Can Bernie Sanders win the primary?

Ryan Cole, studied Ancient Greek and Roman Historians & Law

This is a subject I’ve been analyzing a lot lately — not necessarily as to whether he can win the primary, because arguably anything can happen (gander at the White House today if you will) but what exactly Bernie Sanders would have to do to push through the Democratic nomination. It’s best to start with the disadvantages the Senator has ahead of him.

  1. He is hated by lobbyists, corporate donors & neoliberal quarters.
    Now arguably, this was his biggest advantage going into 2016. The easy contrast of Sanders, reformist despised by the establishment and Hillary, successor coronated by that same corrupt establishment, was Bernie’s most effective weapon. It made polling unpredictable — it gave him swing conservative-leaning party voters, it won him the midwest in overwhelming numbers. It turned an obscure issues-based candidacy into a genuine hail mary for the nomination. But this time, he is not running against the single successor of the establishment — his competition is a very broad, very diverse field of candidates. This means that conservative voters who hated Clinton-era corruption have untainted centrists to choose from. Genuine leftists have a variety of ranges of “left” candidates to choose from. Which means Bernie is no longer the clear choice for many, which leads us to our next disadvantage…
  2. Because of this, mainstream cable & print news outlets throttle him.
    Just take a look at the headlines. While some candidates clearly receive favorable coverage — “Buttigieg in 4th, but a strong 4th” Bernie is typically spammed by rapid negative coverage and, very rarely, positive coverage toned with surprise to convey the general message that, “yes, this may be good for him, but it’s an outlier”. And this is provided that he gets any coverage at all. When Bernie had a heart attack, virtually every outlet in existence covered it and called for him to drop out instantly (before it was even confirmed as a heart attack) — but when Bernie had a record-breaking rally larger than any in the field and, in the same day, received some of the most coveted endorsements in politics? Hardly anything! And this is much more damaging to him than it was in 2016, because frankly, other closely-aligned leftist candidates are not receiving such stifling coverage and in some cases are being treated positively. This means that on policy alone, Warren’s agenda is featured heavily, whereas Bernie’s, though just as if not more comprehensive, is hardly ever covered by outlets. This makes Bernie appear to be the “words” candidate, while Warren looks like the “policy” candidate.
  3. A following “off-the-grid”.
    Bernie undoubtedly has a very large following. And while it’s abundantly clear that it is extremely dedicated, pushing him to the very top of the fundraising field through small dollar donations alone while some opponents take corporate and Super PAC bundles by the millions, polls do matter. Voters often select candidates strategically, and the overwhelming message of the year is “remove Trump from office” — the impeachment inquiry, which will fail, only solidifies that sentiment. Strategy voting is going to be a very strong factor this election. When polls come out showing Bernie in 3rd and 4th, it looks very bad, and it is very bad. But there is more to that low performance than meets the eye — Bernie sunk drastically in the polls when doing as much as 5 rallies a day in rural, downtrodden working class areas. While his small dollar donors went up, his polling went down. What gives? Bernie’s agenda appeals the most to infrequent voters, unlikely voters like the youth demographic, the minority youth demographic, the poor and the unemployed. Polls define outcomes by typical turnout, and so often ignore these demographics or hardly feature them because they don’t vote frequently. This means that Bernie’s campaign is certainly going to outperform the polls, but the question is how many strategic voters he will lose in the process.
  4. A contested convention.
    The dreaded “super-delegates” are inbound to make a return. The DNC, which had only partially removed super-delegates from the primary, snuck in some back-door rules which basically employs all super-delegates to the vote if a candidate doesn’t win the primary in a de-facto landslide. The first election will occur under the “First Ballot”, and if it’s contested (ie if it’s remotely close) the DNC will move to a “Second Ballot” which is given to super-delegates as the deciding vote. This means that Bernie doesn’t just need to win, he needs to win decisively, or else he loses it all — and worse, likely to a candidate that wasn’t voted in by a majority of Democratic voters. This means that Warren and Sanders both being in the race is made all the more devastating for hopes of a progressive nomination, because by challenging one another’s voter blocs, they could be very well giving the nomination to Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg, who is already courting super-delegates for this very possibility.
  5. A disloyal party.
    We return to the first disadvantage — the establishment despises him. And by raising candidates like Buttigieg strictly with the intention of preventing Sanders a decisive victory, they have shown they will stop at no means to prevent his administration. Already, top partisan officials have admitted that they may even support the Republican nominee over him — and this is coming from party officials. Imagine if someone like AOC, while in office, were to threaten to support Trump over Biden! They would be disavowed from the party instantly. Pelosi and Schumer’s tolerance of insubordination and threats towards Sanders is by all means silent encouragement, and a very ominous warning from the DNC. We can be certain that Democrat-leaning lobbyists and PACs will flood toward Trump if Bernie wins the nomination. We can then also be certain that they are doing everything in their power, today, to prevent him from winning the nomination. The DNC may well give up an election to hold Sanders from the White House, so legally employing super-delegates, directing the media and flooding the primary race to stop him isn’t so far-fetched as it once might have seemed.

If he can march through all of this, then he has a very firm chance at winning the nomination. It will be incredibly hard: the tools being utilized to stop him from gaining momentum are like an arsenal of the most despicable things about DC, all coalescing behind closed doors and targeting a single candidate. And really, Iowa will tell it all — if he outperforms the polls and wins Iowa in a way that forces the media to admit failure and shows the strategic base that he is, tactically speaking, the “Trump of the Democrats” — then it’s looking very, very good for Bernie 2020.

The impeachment crisis and American imperialism

By Patrick Martin

November 21, 2019 “Information Clearing House” –  Wednesday’s public hearing on the impeachment of President Trump featured the US ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, who testified that, contrary to the White House narrative, there had been a “quid pro quo” in Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

Trump, Sondland said, offered military aid and an invitation to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to visit the White House in return for an announcement by Zelensky of an investigation into the activities of the Democratic National Committee in Ukraine in 2016 and the role of Hunter Biden. Biden was paid $50,000 a month by a large Ukrainian gas company while his father, then the vice president, was point man for Ukrainian policy in the Obama administration.

Sondland’s appearance was trumpeted by the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee and most of the media as a “smoking gun” against Trump. Sondland was even compared to John Dean, the White House counsel whose testimony against Richard Nixon in the Watergate scandal paved the way to Nixon’s resignation to avoid certain impeachment.

The testimony of John Dean, however, was part of the uncovering of a major attack on the democratic rights of the American people. The break-in at the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate complex, carried out by ex-CIA agents working for Nixon, was the outcome of a protracted campaign of political spying and repression directed against Vietnam War protesters, the former military official Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, and other political opponents.

There are no such issues of democratic rights in the conflict between Trump and the Democrats, who are acting as the political front men for the CIA and other sections of the national security apparatus. The significance of Sondland’s testimony lies not in what he revealed about Trump, but in his account of the everyday relationship between American imperialism and Ukraine, a small, dependent nation that has been turned into a vassal state by successive administrations in Washington.

The president of Ukraine is told by American diplomats exactly what words he must use and what promises he must make to appease his overlord in Washington. When President Zelensky offers to have his chief prosecutor make a statement along the lines demanded by Trump, he is told that he himself must make the statement, and it must be televised so that he is on the record. He is told to jump, and exactly how high.

In that respect, there is no difference whatsoever between Trump’s conduct in 2019 and the actions of his Democratic nemesis, Vice President Biden, in 2016. Biden traveled to Ukraine and told its government that Washington was withholding $1 billion in promised aid until certain actions were taken, including the firing of a corrupt national prosecutor. Biden even boasted in a US television interview that within six hours of his delivering that ultimatum the Ukrainian president had sacked the official.

Apologists for the Democrats and Biden will insist that Biden was carrying out official US government policy, in the interests of US “national security,” whereas Trump was looking out for his personal interests, seeking dirt on a potential election rival. This argument is questionable even on its own terms, since the prosecutor whose firing Biden demanded had control over the corruption investigation into the gas company Burisma, which was lavishly paying Biden’s son.

But there is a more fundamental issue: What was the “national security” interest that Biden was upholding? Why is the United States supplying vast quantities of military aid and weaponry to Ukraine? It is part of the effort by American imperialism, carried out over two decades, to turn Ukraine into an American puppet state directed against Russia.

For all the claims by the Democrats that they are shocked by Trump seeking “foreign interference” in the 2020 presidential election, every presidential election in Ukraine since 2004 has been characterized by massive foreign interference, particularly by the United States. One US official boasted in 2013 that Washington had expended more than $5 billion on its operations to install a pliable anti-Russian regime in Kiev.

Detaching Ukraine from Russia has been a key US foreign policy objective since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Ukraine and Russia were the two largest components of the USSR. They share a land border of more than 2,000 kilometers and economies that were once closely integrated. Thirty percent of the Ukrainian people speak Russian as their first language, including the vast majority of the population of Crimea and the eastern Ukrainian region now controlled by pro-Russian forces.

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In both World War I and World War II, German imperialism made the seizure of Ukraine, with its rich soil and proximity to the oilfields of the Caucasus, a key strategic objective. The largest number of Soviet Jews massacred as part of the Holocaust were killed in Ukraine, in atrocities such as Babi Yar, the ravine outside Kiev where 34,000 Jews were machine-gunned, and Odessa, where 50,000 Jews were slaughtered.

American imperialism is seeking to do what German imperialism failed twice to accomplish: use Ukraine as a launching pad for political subversion and military violence against Russia. Behind the backs of the American people, with little or no public discussion, the US government has been shipping large quantities of arms and other war materiel to Ukraine, in an operation that brings with it the increasing danger of a direct US military collision with Russia, a conflict between the two powers that between them deploy most of the world’s nuclear weapons.

The impeachment hearings have focused on anti-Trump witnesses who are themselves key participants in this reactionary foreign policy, and who speak in the Orwellian language of American imperialism. They define “democracy” in Ukraine in terms of the degree to which Ukraine’s government agrees to serve as an instrument of American foreign policy. They hail the so-called “Revolution of Dignity” in which an elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, was overthrown because he was viewed as an obstacle to the anti-Russia campaign. They salute fascistic figures like Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, sponsor of the notorious Azov Battalion, which marches under modified swastikas and celebrates the Ukrainians who collaborated with the Nazis in World War II.

Nothing of this political reality is so much as hinted at in the coverage of the impeachment hearings by either the pro-Trump or anti-Trump corporate media. On the contrary, the presumption is that the foreign policy of the United States government is aimed at the promotion of freedom and democracy and opposed to Russia because Russian President Vladimir Putin is a tyrant.

The role of US imperialism in Ukraine, however, is only one example of the depredations of American imperialism throughout the world, in which countless tyrants and fascists—like Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro—are aligned with the CIA, the Pentagon and the State Department.

Nor is the cavalier attitude of the US government to Ukrainian sovereignty an exception. There is no difference between Washington’s role in Ukraine in 2014, its intervention against the Rajapakse government in Sri Lanka in 2015, its backing for the abortive military coup in Turkey in 2016, or its support for the overthrow of Evo Morales in Bolivia today.

Weaker nations whose rulers get in the way of American imperialism will pay the price, and in some cases, as in Iraq, Venezuela, Syria and Libya—all countries where oil wealth is a major consideration—the result can be invasion, occupation, military coup or a combination of all three.

Washington has its hands around the throats of the Ukrainian people. The issue is not whether this stranglehold is being used for improper “personal” ends by Trump, as the Democrats allege, rather than for the purposes laid down by the national security establishment. The issue is the intervention of the American and international working class to free the Ukrainian people, and the population of the world, from the deadly grip of Wall Street and the Pentagon

This article was originally published by “WSWS” – 

Copyright © 1998-2019 World Socialist Web Site – All rights reserved

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Elizabeth Warren endorses Trump’s war on Venezuela, soft-pedals far-right Bolivia coup

In a nauseating interview on Pod Save America, Elizabeth Warren endorsed suffocating US sanctions on Venezuela, backing Trump’s strategy to stop its “ability to have an economy” while parroting neocon regime-change myths. She then whitewashed the far-right military coup in Bolivia.

By Ben Norton

November 21, 2019 “Information Clearing House” –  For the millions of Venezuelans suffering under a suffocating US blockade, there is no functional difference between Donald Trump and Elizabeth Warren. In fact, the liberal Democratic presidential candidate has enthusiastically endorsed the far-right president’s strategy of relentless warfare against Venezuela and its nearly 30 million inhabitants.

After praising the US government’s sanctions on Venezuela, which violate international law and have led to the preventable deaths of tens of thousands of civilians, Warren went on whitewash the far-right military coup in Bolivia, where the Trump administration has helped put racist Christian extremists and actual fascists in power.

Warren’s eagerness for economic war on Caracas earned her the recognition of right-wing news websites like The Federalist, which gleefully emphasized that “Elizabeth Warren Agrees With Trump’s Strategy In Venezuela.”

The Massachusetts senator wanted to show off her foreign policy bona fides in a softball interview with a former Barack Obama administration apparatchik on the podcast Pod Save America, which is known for its centrist politics and close links to Hillary Clinton.

Warren praised Trump’s strategy of appointing the deflated Venezuelan coup leader Juan Guaidó as president and declared, “I support economic sanctions.” She also described the country’s democratically elected President Nicolás Maduro as a “dictator.”

In the interview, the Democratic presidential candidate agreed wholeheartedly with her host Tommy Vietor, who previously served as a spokesperson for President Obama and the US National Security Council.

Both spread lie after lie about Venezuela, based on hyperbolic corporate media myths.

Although the interview was conducted back in February, video clips have recently resurfaced and gone viral on social media.

Warren: “I support economic sanctions” and coup leader Guaidó

Tommy Vietor, an implacable critic of Donald Trump and a prominent symbol of the liberal self-declared “Resistance,” kicked off the interview segment singing the praises of the far-right president’s strategy of economically and diplomatically strangling Venezuela.

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“The Trump administration has recognized the National Assembly president Juan Guaidó as the president, and encouraged a bunch of other countries to follow suit, in frankly what was a pretty impressive diplomatic play by them,” Vietor applauded — failing to mention that more than 80 percent of Venezuelans had never heard of Guaidó at the time Washington anointed him as the unelected head of state.

“Mm hmm,” Warren uttered in agreement, echoing Vietor’s endorsement of the Trump administration for attempting to install Guaidó through a coup.

Trump “also sanctioned Venezuela’s oil industry, which is a major step to cut off all their supply of dollars and their ability to have an economy,” Vietor continued.

Warren chimed in: “Start with the fact that Maduro is obviously a dictator; he’s terrible; he’s stolen this election; it’s a nightmare for the people of Venezuela.”

The Democratic presidential candidate, who portrays herself as a progressive, proceeded to endorse all of the major planks of the Trump administration’s hybrid war against Venezuela.

“This notion of using our diplomatic tools, I’m all for it,” she continued. “I think recognition [of Guaidó], I think getting our allies to do it; it’s a way to bring diplomatic pressure.”

“Economic sanctions? Yeah, I support economic sanctions,” Warren added. “But we have to offer humanitarian help at the same time.”

“We should be leading the international community to get help to those people,” she said of Venezuelan migrants. “That puts more pressure on Maduro,” Warren boasted.

The Democratic presidential candidate made it clear that she would continue the hybrid war on Venezuela, which has caused large numbers of Venezuelans to leave the country, while also incentivizing Venezuelans to leave the country with promises of aid on the other side of the border. In other words, Warren pledged to exacerbate Venezuela’s migration crisis, which is already at epidemic levels thanks to crushing US sanctions.

A study published in April by economists Jeffrey Sachs and Mark Weisbrot at the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that US sanctions on Venezuela, which are illegal under international law, caused at least 40,000 deaths from 2017 to 2018.

“The sanctions are depriving Venezuelans of lifesaving medicines, medical equipment, food, and other essential imports,” said Weisbrot.

Warren has promised to continue lethal sanctions, fueling more migration from Venezuela, but simultaneously boosting aid — just like liberal war hawks who supported the international proxy war on Syria, which created millions of refugees, while pledging to help those displaced people.

The only Trump tactic Warren disapproved of was his “saber-rattling,” referencing his belligerent tone. Instead of threatening direct military intervention, Warren argued, the United States should continue polices of hybrid and economic warfare to destabilize Venezuela’s leftist government.

And Washington should continue this hybrid warfare while “working with our allies,” she stressed, in a way “that increases the pressure on Maduro.”

While demonizing Venezuelan President Maduro, who was first elected in 2013 and then re-elected in 2018, host Tommy Vietor and Elizabeth Warren went on to praise German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is from a center-right religious party.

Critics pointed out that Merkel has been in power since 2005, but is not demonized as a dictator.

Warren reiterates her neoconservative policies against Venezuela

Elizabeth Warren repeated her support for regime change in Venezuela in an interview in September with the Council on Foreign Relations, a central gear in the machinery of the military-industrial complex.

“Maduro is a dictator and a crook who has wrecked his country’s economy, dismantled its democratic institutions, and profited while his people suffer,” Warren declared.

She referred to Maduro’s elected government as a “regime” and called for “supporting regional efforts to negotiate a political transition.”

Echoing the rhetoric of neoconservatives in Washington, Warren called for “contain[ing]” the supposedly “damaging and destabilizing actions” of China, Russia, and Cuba.

The only point where Warren diverged with Trump was on her insistence that “there is no U.S. military option in Venezuela.”

Elizabeth Warren soft-pedals the far-right coup in Bolivia

While Warren endorsed Trump’s hybrid war on Venezuela, she more recently whitewashed the US-backed coup in Bolivia.

On November 10, the US government backed a far-right military coup against Bolivia’s democratically elected President Evo Morales, a leftist from the popular Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party and the first Indigenous head of state in a country where nearly two-thirds of the population is Native.

Warren refused to comment on the putsch for more than a week, even as the far-right military junta massacred dozens of protesters and systematically purged and detained elected left-wing politicians from MAS.

Finally, eight days after the coup, Warren broke her silence. In a short tweet, the putative progressive presidential candidate tepidly requested “free and fair elections” and calling on the “interim leadership” to prepare an “early, legitimate election.”

What Warren did not mention is that this “interim leadership” she helped legitimize is headed by an extreme right-wing Christian fundamentalist, the unelected “interim president” Jeanine Añez.

Añez has referred to Bolivia’s majority-Indigenous population as “satanic” and immediately moved to try to overturn the country’s progressive constitution, which had established an inclusive, secular, plurinational state after receiving an overwhelming democratic mandate in a 2009 referendum.

Añez’s ally in this coup regime’s interim leadership is Luis Fernando Camacho, a multi-millionaire who emerged out of neo-fascist groups and courted support from the United States and the far-right governments of Brazil and Colombia.

By granting legitimacy to Bolilvia’s ultra-conservative, unelected leadership, Warren rubber-stamped the far-right coup and the military junta’s attempt to stamp out Bolivia’s progressive democracy.

In other words, as The Grayzone editor Max Blumenthal put it, Liz’s Big Structural Bailey compliantly rolled over for Big IMF Structural Adjustment Program.

Ben Norton is a journalist, writer, and filmmaker. He is the assistant editor of The Grayzone, and the producer of the Moderate Rebels podcast, which he co-hosts with editor Max Blumenthal. His website is BenNorton.com and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.

This article was originally published by “The Grayzone” –  

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U.S. has wasted $6.4 trillion on wars since 2001, study says

The post-9/11 wars have expanded to more than 80 countries

What does this tell us about our culture?

November 21, 2019 “Information Clearing House” – American taxpayers have spent $6.4 trillion on post-9/11 wars and military action in the Middle East and Asia, according to a new study.

The report comes as the Trump administration works to withdraw the U.S. military presence from war-torn Syria.

The post-9/11 wars will continue to rise as the U.S. pays the on-going costs of veterans’ care and for interest on borrowing to pay for the wars,”

In March, the Pentagon estimated that the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have cost each taxpayer $7,623 through fiscal 2018.

The amount of money spent on these wars cannot fully convey their sheer wastefulness. Wars are always expensive, and they usually end up being much more expensive than anyone anticipates at the beginning, but when those wars are unnecessary and useless it makes the exorbitant cost that much more sickening. The money and resources expended on almost twenty years of failed wars could have been put to any number of more productive uses. Instead, that vast sum has been poured down the drain. As it is, the U.S. has little or nothing to show for the massive malinvestment that it has made in fighting these wars. These wars have not made the U.S. more secure, they have created more enemies than they destroyed, and they have set fires in their respective regions that will take years to burn out. As staggering as the $6.4 trillion figure is, it doesn’t capture how ruinous these wars have been. The U.S. will continue to pay for these wars long after they are over in more ways than one.

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A full reckoning of the costs of our wars has to include the millions killed, displaced, and the wreckage of multiple countries. These are the truly senseless losses that could have been avoided. The report details these costs as well:

The death and destruction that our wars inflict on the people living in these countries are rarely mentioned in our foreign policy debates, and these losses are almost never taken into consideration when thinking about the costs of these wars. That encourages U.S. politicians and policymakers to take a very cavalier approach to supporting the use of force in other parts of the world, and it allows them to escape accountability for the harm that these policies cause.

For the last twenty years, there has been no limit on what the U.S. would spend on foreign wars, and Congress and presidents of both parties have reliably thrown more money at the Pentagon to sustain these unwinnable wars. While there might be occasional griping about “waste, fraud, and abuse,” there has been no serious, consistent effort to rein in these wars or the military budget. There has been even less interest in grappling with the horrific human costs of our militarized foreign policy. That has to change, and it starts with demanding that the U.S. end its failed and open-ended wars abroad.

The original source of this article is Information Clearing House & Agencies

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