Tag: issues

My thoughts about the first Democratic presidential debate

Having watched last night’s Democratic presidential debate, I’ll begin by saying that I believe that Bernie Sanders won the debate, with Martin O’Malley having the second-best performance, followed by Hillary Clinton, Jim Webb, and Lincoln Chafee.

My thoughts about Bernie Sanders’s performance

The Good – He upstaged Hillary Clinton on an issue directly affecting HRC (the private email server “scandal” that has been concocted by the GOP). He also defended himself very well, especially on gun safety and on the Veterans’ Affairs health system scandal.

The Bad – He mentioned his campaign website twice during the debate.

My thoughts about Martin O’Malley’s performance

The Good – He came across as the strongest candidate on gun safety, invoking the story of a family who lost one of their own in the Aurora, Colorado theater massacre.

The Bad – He tried to defend his zero-tolerance policing policy from his tenure as Mayor of Baltimore, Maryland, which was one of several factors that have led to distrust between the police and the public in Baltimore.

My thoughts about Hillary Clinton’s performance

The Good – She came across as very professional during the debate without coming across as scripted or boring. She also cracked a joke at a very inappropriate remark from lead moderator Anderson Cooper about her bathroom usage.

The Bad – She twice invoked the fact that she’s a woman during the debate. She also gave weak answers on a number of issues, most notably marijuana legalization and financial regulation.

My thoughts about Jim Webb’s performance

The Good – He used his wife’s story on immigration very well.

The Bad – He used the NRA’s talking points on guns.

My thoughts about Lincoln Chafee’s performance

The Good – Nothing about his debate performance was especially good.

The Bad – He blamed his father’s death on his vote for the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in the late 1990’s. Furthermore, he made an odd remark comparing himself to a block of granite at one point in the debate.

The big winners (other than the five Democratic presidential candidates debating)

The Democratic Party – All in all, the debate was a great showing that Democrats can have an intelligent, civil discussion about actual political issues between candidates representing various factions of the party.

Civic engagement – CNN’s telecast of the debate received the most viewers of any Democratic presidential primary/caucus debate in television history.

The internet – For the first time since the 1960 presidential general election debates, there appears to be a major disconnect between two media platforms on debate performance. In 1960, it was between radio (whose listeners viewed Richard Nixon as the debate winner) and television (whose viewers viewed John F. Kennedy as the debate winner). This time, it’s between television (which has been trying to spin a Hillary Clinton debate victory) and the internet (most people on social media view Bernie Sanders as the debate victor). I’d expect the newer platform (in this case, the internet) to come out on top.

The big losers (other than the five Democratic presidential candidates debating)

Anderson Cooper – Cooper, CNN’s lead moderator for the debate, tried to use his position to smear Bernie Sanders on a number of GOP talking points against him and failed, and he also made a very inappropriate remark about Hillary Clinton’s bathroom usage after one of the commercial breaks.

The mainstream media – See my remarks about the internet being a big winner above.

Mike Huckabee – Huckabee, one of many Republican presidential candidates, took to Twitter during the debate and made downright racist remarks about Korean people while attacking Bernie Sanders.

Joe Biden – With Hillary Clinton giving a strong enough debate performance to calm down those in the establishment who were fretting about Hillary, and Bernie Sanders solidifying the progressive base of the party, there’s not really a path to victory for Biden if he were to enter the race for the Democratic nomination.

Debate fairness – CNN shut out Lawrence Lessig from participating in the debate despite the fact that Lessig is a Democratic candidate for president.

Joe Biden’s “Susan Happ” problem

With Vice President Joe Biden likely to run for the Democratic presidential nomination, I do want to bring up an historical parallel between Biden’s likely presidential bid and Jefferson County, Wisconsin District Attorney Susan Happ’s failed bid for Attorney General of Wisconsin last year.

The parallel between Biden and Happ is this: Both Biden and Happ are/were, prior to running for higher office (or, in Happ’s case, after winning a statewide Democratic primary in Wisconsin), viewed favorably by voters not because of their actual track records or positions on the issues, but because they liked the candidates personally. In Biden’s case, he’s seen by many voters across the country as an approachable guy with an interesting personality. In Happ’s case, she was seen by many voters in Wisconsin as someone who rode a Harley-Davidson motorcycle in a television ad.

Happ’s campaign to become Wisconsin’s top prosecutor fell apart not long after Happ won a contested Democratic primary with a narrow majority of the vote. Republicans and the far-right corporate media in Wisconsin viciously attacked Happ’s record as a county-level prosecutor, making her look like a corrupt prosecutor who gave out light sentences to Democrats and political cronies, when, in reality, it was a major distortion of Happ’s record. The sustained attack on Happ damaged her campaign and allowed Republican racist Brad Schimel to be elected Attorney General of Wisconsin.

Biden has a legitimately awful record, especially as a U.S. Senator from Delaware, including, among other things:

  • Helping put right-wing extremist Clarence Thomas on the U.S. Supreme Court despite serious sexual harassment allegations against Thomas
  • Voting to repeal the Glass-Steagall regulations on banks and other financial institutions, which led to the Great Recession
  • Voting for the Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA), which prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriages prior to being ruled unconstitutional by a conservative U.S. Supreme Court
  • Publicly claiming that “abortion is always wrong”
  • Helping enact legislation, signed into law by George W. Bush, that made it harder for Americans to file for bankruptcy
  • Helping enact legislation that expanded the prison-industrial complex in the United States
  • Voting for George W. Bush’s unjustified Iraq War

It wouldn’t take much for one of the Democratic presidential candidates already in the race to brand Biden as an awful politician, if Biden were to run.

I believe that there is an important lesson that is to be learned from the failure of Susan Happ’s campaign for Wisconsin Attorney General last year. When one runs for public office, his or her track record can, either fairly or unfairly, be used against him or her by any political opponent. While Joe Biden’s decision on whether or not to run for president is entirely Joe Biden’s decision to make, I would caution him that his record as a U.S. Senator would likely come back to haunt him politically.

Why Bernie Sanders is the Democrats’ most electable presidential candidate

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has become one of the toughest tickets in America, and he backed that statement up once again by drawing several thousand people to a political rally in Portland, Maine, a city with a population of 66,194 people.

You might be asking yourself…why is Bernie Sanders gaining so much support? Well, long story short, Bernie is actually the most electable presidential candidate that Democrats could nominate, and there’s a number of reasons why:

  • Bernie is a progressive – When I say that Bernie was progressive before it was cool, that’s the truth. Bernie has stood up for workers’ rights, LGBT rights, progressive taxation, and other progressive ideals for decades. With America becoming more and more polarized politically, Democrats need someone who stands up for progressive values to be the party’s standard bearer.
  • Bernie talks about ideas – The political hallmark of Bernie is that, when he talks about politics, he talks about actual political issues. While far too many politicians and the corporate media view politics as if it were a sporting event or a soap opera, Bernie talks about actual issues that affect the American people, such as infrastructure, the environment, income inequality, and college affordability.
  • Bernie is consistent – Throughout his decades-long political career, Bernie’s views on most political issues have gone unchanged. Very few politicians can claim that.
  • Bernie is not a puppet for the wealthy – Bernie is for the people, not the billionaires. In fact, his campaign has received its financial support from people donating small amounts of money to his campaign, and his campaign message has reflected the fact that he’s not for the billionaires.
  • Bernie inspires people – Bernie has drawn large crowds to rallies in places like Madison, Wisconsin and Portland, Maine. That’s because his campaign message and platform resonates with a large segment of the American population
  • Hillary Clinton is too insular to win the general election – While I’m not a fan of the corporate media in this country, operatives for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign recently used a lasso to keep the media away from Hillary at a parade in New Hampshire. The fact that Hillary thinks that she can win a presidential election while her operatives treat members of the press like cattle gives you a general idea of how much of a trainwreck Hillary’s campaign is, and the fact that Hillary has run an insular campaign so far isn’t helping matters at all.
  • Berniementum has left no room for Democrats other than Bernie or Hillary to gain traction – The rise of Bernie’s presidential campaign has made Bernie the progressive standard-bearer against Hillary, the Democratic establishment’s candidate for president. That leaves other Democrats running for president without any ability to build a political base, and they don’t have any chance of winning the Democratic nomination.

Bernie Sanders draws massive crowd to Madison, Wisconsin rally, lays out progressive vision for America

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders laid out his progressive vision for America’s future in front of a roaring capacity crowd at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum (also called the Alliant Energy Center) in Madison, Wisconsin last night.

Here’s a couple of photos of the crowd at the event:

Crowd filing into Bernie Sanders rally in Madison, Wisconsin prior to Bernie's appearance (photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Defender Twitter account)
Crowd filing into Bernie Sanders rally in Madison, Wisconsin prior to Bernie’s appearance (photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Defender Twitter account)
Bernie Sanders Madison WI Rally Crowd Doug Cvetkovich
Massive crowd at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Madison, Wisconsin during Bernie Sanders speech. Sanders is standing at the podium on the stage at the bottom left of the picture. (photo courtesy of Doug Cvetkovich)

I’m going to share a video of Bernie’s speech from the YouTube channel Bernie2016.tv (which is not directly affiliated with the Sanders campaign), but I want to make two notes before I do so: First, I’ve set the video to start playing at around the 42:20 mark, which is about 20 seconds or so before Nichols takes the stage to introduce Sanders. Second, several technical glitches occur during the video, most notably the first part of Nichols’s introduction not having any audio at all and an audio echoing issue occurring in at least one segment of Sanders’s speech.

Here’s the video of Bernie’s speech:

Bernie did a masterful job outlining a progressive vision for America. In his speech, Bernie called for reducing income inequality in America, rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, expanding workers’ rights, protecting women’s reproductive rights, getting big money out of politics, ensuring that women are paid the same as men for the same amount and type of work, reforming the criminal justice system, opposing free trade deals, providing high-quality education to Americans without burdening them with student debt, raising the minimum wage, and enacting many other progressive policies. Bernie energized a large crowd in Wisconsin’s second-largest city, and I think he can win the general election for president.

According to arena officials and Sanders campaign staffers, the attendance was 9,600, although I’ve seen reports on social media that so many people tried to show up at the 10,231-seat arena, some people had to be turned away from the event because the venue couldn’t handle any more people than the stated capacity. Sanders was introduced at the event by John Nichols, a progressive political author and columnist for The Nation magazine. Nichols mentioned during his introduction of Sanders that Ed Garvey, the 1998 Democratic gubernatorial nominee in Wisconsin and the founder of the annual Fighting Bob Fest progressive gathering, Wisconsin State Senator Fred Risser (D-Madison), and Wisconsin State Representatives Terese Berceau and Melissa Sargent (both D-Madison), were present at the event. Of those four, Sargent livetweeted Sanders’s speech, in which Sanders talked about issues like money in politics, climate change, education, higher education, workers’ rights, reproductive rights, income inequality, poverty, criminal justice reform, the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, breaking up “too big to fail” banks, and international trade. Here’s every one of Sargent’s tweets about Sanders’s speech in Madison:

Note that there is an apparent typo in one of Sargent’s tweets (the one she sent at 8:05 P.M. about Sanders talking about how climate change affects our future; Sargent likely meant to type “We must leave this planet in a condition that is habitable for our children”); other than that, Sargent did an absolutely fantastic job paraphrasing Sanders’s speech and livetweeting the key points that Sanders made. Please also note that Sargent has, to my knowledge, not formally endorsed a presidential candidate.

It is perfectly fitting that Bernie Sanders laid out his progressive vision for America in the hometown of Wisconsin progressive legend Fighting Bob La Follette.

Bernie Sanders campaign website re-designed for likely presidential run

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who is considering running for the Democratic presidential nomination in next year’s presidential election, has launched a redesigned campaign website at berniesanders.com. The redesigned Sanders website only references Sanders’s home state of Vermont on the biography portion of his campaign website and on the campaign mailing address at the bottom of the website, which is a clear indication to me that Sanders is likely going to run for president. Given that Sanders has public stated that he’s not interested in being a spoiler in a general election, Sanders is likely going to run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Please note that Sanders has not formally announced his intention to run for president at this time.

I find Sanders’s new campaign website to be very cool-looking and informative. Sanders’s new website has a detailed biography, which includes information about his progressive track record as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, the smallest city that is the largest city of a state in the entire country, as well as his progressive track record as a member of both houses of Congress. Sanders’s new website also has a detailed campaign platform, which includes support for fixing crumbling infrastructure, taking “bold action” on climate change, expanding social safety net programs like Social Security and Medicaid, support for single-payer healthcare, breaking up large banks, making higher education more affordable, ending NAFTA and other “disastrous trade policies”, equal pay for equal work, raising the federal minimum wage to $15/hour, allowing for the card check method to make it easier for workers to organize a labor union, and providing assistance to worker co-ops. About the only things in the platform I’d change if I were running Sanders’s campaign would be to replace the “pay equity for women workers” heading with a “pay equity for working women” heading and add more policy specifics to many of the parts of the platform. Finally, Sanders has a list of scheduled events on his campaign website. I rate the new Sanders campaign website a 9 on a 1-to-10 scale.

While Bernie Sanders has yet to formally announce a presidential bid, he’s taken yet another step towards running for president by launching a redesigned campaign website.