Hillary Clinton: The Blame Game Revisited

What HappenedHillary Clinton’s new book, entitled “What Happened,” is due out later this month.  Based on excerpts circulating on the web, Clinton blames her loss in part on Bernie Sanders for repeatedly attacking her and setting up Trump’s refrain “Crooked Hillary.”  She also questions Sanders’ Democratic credentials and asserts that she, not Bernie Sanders, is the real Democrat.

Here’s another view:  the problem with Hillary Clinton was (and continues to be) that she is totally out-of-touch with reality and with ordinary Americans, having spent far too much time raising money from big donors rather than listening to, and addressing, the concerns of ordinary Americans.

And, by most accounts, Clinton ran a terrible campaign, one that was overly differential to her as an individual, to her ego, and not the important issues of our day, such as inequality and wage stagnation.

To make matters worse, all she really had to do to win the election was to embrace the Progressive movement and send a message of unity.  Instead, her campaign worked overtime to discredit and undermine Bernie Sanders, alienating his supporters, the very people whose energy and enthusiasm she needed to get elected.

And she continues to insult the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party by declaring that she’s the real Democrat and Bernie Sanders is some sort of interloper.  Well, the policies advocated by Hilary Clinton make it seem as if she is actually a Republican, or at best, a moderate Democrat stuck in a 1990’s time warp.

I have a message for Hillary – democratic politics is changing.   There is a new Progressive movement afoot in the land.   Maybe you, and other icons of the establishment, should get on board.  In the meantime, enjoy those book royalties from people naive enough to pay good money to hear the same failed message – over and over and over again.

Here’s How Democrats Can Start Winning Elections Again

Mark Penn and Andrew Stein argue in a New York Times Op-Ed piece that Democrats should reject the “siren calls” of the left and move back to the center in order to win elections. Penn should know: From 1995 to 2008, he was the former pollster and senior adviser to those paragons of centrism, Bill and Hillary Clinton. Stein is the former president of Manhattan borough and New York City Council who was convicted of tax evasion in 2011 and endorsed Donald Trump for president last year.

The essence of their argument is not new: that Democrats have lost elections by advocating big government and failing to appeal to working class voters on the core issues they care about most: trade, immigration, jobs and the economy. In endorsing Trump, Stein wrote in a Wall Street Journal Op Ed piece: “He (Trump) is for strong pro-growth policies like reducing the marginal and corporate tax rates and eliminating thousands of job-killing and business-stifling regulations, the biggest of which is ObamaCare.”

That’s one point of view, mostly shared by Republicans and, sadly, too many so-called Democrats. Here’s another view: Democrats have lost elections because they became too centrist, caved to political expediency, and used polls to determine their positions on important issues rather than standing up for core Democratic principles. Those principles include the need to guide and regulate capitalism so the economic benefits of the economy don’t flow only to those at the very top of the income scale.

Ensuring that economic benefits are fairly distributed is not “big government” or “job killing regulation” as many Republicans and corporate Democrats, such as Penn and Stein, would have you believe. It’s fair government and we need more, not less of it.

When Democrats stand-up for equality and opportunity for all, without equivocation, in plain language, as they did in the earlier times after W.W. II and, more recently, as part of the Bernie Sanders campaign, maybe they will regain the mantle as “the Party of the People” and start winning elections again.

Are We Witnessing the Birth of a New Progressive Party?

TR 1902 State of the Union

Princeton Professor Cornel West and some former Bernie Sanders campaign staffers are trying to convince Sanders to lead a third party, a progressive “People’s Party.” Sanders has said he intends to work within the Democratic Party to bring about reform, but he has left open the door just a crack if the Democratic Party doesn’t get its act together.

But that just doesn’t seem to be happening: Lately, we have Hillary Clinton going around saying her loss in the November election was essentially everyone’s fault but her own. Former President Barack Obama may be even more tone deaf than Clinton, accepting a $400,000 “honorarium” for a speech to Wall Street bankers. Other Democrats seem content to simply oppose Donald Trump rather than put forth their own positive vision for moving the country forward.

The leadership of the Democratic Party just doesn’t seem to get it: it is time for real change, not more of the same-old, same-old coalition politics that courts the professional class at big donor fundraisers, but refuses to address (or even acknowledge) the concerns of millions of poor and working class Americans struggling to feed their families and make ends meet.

Perhaps Cornel West is right. A third party may be needed to give the Democrats a much needed wake-up call. The downside is that a third party could potentially split the Democratic vote and result in Republican victories in the short-term. Longer term, however, it might prove to be the only way to jolt the Democrats from their politics-as-usual, middle-of-the-road stupor.

Back at the turn of the 20th century, America had a third party – The Progressive Party – led by Teddy Roosevelt. The Progressives fundamentally altered the direction of American politics, simultaneously taking on the corporate “robber barons” and the corrupt, patronage ridden political machines that ruled the big American cities of the Northeast.

The Progressives sought to radically reform government, to professionalize it; to make it more efficient; to make it work for the people. And they largely succeeded.

Maybe the Democrats need to take a lesson from history and broaden their message: Big government is not evil, as Republicans have argued. Rather it is inefficient government captured by modern day corporate robber barons that is part of what has made American democracy so dysfunctional.

We can and must do better. Taking a lesson from Teddy Roosevelt and the Progressives of the early 20th century is not a bad place to start.

Has the Party of the People Become the Party of the Elite?

2016 Presidential Election Map

Once upon a time, the Democratic Party was the “Party of the People” and Republicans represented the well-to-do. Over time, that seems to have changed, probably starting with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 with the help of so-called “Reagan Democrats.”

2016electiontableToday, the shift in party alignments is evident in the polling numbers. As shown in the accompanying table, in states where Clinton is leading, the median household income is $64,634; in states where Trump is leading, median household incomes are significantly lower – $52,382.

Just as troubling for Democrats, perhaps, is that in “Toss Up” states, the demographics appear to favor Trump. Household incomes, the percentage of minority voters and educational attainment levels in Toss Up states more closely track to those states in which Trump, rather than Clinton, is ahead in the polls.

This is going to be a close election. The numbers suggest that to win Democrats are going to have to broaden their appeal to the very “People” the Party has left behind over decades of rightward drift.

A good place to start would be in the presidential debates beginning tonight. It would be nice to see Hillary Clinton step up to the podium and, instead of playing Trump’s game of negativity and fear mongering, reach out to people of all income levels and project of vision of how she is going to revive the economy so it works for everyone, not just a privileged elite.

An Open Letter to Bernie Sanders: Thank You for Your Leadership

BernieSandersWithRaised_CroppedVer2Dear Bernie:

Got your Letter entitled “Transforming The Democratic Party.”  Completely agree that this election is not just about who wins the nomination, but about the future of the Democratic Party and the Nation.

In recent years, Democrats have lost down-ballot elections on a massive scale.  Even though a plurality of Americans identify as Democrats, Republicans control both houses of Congress and the majority of governorships and state houses.

Democrats have been ineffective in challenging anti-government and “supply-side” propaganda and countering Republican orthodoxy on issues such as taxes and gun control.

The Democratic Party platform is more an amalgam of justifications for current policies – not a blueprint for meaningful reform.  Mainstream Democrats, including President Obama and Hillary Clinton, often seem as if they are in denial.  They fail to acknowledge that excessive money in politics has created a rigged election system and an economy that is working only for those at the top of the income scale.

At a time when wages have stagnated, and more and more Americans are finding it difficult to find decent paying jobs and make ends meet, many in Democratic leadership positions seem intent on asking us to believe that all is well – it will just take a few tweaks to the existing system to make things right again.

Bernie, you have shown the ability to lead with a bold, clear message emphasizing that the system needs, not minor tweaks, but major reforms.  Among other things, we need to take excessive money out of politics; fight rising poverty levels; make education affordable all, and stimulate broad-based economic growth that benefits all the people, not a privileged few.

Your direct message has energized voters, particularly the young.  You have proven that you can compete by raising money in small dollar contributions from real people, not special interests.

That’s the future of the Democratic Party – engaging voters at the grassroots level by fighting for real reform – by letting people know we will no longer tolerate a system that favors special interests over the poor and working people of this country.

You have made an historic contribution to the future of our Party and the Nation.  Regardless of who wins the nomination, as President or as Senator from Vermont, we hope you will work to help rebuild the Democratic Party and make it once again into a vital and progressive force in American politics.

Thank you for your leadership, now and in the future.


John Conlow


Hillary – Time to Show Bernie a Little Love

DemocratsUnitWithLoveAfter her decisive win in New York, Hillary Clinton is the “presumptive” Democratic nominee for President, according to many in the mainstream media.

Still, the electoral terrain going forward is mostly Northeast and West Coast states that are favorable to Bernie. It may be a long shot that he overtakes Hillary in the delegate count, but he will keep it close.

Meantime, Bernie is running virtually even with Hillary in the national polls, an astounding 35% gain in just about 10 months. For her part, Hillary has been losing support at almost as fast a pace, and her “unfavorable” rating among Democratic and Republican candidates going back to 1992 is second only to – you guessed it – Donald Trump.

So Bernie will almost certainly compete all the way to the Democratic convention in July, and the nomination itself likely will be contested.

On the surface, the contest is about who will be the nominee. But, behind the scenes, there is already a big debate taking shape about the future of the Democratic Party. It is about how to harness the energy and enthusiasm that Bernie has generated, particularly among the young, not just to win the Presidency, but to take back Congress and the state houses. That’s the only way to really “Get Things Done,” as Hillary likes to say.

Given the acrimony that has characterized the campaign of late, Hillary may be tempted to forsake Bernie and his supporters, to go it alone against the Republicans.

That would be a mistake.

The Republican attack machine is already gearing up to tear her down, and it won’t be that difficult given her negatives. Even if she wins against the likes of Donald Trump, she and the Democratic brand could be permanently damaged, and it will be difficult, if not impossible, to get anything done for years to come.

Hillary can help avoid that scenario. Among other things, she can call off her surrogate attack dogs, praise Bernie in public, and reach out to him behind the scenes to develop a common, progressive agenda that brings the Democratic Party together around a bold vision for the future.

With this Congress, most of the things likely to “Get Done” will only exacerbate income inequality and make matters worse for the poor and working classes of this country. That’s where Bernie and his supporters come in – it’s about the long haul – taking back Congress and changing the fundamental direction of the Democratic Party and the Nation.

Many Democrats are exhorting Bernie to stop criticizing Hillary to avoid further damaging her prospects in the general election. And that is probably not a bad idea.

But Hillary also needs to do her bit by showing Bernie (and his supporters) a little love.

Join the Revolution – Bernie Sanders for President

Get a Flyer to Hand-Out

democrticdonkey_cropped2Mainstream Democrats pander to Wall Street and fail to stand-up and oppose unnecessary and counter-productive foreign wars.

For decades, Democrats have acquiesced in regressive tax policies resulting in huge tax breaks for the wealthy at the expense of the poor and working class.

Democrats, like Republicans, accept big money donations from corporations and special interests. The result is government policy skewed in favor of the rich while wages for average Americans stagnate.

These problems are fixable. Among other things, the Democratic Party must:

·        Overturn Citizens United, cap political contributions at reasonable levels and encourage small donations ·        Invest in our crumbling infrastructure to create good paying jobs and stimulate economic growth
·        Raise tax rates on high wage earners and “unearned” income such as dividends and capital gains ·        Invest in people –  citizens have a right to a decent education, job training and quality health care.  Medicare for All!

These are not radical new ideas. They are common sense policies, similar to ones championed by Democrats since the days of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. Starting in the 1980’s, however, the party lost its way. Not only did Democrats fail to oppose Republican “think tanks” spewing supply side propaganda, they tacitly bought into the premise that government is bad and only private enterprise can lead the way to growth and prosperity.

We need government that works for the people.

Only one candidate has consistently championed progressive policies designed to support the poor and working classes of this country.

Bernie-Sanders-164x230_KPFAorgBernie Sanders for President