March for Farmworker Justice

Joined farmworkers and their supporters on Day 13 of their march. It began on Long Island and concludes in Albany – New York state’s capital – later this week. Yesterday we walked (at a pretty good pace) 13 miles to Kingston, NY. It was very hot and humid, but no one complained, in fact, we had good fun along the way and were welcomed by honking horns from passing cars and applause from bystanders. By the end I could claim two sore feet, but whatever discomfort I felt eased as I hoisted a freezer chilled IPA – named Road to Ruin – to my lips and poured promptly down my throat.

On a more serious note, I couldn’t help but recall that I got my start (as did many other young people at the time) in social activism with the grape boycott organized by Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers Union not quite 50 years ago. The struggle continues.

Dylan at 75

Couple days late, but happy birthday to the songwriter and poet extraordinaire – Bob Dylan

Should Sanders take the fight all the way to the convention?

A good friend of many years wrote to me last week arguing that Hillary Clinton has the lion’s share of the responsibility to unify the Democratic Party. Hillary, he said, must substantively reach out to Bernie in both words and practical deeds soon if she has any hope of getting elected.

I agreed with him, but I also see the process of how that has to happen a little bit differently. I would argue that it is imperative that both sides – Sanders as well as Clinton – show a spirit of compromise and accent their common battle against Trump, not hostility toward each other. Hillary should soon make meaningful concessions to Bernie, but Bernie and his supporters should realize that they can’t expect all of their demands to be met either. They too have to bend.

Let’s not forget that Bernie, notwithstanding all the claims and protests of his supporters, was the loser in this contest. Hillary was the winner – in both votes cast and delegates won.

The best scenario, as I see it, would be for Bernie to give up his run for the nomination after the last vote is cast on June 14 in the D.C. primary. At that time, he can (and should) continue to press his case on other issues – the party platform, convention rules, delegate seating, his role, and so on. But to continue his campaign for the nomination all the way up to the convention in late July, however, strikes me as a dangerous roll of the dice.

Trump could easily be the big winner, while Hillary and the American people could be the biggest losers. In that event, Bernie and his movement wouldn’t escape without paying a heavy price too. Their image and reputation would be badly tarnished. Much of the good will, enthusiasm, and promise that his candidacy generated could vanish in a flash. To brush off this possibility, as some do, is either naive or irresponsible.

Not everyone agrees, which come as no big surprise. In fact, many of his supporters say that Sanders should stay in the nomination hunt all the way to Philadelphia. Turn it into a floor fight at the convention, they argue. Any exit before then, they claim, would undercut his leverage on other matters being deliberated, not to mention any chance of securing the nomination. O’Lord, this too is misguided, in fact badly so.

To begin with, Hillary, barring something unforeseen, has a lock on the nomination. It is dreaming to think that Bernie has a viable pathway at this point. Admittedly, dreams have a place in politics, but only if they have some basis in reality. This one doesn’t. It’s pure fantasy.

Furthermore, the reality – not the dream – is that Bernie could drop out tomorrow and he would still have plenty of leverage at the convention on everything, except for who carries the presidential timber for the Democratic Party this fall. Again, that has been decided for all practical purposes.

Contrary to what some of Bernie’s boosters contend, his leverage doesn’t rest mainly on his delegate count. It stems largely from the legions of enthusiastic voters who supported him in the primaries and whose support Hillary needs this fall if she is to beat Trump. And no one knows this better than Clinton herself.

Finally, a refusal to concede the nomination to Hillary prior to the convention is the wrong fight to pick. Other fights are far more important. It will result in – not creative tensions (which are part of any broad, diverse, and dynamic coalition) – but sharp and lasting divisions at the convention and beyond, which will help no one – not Hillary, not Bernie, not their supporters, not the effort to defeat Trump, not the struggles to come in the years ahead.

Imagine what it will look like to tens of millions of TV viewers watching the convention (and what the implications will be for popular struggles going forward), if Bernie’s overwhelmingly white and youthful delegates are at loggerheads with Hilary’s Black, Latino, women, and trade union delegates over who the standard bearer will be. While the movement around Bernie is an incredible breath of fresh air and cause for optimism about the future, its potential will be realized only if it is able to build a “durable alliance” with the main class and social constituencies that are at the core of any transformational movement that has the capacity to effect a “new burst” of freedom, equality, economic security, ecological sustainability, and peace.

Right now most of those forces are attached to Clinton’s campaign, not Sanders’ movement. But that fact – especially as it applies to African-American and other people of color – seems to receive little attention from Bernie and his supporters. The energy, boldness, and imagination of youth, it goes without saying, is vital to the success of any movement and livable future, but it can’t substitute for the power, experience, and understanding of a broad multi-racial, male and female, working class-based people’s coalition.

One final thought of this wordy reply: uniting their two divergent streams of voters against Trump is the main strategic challenge as Bernie, Hillary, and their respective camps approach the convention. My guess is that Bernie, Hillary and the vast majority of their supporters are disposed toward unity, albeit not arrived at in a formal way, but rather in the course of a give-and-take debate, with a dollop or two of tension, and a good measure of creativity and compromise. Of course, everybody isn’t of that mind.

On the one hand, overly-zealous supporters of Clinton in the top (and lower) circles of the Democratic Party are inclined to freeze out rather than welcome Bernie and his delegates to the convention. And, on the other hand, the main organizing principle of too many of Bernie’s supporters is to turn up the temperature no matter what the circumstances or challenges. Politics for them is about nothing but militant and righteous talk devoid of any consideration of the larger dynamics, balance of power, and dangers of this moment.

Hopefully though, the tone, agenda, deliberations, and outcome of the convention will not depend on either of these two groups, but rather on what the two candidates – Hillary and Bernie – and the rest of their supporters do and say.

Hillary, if she is smart, will tip her hat and extend a hand to Bernie long before they meet in Philadelphia. And Bernie, if he’s serious about advancing a progressive agenda, will respond accordingly.


Other Voices on Democratic Party Primary

Harold Meyerson in American Prospect: I write this as a strong Sanders supporter (albeit one who never thought he could win the nomination), as a lifelong democratic socialist (indeed, for some years, Bernie and I were probably the two most out-of-the-closet socialists in D.C.) who’s been astounded and thrilled by Sanders’s success so far in pushing the national and Democratic discourse to the left. I write this with the hope that the Sanders legions can come out of this election year with the networks and organizations that can reshape the American economic and political order—bolstering workers’ power, altering corporate governance, diminishing the scope of finance. But to do that effectively, they’ll have to make common cause with progressives who’ve backed Hillary Clinton, most particularly with the unions that have backed her for strategic reasons but also know that their very survival depends on overturning the grotesque economic and political arrangements that have decimated the middle class.

Eugene Robinson in Washington Post: Bernie Sanders is playing a dangerous game. If he and his campaign continue their scorched-earth attacks against the Democratic Party, they will succeed in only one thing: electing Donald Trump as president.

I say this as someone who shares much of Sanders’s political philosophy; I, too, for example, see health care as a basic right. He has run a remarkable and historically significant campaign, pulling the party to the left and pumping it full of new progressive vigor. His crowds are almost as big as Trump’s and perhaps even more enthusiastic. Most important, he has brought legions of young people into the political process.

But he hasn’t won the nomination.

Hillary Clinton has an insurmountable lead in pledged delegates, earned by her performance in primaries and caucuses. In the aggregate, she leads Sanders by about 3 million votes. The will of the party is clear: More Democrats prefer Clinton over Sanders as their nominee.”

Joan Walsh in Nation: The defections of some supporters, the increased skepticism of even once-friendly cable hosts, and a rebuke by Politifact isn’t fatal to Sanders’s campaign, of course. What will be fatal to Sanders’s future as a mass-movement leader—as opposed to the messiah of an angry, heavily white, and male cult—is his continued insistence that his enemy now is not so much the corporate overlords, or income inequality, or the big banks, but a corrupt Democratic Party, epitomized by Wall Street flunkie Hillary Clinton, that has “rigged” the election to thwart him—as he raged in a tone-deaf speech Tuesday night, as cable news was showing the texted death threats to Roberta Lange in the background (which Sanders did not even mention … And in Thursday’s New York Times, Sanders campaign leaders and their supporters said they plan to escalate their attacks on Clinton and the party. Top strategist Tad Devine insisted he’s “not thinking about” whether the attacks will hurt Clinton in her battle against Trump; they will do what they can to run up his delegate count, especially in California.

Facebook post of John Case: I was asked why I don’t just go ahead and endorse Hillary. If she is nominated, of course, I will. And without reservation. I am, at my age, completely comfortable with accusations of “lesser-evilism” — and utterly numb to the affection in some left circles for “glorious defeats” or “feet firmly planted in mid-air victories”. Those with the luxury to avoid the personal pains and oppressions of the “greater evil” enjoy a privilege most working families do not.


Canada’s Joni Mitchell

The great Joni Mitchell combining the political/ecological and personal:

“Hey farmer, farmer put away that DDT now, give me spots on my apples, but leave me the birds and bees.”

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