Category Archives: Obama’s politics

Reflections on the progressive path forward

Reflections on the progressive path forward. 

The 2018 mid-term election was an astounding repudiation of Donald Trump, and an affirmation of a progressive alternative for the United States. A Democratic Party that has clearly moved to the Left on issues across the board – no doubt stimulated by the efforts of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, in particular – achieved historic gains that were only limited by the extreme gerrymandering that the Republicans have instituted following their successes in 2010. And these clearly remain serious structural impediments to further progressive politics, to a consideration of which I will turn shortly. 

But we can be particularly excited by the racial, cultural, and gender diversity of the “class of 18.” And this achievement itself was built upon the most significant fact of all, namely the unprecedented politicization and mobilization of vast sectors of the electorate, across the country, a mobilization without precedent in modern American history. So many from all walks of life have come to realize that basic aspects of our culture and institutions – including much that we had always simply taken for granted as the gift of “American exceptionalism” – because “God had shed His grace” on us – were not guaranteed, and were directly threatened by the Trump Administration and its transformation of the Republican Party into a willing vehicle of a burgeoning American neo-Fascism. 

In the truly national scope and sustained action of this popular mobilization lies the basis of the exciting electoral success. And in the sustaining and expanding of this unprecedented national mobilization lies the hope and possibility of effectively advancing a progressive agenda that can reclaim American politics through the national elections of 2020, the consequent state-by-state redistricting, and thus for years thereafter.   

Therein resides our legitimate excitement, our organizational challenge, and our potential strategic trap. And it is to that potential “trap” that I want to address the better part of these remarks. For we are engaged in a long-term struggle with the forces of reaction, which, unfortunately, are all too strong across America – as attested to by Trump’s continued support at around 40%. We must build and expand the national constituency for progressive politics. And we must not alienate significant dimensions of that national mobilization by overplaying our hand. We must avoid getting carried away by some of the most remarkable progressive successes, mostly in the liberal bastions of many locations – but not all – in the Northeast, mid-West and West Coast, for example, thus playing into the hands of reaction. 

Let me explicate this challenge by drawing on a few excellent points developed by Michael Tomasky in the current issue of the New York Review of Books to which we need to pay careful attention. He first correctly draws the following two key takeaways from the recent election: 1) the necessity for the Democrats to increasingly mobilize their base to counter the Trumpian mobilization; and 2) the need to address the increasingly dramatic split between, on the one hand, the expanding urban and suburban base of the Democratic electorate and, on the other hand, its drastically shrinking support in small town and rural Americas, the base of the Trumpian Republican Party. 

Here, Tomasky observes that “there is no clearer sign of the changing shape of the Democratic coalition than the fact that going into the 2018 midterm elections, six of the 20 richest congressional districts were represented by Republicans but that when the new Congress is sworn in, all 20 will be represented by Democrats…. But by 2020, the Democrats will have to find ways to improve their performance in exurban and rural areas. This is not only for the sake of defeating Trump, but also to have any chance of recapturing the Senate.” 

Here, “a look at the Beto O’Rourke’s defeat in Texas, compared with Sherrod Brown’s victory in increasingly Republican Ohio, … is instructive.” While O’Rourke only lost by “around 220,000 votes out of 8.33 million cast, (he) carried just thirty-two of the state’s 254 counties, … (he) got walloped (in most of the rest). For example, … in six of the seven counties that surround (the city of Fort Worth), Cruz won 54, 68, 76, 80, 81, and 82 percent. And he won 70 or 80 percent of the vote in dozens of the smaller rural counties.” In contrast, Brown was victorious by being able to keep his deficit in similar rural and small town Ohio to around 60%.

Tomasky then observes that “the electoral consequences should be clear. Consider the Senate map of 2020. Thirty-four senators will face reelection (except for those who choose to retire). Of those, twenty-three will be Republicans, and just eleven Democrats. That sounds favorable to Democrats, but if you look closer, about fourteen of the Republicans represent deep-red states where they should cruise to reelection. The other seven will not be easy to flip. The fattest target is probably Maine incumbent Susan Collins. Maine just elected a Democratic governor, who is also the state’s first female governor. But beating an incumbent senator is always hard (though some believe Collins may retire). The other states where Democrats may have a shot include Colorado, Arizona, North Carolina, Iowa, Georgia, and Texas. Donald Trump carried five of those six. All have major cities, but all are states where it’s hard to win by carrying only the most populous counties and doing poorly in the rural ones.”

“As for the presidency,” Tomasky continues, “there are a number of states—the Great Lakes states, North Carolina, Florida, and even Arizona and Georgia—where the pro-Trump vote in the rural counties will be so amped up that the Democrat, while winning the big counties, will have a tough time overcoming it.“

While not exploring the causes of this electoral divide, which bears on the political and economic failures of both parties over the last 50 years, to which I will turn shortly, Tomasky offers the following “stunning statistics. The United States has experienced three recessions since 1990(:) … after the early 1990s recession, 71 percent of the new business growth occurred in counties with fewer than 500,000 people (and within that, 32 percent in counties with fewer than 100,000 people). After the 2002–2003 recession, that 71 percent shrank to 51 percent. And after the Great Recession of 2007–2009, the number was 19 percent—and in counties under 100,000 growth was literally zero.That is a crisis. It’s at the root of the opioid epidemic, and it’s why so many young people leave these towns.” And those most recent numbers happened under the neo-Liberal Obama Administration. This highlights one of the central reasons these regions are so desperate for change, and so angry at all political establishments, but especially those they see as aligned with urban cosmopolitan interests and values, which they primarily identify with the Democrats.

There is so much more than can and should be said about the causes and scope of this problem which I cannot address here, except to note that this economic situation and political divide is a direct result of the process of Neo-Liberal Globalization that has dominated the Western World since at least the arrival of Thatcher and Reagan. And it has had similar results across the “advanced West,” not to speak of its more global consequences. For example, it is the essential background for the almost unprecedented nation-wide mobilization of the French people against the Neo-Liberal policies of the Macron Administration, that has effectively brought that government to its knees.

But I only want to underline here the fact that a progressive Democratic program, if it is to be successful, must begin to address this economic and cultural divide. And to do that, it must break from the Neo-LIberal orthodoxy of its Clinton-Obama establishment, that has left behind so much of America. Here, Tomasky highlights “the Democrats’ two big electoral tasks as they head into 2020: to invest in maximizing turnout among their base voters in cities and diverse suburbs, and to take steps to ensure that they can become more competitive in the exurbs and the countryside. These goals may seem as though they contradict each other, but they need not; both constituencies would be open to an agenda emphasizing public investments that help middle- and working-class people. There will be some tension on cultural issues, and Democrats shouldn’t go overboard in pandering for rural votes. After all, they’re not trying win those areas; just to perform about 10 or 15 points better—at Sherrod Brown’s levels rather than Beto O’Rourke’s.”

But here’s where the “trap” of potential Left-wing overreach emerges. The danger that the Left will get carried away with its political enthusiasm and ideological rhetoric. I think of talk I have heard that speaks of an ascendant Left that should direct the Democrat’s national program. Or a recent program of MSNBC’s “The Last Word,” for example, on which Lawrence O’Donnell assembled a panel of “experts” to propound that Trump’s most recent series of tweets makes it incumbent on the New Democratic House of Representatives that they immediately begin impeachment proceedings. However desirable both of these goals may well be, they overreach the currently politically possible, and threaten to energize a popular backlash.

Just to note two salient points from the 2018 election in support of this caution. First, a significant majority of the Democrats’ 40 seat shift in the House of Representatives was accomplished with quite narrow electoral margins. Several were not even decided for several weeks. Second, as Michael Tomasky points out – a fact too many Left-wing advocates have ignored – “left-wing candidates did not do well overall in this election. The three major left-wing groups that endorsed candidates this year flipped no House seats from red to blue, while the more centrist New Dem PAC flipped twenty-eight seats.” To which he adds, challengingly, “what the Democrats will need in 2020, far more than a candidate of the left, or for that matter of the avowed center, is one who can withstand what will undoubtedly be the dirtiest and most dishonest campaign in the country’s modern history and provide the clearest moral contrast to the incumbent.”

He then concludes, quite on the mark as far as I am concerned, “the party now has the power to hold Trump and his administration accountable. They shouldn’t overreach and carry on about impeachment. Removing Trump from office would require the assent of about twenty Republican senators and is therefore basically impossible. They should just expose the corruption through holding aggressive oversight hearings and trust the American people to reach the right conclusion. Trump’s partisans are fierce, but the election showed that they are, however narrowly, outnumbered.”

So where is the danger of overreach? Clearly any attempt to immediately move for impeachment, for which much of the Country is clearly not ready, and on which platform few successful Democrats ran, would not be well received. Before any such effort might become practicable, there will need to be an ongoing series of quite legitimate public investigations by the New Democratic House, plus continual revelations by the Justice Department. That might “soften up” the terrain for an impeachment inquiry. But that’s at best down the road. 

Even more challenging and potentially destructive in the short run, is the emerging progressive strategy to advance a Green New Deal. Clearly, such a program can embody an exciting vision of a potentially transformative progressive program to address both the challenge of global warming and offer an effective alternative to that Neo-LIberal abandonment of large sections of American society. It is essential, of course, that we have such a program – and develop a consequent movement – to promote the comprehensive structural changes in the US economy that addresses both the profound dangers to civilization posed by Global Warming, and the vast destabilizing income inequalities and regional disparities that have been caused by Neo-Liberal Globalization. Let me be quite clear about that.

At the same time, however, the proposed Green New Deal, embodies a practical trap of political overreach for the Democratic Party, driven by an excited progressive movement that is well ahead of where much of the Country is at present. The danger is that the excitement of electoral successes and the real need of systemic change, will drive ideologically committed progressives to mistake a necessary directional goal for a non-révisable and achievable short-term political program. That is to make a two-fold basic strategic error, one methodological, and one political.

Methodologically, it is to mistake a projected and necessary end-in-view with the short term programs that can begin to move us in the desired direction. An end-in-view should be seen, not as a final goal that we are to insist be imposed upon our politics here and now. Rather, it should be seen as a “means to present action.” It is a necessary marker of a direction for our politics to take. It sets forth a needed theoretical frame and political direction to guide our short-term policies and programs. As we proceed with their practical implementation, reality itself is changed, and that will inevitably require us to continually revise and update our guiding vision and its on-going practical enactment.

Politically, the way that that general methodological point bears upon the present situation, is that presentation of, and the consequent public campaign on behalf of, a Green New Deal will not only direct present programs, but can begin to raise public consciousness and to move the public debate. Thus it can increasingly gain the support of increasingly wider sections of the public, thus making its radical programs more palatable to the general public. This is a campaign of several years duration, similar to that that was begun about a decade ago on behalf of Medicare For All, which campaign has now achieved far more general popular acceptance. 

These remarks may not sit well with some of my progressive allies, who I feel may have fallen in love with their own rhetoric and have confused their quite legitimate hopes for a decent America with the practical limitations placed on current poltical possibilities by the vast, complex, and diverse makeup of the American electorate, and the structural impediments to implementing systemic progressive economic, racial, and social transformation. It is, of course, quite essential to hold to that vision, and to try to effectively advance it as much as possible. But we have learnt in these last few years, if we needed that education, that any short term gains can easily be completely undone if we cannot secure a lasting base, both ideological and structural, for progressive politics through 2020 and beyond. And we must acknowledge the current limitations of national support for the complete progressive agenda to which even the remarkable nation-wide popular mobilization and electoral success are convincing testimony. 

“In our increasingly polarized environment, success is not had by moving to the vanishing center and trying to appease the “moderates,” but by energizing and mobilizing … our base to turn out to vote. And that requires attractive candidates that can present programs that speak to the concerns of their constituents. But … this is a large and diverse nation, and that what will speak to their constituents’ issues and concerns, and in a language that communicates, will be significantly different in different parts of the country.” Back Bay Boston is not Southern California. Queens and The Bronx are not Colorado, Arizona, or even Western Pennsylvania.

We have a remarkable opportunity to turn back Trumpian incipient neo-Fascism, and to begin building a progressive future. This is actually a life and death struggle to preserve even a modified democratic future for this country. It is a vital struggle. We must be careful not to overplay our hand and screw it up.

:

Advertisements

On Building an Effective Unified National Progressive Mobilization

On Building an Effective Unified National Progressive Mobilization.

It is rare that I have felt the need to take issue with the views of Heather McGhee, but I believe there is a serious flaw in her important article on “How Populists Like Bernie Sanders Should Talk About Racism,” written with Ian Haney-Lopez, and first published in The Nation Magazine, January 28, 2016. It remains important because it articulates a view currently being advocated by many progressive organizations.

The central challenge confronting the Left, according to McGhee and Haney-Lopez, is, can we combine “the Obama Democrats, the multiracial coalition that forms the party’s present and the country’s future … around a unifying message that resonates with whites on class, people of color on race, and the 99% on both?”

The key to her view is that “white economic populists (– such as Bernie Sanders –) (must) take up the race conversation with white voters, … By directly addressing racial anxiety and its role in fueling popular support for policies that hand over the country to plutocrats.” This is necessary “because anti-government dog whistling” has been the major cause of the hollowing out of the middle class, of whites as well as blacks, and that progressives must start “telling white audiences that combatting racism is important to them.” Only then, will “people of color believe that battling racism is important to” Sanders and white progressives. Thus “progressives … should all endorse specifically targeted reparative efforts,” to counter “the damage inflicted on communities of color over the life of this country.” In sum, “racism has been the plutocrats’ scythe, cutting down social solidarity to harvest obscene wealth and power, …(while) fostering solidarity across racial divisions is the single greatest challenge America faces in uniting the 99%.”

What then is wrong with this analysis and strategy? Let me begin by noting that my concern here is with the proposed strategy, not with any historical analyses or moral justifications. As far as the legitimacy of Black demands for affirmative action, and even reparations, I have addressed that issue favorably in Chapter 7 of my recent book “Critique of Western Philosophy and Social Theory.” But my concern here is with proposals for potentially effective political strategies for progressives to counter Trumpism and the Radical Right. And it is a profound mistake to think that one can appeal to the white working class by trying to prove to them that they are also victims of racist “dog whistle” politics.

First, they almost certainly will see that as special pleading on behalf of the special interests of minorities — and at their expense. Secondly, such analyses are based on claims of the consequences of racism which will be seen as an attack on them as racists. It is highly unlikely that people will take kindly to being called, whether explicitly or by implication, racists, and then asked to side with those who are so castigating them. And how generally effective are political campaigns that begin by claiming that their desired allies are completely confused about the nature of their suffering, and then trying to convince them to see the world differently? And make no mistake, the vast majority of the white working class has been suffering, even if not in the same manner and to the same extent as have Blacks, and other minorities. Further, it is a mistake to suggest that the “multiracial coalition” of the “Obama Democrats” was built on the unification of issues of race and class. In fact, Obama was often criticized by Black activists precisely for downplaying issues of race as he developed a mildly progressive economic message that proved effective with some segments of the white working class.

In sum, therefore, I think the causal argument that is offered for the significance of dog whistle politics mistakes a tactic for a cause, and the proposed strategy of prioritizing racism is politically divisive, being one further expression of interest based politics that is quite unlikely to appeal to the white working class or to middle class women, and therefor does not offer a unified vision with which to build a progressive majority.

What we need now, therefore, is not a strategy based on distinct appeals to specific racial, religious, or cultural groups, but an inclusive strategy directed at unifying the vast majority of Americans, the 99%, against the increasingly ascendant 1%. Almost all Americans have been suffering from the inevitable consequences of NeoLiberalism, the ideology of the “free market”, and the outrageous income inequalities that are decimating working Americans of all races, religions, nationalities, and regions — as has happened similarly across Europe, leading to the Brexit vote, for example, or the rise of the Far Right in Poland, Hungary, Greece, etc. And the racial “dog whistles” are certainly not the cause of such devastation, as Ms. McGhee claims, but only one important strategy used by the proto-fascist American Right Wing to mobilize fear and divide the 99%.

We are facing many challenges to basic human rights and values, and we must mobilize to counter them. The Radical Right has taken hold of major U.S. institutions, from the political machinery of state and national governments, to the courts and mass media. And only a national mobilization of unified progressive forces stands a chance of effectively countering that structure of power. That will require a unified message, one that does not divide along racial or ethnic lines. Where individuals or groups are singled out for attack, we must of course actively come to their defense. But a defensive strategy is not sufficient and will not mobilize the required national movement. We need a unifying vision of economic progress, social justice, and collective well-being. And the most inclusive and effective strategy is one that confronts the ascendant NeoFascist Right Wing and its corporate promoters head on. That is precisely what progressive politicians such as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Keith Ellison have been advocating, as well as progressive theorists such as Les Leopold, Gar Alperowitz, and Thomas Piketty. And that is the framework for the building of an effective national mobilization of all progressive forces. Now is the time. If not now, when?

America Today: in Mythology and Fact

America Today: in Mythology and Fact

America has been engaged in a deeply rooted cultural-political Cold War that has been more or less simmering for decades. But it has been brought to the surface in a way that has come to effectively dominate the current political campaigns by the confluence of two additional factors. These are what I call, 1) the closing of the international frontier, and 2) the consequent squeeze on the capacity of neo-Liberal political economy to continue to provide for even a modicum of economic growth for middle America. For the purposes of this post, I will be far too brief. But let me outline the structure of this argument, to which I have already referred in some prior posts.

1) Stage One, brilliantly developed by Colin Woodard in his “American Nations”, concerns the ethno-national regional structure of America’s pattern of settlement. That has created in effect two fairly distinct moral-political coalitions whose values and world views are almost polar opposites. They can not even agree on a set of common facts, or impartial criteria to evaluate arguments. And with the proliferation of modern media outlets, it is as if each coalition lives in its own self-contained world. This ethno-national and regional polarization has even been augmented by what social scientists refer to as the “big sort,” as people tend to relocate to areas inhabited by like-minded residents.

To vastly over simplify, drawing directly on Woodard’s analysis, we have the Deep South led coalition that basically includes Appalachia and the Far West, confronting New England, New York, and the West Coast, fighting over their ability to gain the support of the Hispanics, expanding from the Southwest, and the people of what one might refer to as the Midwest. (The development and migration patterns of African-American communities — as well as of Hispanic communities — has, of course, greatly complicated this simplified picture.) It is important to realize that these opposed coalitions tend to have quite opposed conceptions of the nature of government, the community, the individual, business, the market, religion, the family, the role of women, and of course, race. Clearly, each of these issues could be the basis of a volume on its own. But enuf said of this for the present.
2) These conflicting moral, political, religious, and racial orientations are increasingly impacted by, and having to come to terms with, what I am calling the closing of the international frontier of American expansion. As I have developed this point in my chapter on “The American Enterprise,” Chapter 8 of my “Critique of Western Philosophy and Social Theory,” growth has been the mantra of American development. First across the great North American continent. And when that expanding frontier closed in the late 19th Century, the United States started building its international empire. Throughout the middle of the 20th Century it more or less could set the terms of its economic and military hegemony.

That capacity for relatively unconstrained economic growth, which fueled the significant enhancement of the material quality of life of most Americans, even if far from equitably, has increasingly had to confront growing limitations coming from: the Cold War, the emergence of the Third World, the development of economic counterweights first from Japan, then from China, India, Russia, Brazil, South Africa, South America, and the European Union. And, more subtly, and pervasively, having so reluctantly to deal with the increasing constraints on previously more or less unconstrained economic growth which is the meaning of the ecological crises. All of these have increasingly squeezed the economic capacity of the United States to more or less grow at will, and use that growth to “buy off” the support of the American people.
3) This leads to final dimension of this triangular confrontation; the challenge of, and to, American “free enterprise”, neo-Liberal capitalism. Here, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson’s brilliant book, “Winner-Take-All Politics,” nails the political offensive of the ruling capitalist elites beginning in the 1970s to the squeeze placed on their capacity for relatively unconstrained economic growth. (Though the authors focus is primarily on what they see as a corporate counter-offensive to the politics of the Great Society and the counter cultural movements of the 60s, I think we need to place all of that within the wider historical context suggested by my previous remarks.) Two examples of that historical squeeze, for example, that the authors do not mention is the oil embargoes and consequent gas lines of the early 70s, plus the action of Richard Nixon to end the dollar’s convertibility with gold that took place in 1971.

But the point is well documented by the authors as to the institution of a sophisticated political offensive, mobilizing the corporate community. Initially working primarily through the Republican Party, and increasingly co-opting the Democratic Party, the corporate world has been able to create a public consensus against government and in support of privatization, deregulation, tax cuts for “the job creators,” on behalf of the “Free Market” and “Free Trade,” and thus they have been able to re-write the rules of the political and economic game in such a way as to vastly expand their power and wealth, at the expanse of the vast majority of Americans. Thus they have been able to garner the vast majority of whatever benefits from the narrowing space for US economic growth remains possible, while squeezing middle America. And that squeeze is hurting more and more. And more and more people are no longer trusting the elites that have been selling them their neo-Liberal snake oil — however confused most Americans are about what has been happening to them, and who and what are to blame.
But one thing is certain. Americans have not yet even begun to have a public conversation about these fundamental changes in our historical situation, and what we can and should do about it. We continue to act as if it’s politics (and economics) as usual. And that cannot last. But this political campaign is the first in which this squeeze has begun to fundamentally challenge the control of the Neo-Liberal elite.

Why progressives should be pleased by the current campaign

Why progressives should be pleased by the current campaign

Given the completely unpredictable nature of the current political campaign, it is probably somewhat of a fool’s errand to offer the following comment, but I’ll offer it nonetheless. Yesterday’s primary results make it almost certain that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic Presidential candidate, and that if Donald Trump does not obtain the Republican designation — either on the first ballot, or through the results of a “brokered convention” vote — there will be some not so mild confrontations within that Party. If he does obtain the designation, there may be some significant Republican defections, though I rather suspect less than expected. Having said that, from the perspective of one who shares practically all of the views expressed by Bernie Sanders — and thus, obviously, would love to see him elected President — I believe the current primary results are the best that progressives like myself could hope for. Let me briefly suggest why, knowing that there is much more that needs to be said on these matters.

  • I sincerely doubt that Bernie could have been elected. I know that current polls say differently, but I think they completely fail to take into consideration the kind of withering attack that he would face not only from Republicans, but from the mega-rich and the media, both from the mainstream and from the Radical Right of Talk Radio.
  • Bernie’s campaign has laid the groundwork for the mobilization of the kind of revolution that he has called for. That is not something that can be done overnight, but will take time and expanded organizing. He has given public “main stream” political legitimacy to the ideas of Occupy — which they were incapable, and even uninterested, in doing. And he has mobilized vast numbers of previously “silent” — particularly youthful — citizens that can now, hopefully, be brought into the on-going progressive network of organizations such as MoveOn, US Action, National People’s Action, the Alliance for a Just Society, the Citizen Action network, the Working Families Party, Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, etc. These offer the opportunity to move the Democratic Party — and the country — in a far more progressive direction.
  • Bernie’s campaign has already moved the Democratic Party, and its presumptive nominee, to the Left. Clearly, one cannot expect her to stay there without sustained pressure from this newly mobilized Left — given her past history and the Obama Administration’s neo-Liberal policies — but the groundwork and mobilization to do that is now possible.
  • Trump’s garnering the Republican nomination offers both the weakest possible opponent to a Democratic victory, and one whom I believe is surprisingly less dangerous than would be a Cruz, Rubio, or Kasich election. (No doubt that last remark calls for an explanation which I cannot provide here. Simply let me assert that, terrible as he obviously is, he is less beholden to and captured by the full neo-Liberal program of the Republican Establishment. But that discussion will have to be postponed for the present.) Thus,
  • Hillary’s election is the more likely. And, with all her liabilities (see a few comments on this below), she will be presenting a reasonable corporate liberal agenda, including probably a few new Supreme Court justices. And hopefully, contributing to the election of a Democratic Senate with an enhanced progressive majority, plus a reasonable increase in Democratic representation in the House. But
  • The major work will still be to build the national progressive movement state-by-state, while maintaining pressure on a Hillary administration. And if the Republican convention degenerates into a political brawl, so much the better for discrediting the Radical Right, and weakening its hold on that Party.
  • Having said all this, progressives, whatever their proclivities, will have to actively support Hillary’s campaign, whatever their misgivings, while building on Bernie’s momentum. This is certainly NOT the best of all worlds, but it’s the one we live in, and we must make our choices as effective as possible. There will be only two significant alternatives before us, and no outcome is foreordained, especially in a country in which either Party begins any national election probably with more than 40% of the electorate committed in advance to vote for their candidate. And the possible election of a Republican is not something to take lightly.

As for a suggestive comment on the campaign so far, and an evaluation of the politics of Clinton and Obama, let me share my personal abridgment of insightful comments offered by Bill Curry, former White House counselor to President Clinton and a two-time Democratic nominee for governor of Connecticut. These were offered immediately after Bernie’s remarkable victory in Michigan. He then wrote, and I excerpt with a few important personal modifications for which he is MIT responsible:

“You wouldn’t know it from watching TV last night or reading the national papers this morning but Bernie Sanders’ Michigan win ranks among the greatest upsets in presidential primary history. Should he win the nomination it will be go down as the biggest upset of any kind in American political history. If he wins the election it will change the fundamental direction of the nation and the world.

Some key lessons, obvious to everyone but the media:

  1. The old politics is over. The fault lines of the new politics are not cultural issues like guns, abortion and same-sex marriage that divide the Democratic and Republican bases. They are issues of political reform and economic justice that divide both party’s elites from both parties’ bases, and the American people from their government. On these issues we find the elites of both parties shockingly alike. Among them: global trade; financial deregulation and prosecution of financial crimes; (attacks on) the social safety net including Social Security, Medicare, a living wage and health care for all; above all, (being quite comfortable with) the “soft corruption” of pay to play politics.

There’s a name for the bipartisan consensus of party elites: neoliberalism. It is an inconvenient name for many reasons but mostly because it seems odd that the worldview of the Republican elite would be an ideology with the root word ‘liberal’ in its name but it is true, nonetheless. and may even shed a little light on the open, bitter breach between GOP elites and the party base. Democrats stayed loyal longer to their elites for two reasons. One is their love of two very talented politicians, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, whose charm and verbal dexterity masked deep differences with the base. The other is their fear of Republicans.

I often talk to Democrats who don’t know Obama chose not to raise the minimum wage as president even though he had the votes for it; that he was willing to cut Medicare and Social Security and chose not to prosecute Wall Street crimes or pursue ethics reforms in government. They don’t know he dropped the public option or the aid he promised homeowners victimized by mortgage lenders. They don’t know and don’t want to know. Their affection for Bill and Barack — and their fear of Republicans — run too deep.

  1. Hillary Clinton has neither their deft personal touch nor protean verbal skills. When she tries to distract the base or paper over its differences with elites, voters see through her, even if, in their hearts, they don’t want to. In Michigan she tried to smear Sanders as a foe of the auto bailout. Before that she sent Chelsea and Bill out to say Bernie would kill Medicare. Each time she ended up only hurting herself. She has tried to co-opt Sanders’ positions on global trade, climate change, military adventurism, a living wage and universal health care.

It’s always too little, too late. Voters sense she’s just moving pawns on a chess board in part because she can never explain her change of heart and often doesn’t even try. She switched horses on global trade in a blog post, on the Keystone pipeline at a grammar school event. In a recent debate she left fracking to the GOP governors who covered themselves in glory on Obamacare, as if it were a states’ rights issue. With her Super PAC (and hers and Bill’s breathtaking haul of $153 million in mostly corporate speaking fees), she is the living avatar of pay to play politics. She shouldn’t be the Democratic nominee for president because she doesn’t even know it’s wrong.

She remains woefully out of touch with the public mood in other ways. This week she began telling voters she and Bernie were pals and that it was time to wrap up their little primary so she could focus on the Republicans. As anyone outside her tone deaf campaign could have told her, she came off as entitled, presumptuous and condescending. The voters aren’t done deciding yet. When they are, they’ll let the candidates know. When party and press elites parroted her line, it had the same effect on Democrats as Mitt’s anti-Trump speech had on Republicans.

  1. The performance of the press has been abysmal. Watching CNN and MSNBC last night was painful, as was reading the Washington Post or the New York Times this morning. The TV coverage was of a piece with all other 2016 election coverage. Last night FOX, CNN and MSNBC kept cameras glued on Trump for 40 minutes as he delivered a bizarre, rambling rant in which he talked about himself, his opponents and some steaks he was either selling or giving away.

As Bernie made history, CNN kept sending poor John King to its political trivia JumboTron to relate what various Michigan counties did in primaries or caucuses eight or 20 years ago. An MSNBC panel consisting of Brian Williams, Rachel Maddow, Gene Robinson, Lawrence O’Donnell and Chuck Todd dove right into a discussion of who Hillary might choose as her running mate; an actual progressive perhaps, given Bernie’s little showing in Michigan. … The hour ended with Maddow summarizing the state of play this way: “The frontrunners had a good night.” This morning the Times led the story this way: “Senator Bernie Sanders’s defeat of Hillary Clinton prolongs a race she seemed to have locked up, although she won Mississippi handily.” He sure did.

Clinton has been helped in her quest by her party, by big business, and by top-down endorsements from progressive lobbies many of which broke members’ hearts to deliver them. But no one’s helped her more than the media. I know full well this hasn’t always been true for the Clintons and I also know not all the help is intentional. But the media helps her in several ways.

One way it helps is just by sharing her ideology. This is especially true of younger journalists at establishment venues like the Times and NBC or at web sites like Vox. These are mostly very bright people who see the world as Hillary does. (I’d call it neoliberalism 2.0 but it’s just like the Beta version.) They are Democrats first for cultural issues. They identify with elites, even know a few power couples and view the current corrupt rules of the game as laws of nature. It’s one reason why not one of them saw any of this coming.

But it’s not the only reason. Their employers put horse-race journalism ahead of all else, so nothing ever gets illuminated — not Trump’s business resume or Hillary’s or Bernie’s political resumes, or their very real policy differences. When Hillary sweeps vital differences under the rug to be replaced with stale tactical arguments, the reporters are perfect patsies — because all they know are tactics.

In the end, thinking only tactically makes you a bad tactician. When revolution’s in the air polls, money and ads mean far less. Reporters who know nothing else can’t conceive how voters choosing among a democratic socialist, a pay-to-play politician and a fascist might pick door number one. They bought Hillary’s myth of inevitability, ….”