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Bernie Sanders, the Media and 2020

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Assuming Bernie Sanders decides to announce another presidential run, he’ll be helped by the fact that he’ll now be the front-runner in the Democratic primaries: Joe Biden is the only potential foe with similar name recognition.  No other Democrat has the grassroots activist base that Bernie does through his organization, Our Revolution, plus numerous Bernie-related organizations like Organizing for Bernie, which has already started campaign organizing.  Nonetheless, he will need to make some campaign adjustments this time around.  Vermont’s prodigal son lost the Democratic nomination to a historically weak candidate (who subsequently was defeated by a senile game-show host).

Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party ruthlessly undermined Sanders’ chances, going so far as to consider smearing the Jewish Sanders as an atheist in religious states’ primaries, receiving leaked debate questions ahead of time, and smearing his supporters as sexist “Bernie Bros” (which Hillary recycled from her 2008 campaign against Obama and his “Obama Boys”).  There’s no evidence that the Democratic Party will be any more welcoming of Sanders this time around, what with the myopic centrism that party stalwarts Pelosi and Schumer continue to trot out in the face of an undeniable progressive swing within the party.

Bernie Sanders likewise faces a strong obstacle in the mainstream media (MSM).  At first, they largely ignored his 2016 campaign.  When he was propelled to the public consciousness thanks to online media and word-of-mouth, the MSM switched gears to smearing Bernie non-stop.  This was most infamously evidenced on March 6-7, when the Washington Post ran 16 consecutive hit pieces against Bernie in 16 hours. Reasonable policy proposals like universal healthcare -which is a reality in every other industrialized nation- were dismissed as being “unrealistic”.  Pundits inevitably conflated Bernie’s policy platform with Venezuela and failed Communist (i.e. not democratic-socialist) regimes.  Bernie will doubtlessly face similar dishonest framing in the 2020 Democratic primaries.  The talking heads will proclaim that only a “realistic” candidate like Joe Biden or Kamala Harris can appeal to centrists and independents.  If Bernie wins the Democratic nomination, then the MSM will ratchet up the Nordic socialism=gulags framing, arguing that Trump, for all his flaws, helped to “revitalize the economy” via stock market growth and lowered unemployment.

Thus, Bernie Sanders needs to be much more aggressive for 2020.  Hillary had many glaring vulnerabilities that he courteously chose to ignore, like her “damn emails”.  Civility didn’t win him the nomination and, as Hillary learned in Nov 2016, it won’t win you an election against Trump.  Republicans win the White House by embracing a schoolyard bully mentality.  Reagan beat Carter and Mondale by framing them as liberal pansies; George H.W. Bush had the dog-whistle Willie Horton ad; his son used a similarly racist claim to defeat John McCain in the 2000 primaries, then twisted John Kerry’s decorated war service into a story of treason in 2004; Trump was the meanest meanie of them all.

Bernie doesn’t need to be a bully so much as a street fighter.  He will have to run an endless gauntlet: mischaracterization by the MSM, attacks from more centrist candidates, libelous attack ads from billionaires terrified of his reformist vision, and then the final boss, Trump.  The key will be to hit back every time- but through constructive criticism.  Any time someone tries to use Venezuela as a scarecrow against his platform, he needs to point out facts, like how every other industrialized country has universal healthcare.  If a candidate bankrolled by abusive-towards-employees companies like Wal-Mart and Amazon tries to label a $15 minimum wage as economic suicide, the Bernie campaign needs to point out that the minimum wage is $13.61 in Luxembourg and $18.93 in Australia.  If a columnist writes that Bernie “has a problem” with people of color, Bernie needs to point out that he has the highest approval rating among people of color… a margin that’s at least double that of any candidate besides Biden.

Luckily, Bernie has a circle of highly media-savvy friends who can help represent him on TV, social media and through op-eds, such as Nina Turner and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  The Vermonter has had three years to analyze the arguments and smears used against each of his policy proposals and perceived electoral weaknesses.  The aforementioned Ocasio-Cortez has shown what kinds of arguments to expect against marginal tax rates, which are a necessity for any of Bernie’s major proposals.  In this particular case, you just have to do the hard work of explaining how marginal taxation works; since most Americans don’t understand such vagaries, they are susceptible to the pundits on Fox who imply that a billionaire’s entire income is taxed at the top marginal rate.

Such blatant dishonesty demonstrates the need to hit back at the media, in particular.  Trump beat the MSM smear machine through radical lies.  Sanders can do likewise, but through radical honesty.  The Sanders team not only needs to correct the record whenever someone in the media lies about or mischaracterizes one of Bernie’s positions, but explicitly point out the bad intentions of the pundit.  Trust in the US media has been declining for decades and spikes especially hard during election years.  In 2016, a record low 1 in 3 Americans expressed trust in the media.  Trump understood this reality and used it to frame himself as a hero fighting the corruption of the corporate media.

Bernie has the credibility, through his remarkable ideological consistency and refusal to accept corporate donations, to point out that six corporations control 90% of the US media and that they are incentivized to attack his reforms.  These six companies depend on ad money from Big Pharma, the military industrial complex, the oil companies and the health insurance companies to survive, and must therefore attack anyone who threatens these financial interests.  Bernie can point out that these six new corporations uncritically published the bogus intel that got us into the Iraq War, called torture “enhanced interrogation”, proclaimed that the economy was doing fine right before the recession hit, dropped the ball on covering the Standing Rock protests, etc.  Americans want to vote for someone who embodies the word “leader”: someone willing to stand up to the corrupt establishment that wrecked the economy and created endless wars in the Middle East, and someone willing to speak hard truths.  Trump did the former and convincingly pretended to do the latter and thus won the necessary credibility among voters.

The Bernie campaign must be similarly strict in regards to rival candidates.  As the frontrunner, everyone will be aiming at the target on his back.  Letting a dozen-plus make uncontested shots against you can easily lead to death-by-a-thousand-cuts.  In the poll position, one shouldn’t strike preemptively.  When attacked however, a counter-punch must be considered on the bases of the strength of the attacker and the attack.  For example, if Kamala Harris starts intimating that Bernie is disconnected from voters of color, he would be justified in responding, based on the potential harm of the smear and the prominence of the opponent.  Bernie could respond by pointing out that Harris (while CA Attorney General) fought against repealing the death penalty, marijuana legalization, police brutality accountability and overturning the convictions of 600 wrongfully accused.  If Biden tries to lecture Bernie about “electability”, he can respond by pointing out the former VP’s tone-deaf defense of oligarchs, school segregation and bashing of young people.  By establishing a good clap-back game early on, Bernie can scare candidates (especially weaker ones) into avoiding him.  Trump was able to develop this helpful aura during the GOP primaries; his rivals tended to focus either on attacking weaker candidates or toadying up to Trump in an attempt to win over his supporters.

Fortune favors the bold.  You don’t win the US Presidency by letting your opponents drag your name through the dirt.  Bernie is exceptional at explaining- and selling- his policy goals to sold-out arenas.  He’s still vulnerable with centrists and the politically disengaged.  Thus, he must be willing to not only articulate, but defend, his vision.  Bernie and his base have been smeared as racist, sexist, out of touch, delusional, weak on foreign policy, Communist and a thousand other things.  The anti-Bernie hit pieces are already appearing on TV and in the newspapers and he hasn’t even declared his campaign yet. Bernie must respond to criticism with constructive counter-criticism by pointing out the hypocrisy and laissez-faire fallacious arguments of his opponents.  Americans want to vote for a fighter… someone who will fight for them.

Russell Whitehouse is Executive Editor at IntPolicyDigest. He’s also a freelance social media manager/producer, 2016 Iowa Caucus volunteer and a policy essayist.

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Americas

Scandinavia Veers Left plus D-Day Reflections as Trump Storms Europe

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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Mette Frederiksen of the five-party Social Democrat bloc won 91 of the 169 seats in the Danish parliament ending the rule of the right-wing Liberal Party group that had governed for 14 of the last 18 years.  The election issues centered on climate change, immigration and Denmark’s generous social welfare policies.  All parties favored tighter immigration rules thereby taking away the central issue dominating the far-right Democrat Freedom Party which has seen its support halved since the last election in 2015.

Ms Frederiksen promised more spending to bolster the much loved social welfare model and increased taxes on businesses and the wealthy.  A left wave is sweeping Scandinavia as Denmark becomes the third country, after Sweden and Finland, to move left within a year.  Mette Frederiksen will also be, at 41, the youngest prime minister Denmark has ever had.

Donald Trump has used the 75th anniversary of D-Day commemorations to garner positive publicity.  The supreme promoter has managed to tie it in with a “classy” (his oft-chosen word) state visit to the UK spending a day with royals.  It was also a farewell to the prime minister as her resignation is effective from June 7.  Add a D-Day remembrance ceremony at Portsmouth and he was off to his golf course in Ireland for a couple of days of relaxation disguised as a visit to the country for talks — he has little in common with the prime minister, Leo Varadkar, who is half-Indian and gay.

Onward to France where leaders gathered for ceremonies at several places.  It is easy to forget the extent of that carnage:  over 20,000 French civilians were killed in Normandy alone mostly from aerial bombing and artillery fire.  The Normandy American cemetery holds over 9600 soldiers.  All in all, France lost in the neighborhood of 390,000 civilian dead during the whole war.  Estimates of total deaths across the world range from 70 to 85 million or about 3 percent of the then global population (estimated at 2.3 billion).

Much has been written about conflict resolutions generally from a cold rational perspective.  Emotions like greed, fear and a sense of injustice when unresolved lead only in one direction.  There was a time when individual disputes were given the ultimate resolution through single combat.  Now legal rights and courts are available — not always perfect, not always fair, but neither are humans.

It does not take a genius to extrapolate such legal measures to nations and international courts … which already exist.  Just one problem:  the mighty simply ignore them.  So we wait, and we honor the dead of wars that in retrospect appear idiotic and insane.  Worse is the attempt to justify such insanity through times like the “good war”, a monstrous absurdity.

It usually takes a while.  Then we get leaders who have never seen the horror of war — some have assiduously avoided it — and the cycle starts again.

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Americas

To Impeach Or Not To Impeach? That Is The Question

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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Robert Mueller let loose a thunderbolt midweek.  Donald Trump had not been charged, he said, because it was Department of Justice policy not to charge a sitting president.  Dumping the issue firmly into Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lap, he reminded us of the purpose of the impeachment process.  According to Mueller there are ten instances where there are serious issues with the president obstructing justice adding that his report never concludes that Trump is innocent.

So here is a simple question:  If Mueller thought the president is not innocent but he did not charge him because of Justice Department policy, and he appears also to favor impeachment, then why in heaven’s name did he not simply state in his report that the preponderance of evidence indicated Trump was guilty?

Nancy Pelosi is wary of impeachment.  According to the rules, the House initiates it and when/if  it finds sufficient grounds, it forwards the case to the Senate for a formal trial.  The Senate at present is controlled by Republicans, who have been saying it’s time to move on, often adding that after two years of investigation and a 448-page report, what is the point of re-litigating the issue?  They have a point and again it leads to the question:  if Special Counsel Mueller thinks Trump is guilty as he now implies, why did he not actually say so?

Never one to miss any opportunity , Trump labels Mueller, highly conflicted, and blasts impeachment as ‘a dirty, filthy, disgusting word’,  He has also stopped Don McGahn, a special counsel at the White House from testifying before Congress invoking ‘executive privilege’ — a doctrine designed to keep private the president’s consultations with his advisors.  While not cited anywhere in the Constitution, the Supreme Court has held it to be ‘fundamental to the operation of government and inextricably rooted in the Separation of Powers under the Constitution.’  Separation of powers keeps apart the executive branch, the legislature and the judiciary, meaning each one cannot interfere with the other.

Nancy Pelosi is under increasing pressure from the young firebrands.  Rep Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez has already expressed the view that it is time to open an impeachment inquiry against Trump given the obstruction of lawmakers’ oversight duty.

Speaker Pelosi is a long-time politician with political blood running through her veins — her father was Mayor of Baltimore and like herself also a US Representative.  To her the situation as is, is quite appealing.  Trump’s behavior fires up Democrats across the country and they respond by emptying their pockets to defeat the Republicans in 2020.  Democratic coffers benefit so why harm this golden goose — a bogeyman they have an excellent chance of defeating — also evident from the numbers lining up to contest the Democratic presidential primaries, currently at 24. 

Will Trump be impeached?  Time will tell but at present it sure doesn’t look likely.

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Americas

When Republicans Are In Power, Banks, Real Estate, and Insurance Companies Crush The People

Rahul D. Manchanda, Esq.

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There is certainly a correlation by and between when conservatives and Republicans talk about “de-regulation” and “freedom” of business, in the outright and total crushing of the American people underneath a boot of immorality.

For example, insurance companies will start to increase the use dishonest and unethical “adjustors” to set out to deny lawful proper claims for insurance, such as when someone has fully paid their expensive premiums, but then is cruelly and out of hand denied much needed assistance from these insurance companies for various health problems, automobile accidents, home and renters policy mishaps, professional liability defense, general business liability assistance, property damage, and other types of accidents and mishaps that these insurance companies state that they were designed to protect their customers with.

These insurance companies know fully well that the poor and middle class do not have the ability to hire and retain competent high powered lawyers to defend their interests, either by entangling with them or in dealing with the entities that are coming after them in the above named types of life problems.

The Democrats had created and implemented such consumer watchdog agencies such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) and the New York Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) and these agencies were very successful in prosecuting, investigating, and beating back insurance company and banker predatory behavior, but then the lobbying groups for these industries began to buy and pay for Republican whores and populated the Congress and Senate with their “people,” and low and behold, we got an avalanche of “deregulation” from the Executive and Legislative Branches, gutted agencies and replacement of its leaders, all of a sudden leaving the American people at the will and hellish end of the retaliatory insurance and banking industries, and now things are worse than they ever were before.

Similarly, as the Insurance industry benefited from screwing over the American people, the Banking industry simultaneously have begun again to rape the American people, by instituting usurious collections and interest rates, sometimes as high as 50-60%, on such things as student loans in default through no fault of the borrower (due to sickness, injury, loss of employment, bankruptcy) and credit card companies now routinely rape and pillage the American people with ungodly APRs and other “bait and switch” mechanisms designed to fleece their customers, enriching themselves while impoverishing their customers.

All the while these banks and insurance companies are charging more than ever for premiums, simple day to day processes such as ATM machine usage, finance charges, late fees, and other highway robbery-type methods to steal from the American people.

The real estate industry, headed up by men such as Ben Carson of HUD, have now mercilessly began to crush tenants and mortgage holders, denying them basic warranties of safety and habitability, skirting all state and federal regulation so as to make a buck.

“Freedom” as used by Republican and conservative leaders was supposed to mean something different than giving trillion dollar international banks, real estate, and insurance companies the license to rape and pillage the American people, but “deregulation” is the proverbial “wolf in sheep’s clothing” or “trojan horse” by these communist industries to devastate the American people, and they must be reigned in once again by the Democrat led powers in the Congress and the Senate, and perhaps even the Judiciary (state and federal).

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