there for him. Even more so, Clinton is ahead of him by double digits in a number of the states that vote next Tuesday, including delegate-rich Pennsylvania. I will state for the record that I have always liked Bernie Sanders. He has been preaching about money in politics for years. That said, I have been appalled by what I have seen on social media, especially after Clinton’s victory last night. The Democratic primary has turned into name calling and growing divide between Clinton and Bernie supporters. Some of his supporters feel as though she has not won any of the races legitimately, as though there is some big DNC conspiracy to ensure she’s the nominee. Meanwhile, I have seen some of his supporters declare that they will vote for Trump or Cruz because they can’t stomach voting for Clinton in the fall. This especially boggles my mind. Hillary never would have been my first choice for the Democratic nominee. That said, the Democratic bench was never going to be that deep because in the last few mid-term elections, Dems got obliterated, thus they don’t have a farm league at the state or national levels to groom into major presidential contenders, unlike the GOP, who controls majority of state legislatures, the House, and the Senate. With that said, there is a major difference between Hillary and Trump and Cruz. On women’s issues, Hillary has always been pro-choice and a supporter of equal pay. She is also more liberal on immigration than Obama. In addition, she favors a major raise in the minimum wage, to at least $12. Trump, meanwhile, runs around the country talking about a wall, banning Muslims, and punishing women for having an abortion. Cruz is even more extreme. So while Hillary may not be my first pick, I understand that the differences between she and whomever the GOP nominee will be, most likely Trump, are quite stark.

My fear right now is that this election, on the Democratic side, is going to be a redux of 1968 or 1980, when the party was so fractured that it handed the White House to the GOP. Recent polling shows that between 25-35 percent of Bernie supporters state that they won’t back Hillary Clinton if she is the nominee. Now, I will point out that in the heat of the 2008 primary between Obama and Clinton, polling showed that about half of her supporters said that they would not support him if he won the nomination. Ultimately, the party came together. However, this feels… different. Some Bernie supporters feel as though Clinton is everything wrong with the system, everything Bernie has been railing against. To them, she represents big money in politics, someone who can be bought and sold and changes positions when it is best for her to do so.

I also question if Bernie supporters will back her because some of them have no loyalties to the Democratic Party. Their man is not even a Democrat. He was always registered independent in Congress, called himself a Democratic Socialist, but caucused with the Democrats. During this campaign cycle, meanwhile, he hasn’t done much for Democrats down ballot, even though the “revolution” he speaks of would only be possible with a Congress far, far more progressive than its current make-up.

In 1968, at the height of Vietnam, the Democratic Party was split in SO many different ways. Eugene McCarthy, a socialist, ran. Bobby Kennedy ran, and establishment candidate Hubert Humphrey ran and ultimately won the nomination after Bobby Kennedy was gunned down. Humphrey ultimately lost the race to Richard Nixon, but it was one of the closest elections in our country’s history. Nixon ran on a platform of law and order and ending the Vietnam War, even though he escalated it once in power. However, after major riots, blood shed, and heads cracked with billy cubs at the Democratic Convention that summer, it’s no surprise Nixon won. The country yearned for some type of stability after a turbulent decade and an especially turbulent year. It also didn’t help that the Dem party was split so much, between three candidates initially and then two after Bobby was gunned down. In 1980, meanwhile, Ted Kennedy challenged Jimmy Carter in a primary and seriously hobbled him in the general election. As a result, Ronald Reagan was elected.

I would like to see the Bernie people get seriously engaged, long-term in the process. That means voting for Hilary if she is the nominee, but keeping pressure on her to pull her to the left and propose progressive solutions to get money out of politics, create a more stable Middle East, and create more economic equality, ideas that are central to Bernie’s campaign and his supporters. In addition, I want to see his supporters get active in grassroots activism, such as unionism and the fight for $15 campaign. I want to see them more beyond presidential politics and work to seriously remake the Democratic Party in the image of FDR, Bobby Kennedy, LBJ, and some of its other leaders of the past. That also requires working for down ballot candidates and reshaping Congress.

Yes, Keep Confronting the Candidates, BLM Activists!

My favorite scene in the N.W.A. biopic, Straight Outta Compton, is when the group is on stage in Detroit and Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr) looks out on the crowd, turns to Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), and then belts out “Fuck Tha Police.” This incident occurred after the Detroit P.D. demanded that the group not play the song in their city. The group’s decision to defy the police led to a riot and the arrest of the artists and raised a lot of questions about censorship.

There are so many good things that I could say about the film, specifically the way it captures the explosion of “gangsta” rap, the implosion of N.W.A., the rise of Death Row Records, but mostly, I favor the film because of how much it resonates with headlines today, specifically the Black Lives Matter movement. Looming throughout the film is tension between police and black communities, ultimately leading to the Rodney King riots. In one early scene, as the artists step outside of a recording studio, they’re shoved to the ground by LAPD because they’re assumed to be gang-bangers.

There are many criticisms that can be made against “gangsta” rap, namely its treatment of women, but as Ice Cube notes several times throughout the film, the music served as a reflection of their reality, including the tensions with police. In that regard, it can also be said that N.W.A.’s bold decision to play “Fuck Tha Police” in Detroit was an act of civil disobedience.

That particular reminded me of young Black Lives Matters activists who recently shut down rallies by Bernie Sanders and Jeb Bush, and have since protested at other campaign scenes. When they shut down a Sanders rally in Seattle, several of my progressive friends questioned their motives, since Sanders is generally open-minded and supportive of civil rights causes.  I noted that it doesn’t matter who the candidate is, they should keep employing such acts of civil disobedience. For one, it forces the cnadidates and their supporters to really listen. After shutting down the Sanders rally, for instance, he broadened his platform to include matters of policing in minority communities. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton recently met with BLM activists. These acts of civil disobedience create a national dialogue and force people to pay attention. Any change comes from the grassroots.

There really couldn’t be a more appropriate time for a biopic on N.W.A. produced by Ice Cub and Dr. Dre. Already, it’s continued the conversation that the group started in the late 80s and the BLM activists rekindled, post-Trayvon and post-Ferguson.

Bernie Sanders and the Politics of Election Cycles and Celebrity

It’s starting to feel like 2008 again. Only, instead of Shepard Ferry’s Hope and Change posters, we have numerous articles, including this one from the Huffington Post, about Bernie Sanders’s rise in the polls and the possibility that he could defeat Hillary Clinton in the primary. He’s closing the gap in New Hampshire and Iowa. Other articles have reported on the massive size of his campaign rallies.

One thing can be said. Sanders has energized his base. The size of his rallies and the money he’s raising offer proof of that. I, too, am excited about Sanders. He’s the only self-identified socialist in the Senate, and when he speaks about economic equality for all, I believe what he says.

That said, I have one big concern. The left in this country tends to get very excited every four years during presidential election cycles. They fell in love  with Obama in 2008, and then after the election, the left went silent, other than the Occupy Movement and some other movements here and there, which formed as a response to the left’s disillusionment with the president and the widening economic inequality. Then, in 2012, activists knocked on doors again and helped re-elect Obama. After the election, however, they went away.

Here’s the thing: if Sanders is somehow elected to the White House, he most likely will accomplish less than Obama did in his first term. To his credit, Obama passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Obamacare, and bailed out Detroit, all within his first two years in office, before his party lost the House and nearly lost the Senate in the 2010 mid-term elections. When he was elected in 2008, his party had a super-majority in the House and a majority in the Senate. If Sanders is elected, he will face a divided government. It is highly unlikely the Democrats will win back the House, though retaking the majority in the Senate seems likely. However, the Dem’s Senate majority is likely to be 1-3 seats, and the Senate landscape in the 2018 mid-term elections will favor Republicans, due, in part because Democrats will have more seats to defend. Whatever big proposals Sanders puts forth would most likely die in the House or get filibustered in the Senate.

After Obama was elected in 2008, I hoped there would be a sustainable movement, one that would push him even more to the left. Instead, there was the rise of the Tea Party Movement. Then, after the 2012 election, I held out hope again, and even the Obama campaign tried to make OFA (Organizing for America) into a long-term movement. However, that never happened.

The left needs to learn what the right has known for years. Electoral politics, especially at the national level, are only part of the puzzle. Movements are what create and sustain change. While I am happy that Bernie Sanders has reignited the national debate about income inequality, I have a major concern that the left is once again ready to funnel all of its energy into supporting a candidate, hoping he will create lasting change. If Sanders is to have any real, lasting impact beyond this election cycle, then he needs to encourage his supporters to keep the momentum going well beyond election season. He must encourage movement building.

We’ve seen the left rise up during Occupy and Black Lives Matter, but the tents in Zuccotti Park were swept away by Bloomberg and the NYPD a few months into the movement, and the fate of the Black Lives Matter movement is uncertain, though thus far, it has had more of an impact and has sustained itself far longer than Occupy. There is potential for something bigger. If Sanders can somehow channel the energy of his campaign crowds into something sustainable, then he will achieved something more important than a campaign victory and a seat in the White House. He will have ignited a movement that has been bubbling under the surface in this country for years.