Friday, May 20, 2016

And the Band Played On

When the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg on April 15, 1912 and slowly, inexorably, sank into the depths of the ocean to its floor, the captain finally realized the ineluctable fate of his ship and the passengers who had entrusted their lives and safety to his stewardship, albeit too late to avoid their inevitable fate. The Titanic would sink to the briny depths, inspiring odes for having undertaken such a bold but obviously impractical maiden voyage in its attempt to be the world’s largest trans-Atlantic vessel. The lesson was clear: stick to the tried-and-true; eschew the bold and visionary; stay the course with the established vessels.

The captain watched the greatest ocean liner ever built slowly sink, water cascading across its deck and filling its hold. All he could do was attempt to calm the rightfully panicked passengers. The British know how to keep a stiff upper lip, or as they say, keep their pecker up. He ordered the band to continue playing its dulcet tones. Carry on and keep calm. And so the band played on, and the crew rearranged the deck chairs as the once proud ocean liner slowly sank to take its place in Davy Jones’ locker as a barnacle-encrusted memorial to the hopes and dreams of those who sought to build something better and who, like Icarus, had the hubris to dream to soar to great heights.

The American ship of state is taking on water. While all eyes were on the farcical sideshow that was the 2016 Republican presidential campaign – thanks to the cyclopean macular degeneration vision of the U.S. news media – something profound was happening on the Democratic side of the race. Although seldom reported on by the U.S. news media – and universally dismissed as a fringe candidate when he was mentioned at all, a 74-year-old socialist Jew with unkempt white hair and wearing a frumpy suit was exploding on social media. While the Republicans traded insults about each other’s physical appearances, their wives, and their children, Bernie Sanders spoke about issues. And only issues. More importantly, Sanders spoke about the same issues he had been speaking about in Congress for the past 28 years – first as a representative and later as a senator. The most amazing thing of all was his consistency – his positions had remained unchanged for 28 years in political life. He never wavered in his beliefs or core values; he never pandered to voters saying what they  might wish to hear in any given election; and he never took money from special interests to sway his votes. He stuck to his principles. It’s called integrity, a word not typically found in the Washington lexicon.

Sanders was able to maintain his integrity by being elected to Congress as its longest-serving Independent. He was not beholden to the Republican or Democratic lobbyists or to dealmakers, although he caucused with the Democrats because they most closely embodied the democratic socialist values he championed. Yet Bernie Sanders could not wear the Democratic Party label because he was cut from the progressive socialist cloth of Democrats like FDR, JFK, and LBJ – the Democrats who brought us, respectively, the New Deal, the New Frontier, and the Great Society: Progressive Democrats. He was not a Jimmy Carter-Bill Clinton-Hillary Clinton center-right Democrat whose politics resemble those of moderate Republicans far more than progressives like Teddy Kennedy.

But there’s a huge iceberg in the harbor of politics. It’s called dirty tricks and as despicable as it may be, it will sink any ship. Ask George McGovern about Watergate. Ask John Kerry about swift-boating. Ask John McCain about his “illegitimate black child”. Ask Ben Carson about Ted Cruz’s election eve robo-calls to Carson supporters falsely telling them their candidate had dropped out of the race.

In the Democratic race, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) denied the Sanders campaign access to the Democratic donor rolls; it left Sanders’ name off one primary ballot; it initially scheduled only six debates (down from 20 in 2008, the last race with no incumbent running), all at times guaranteed to ensure almost no one would watch thus denying exposure to the lesser-known candidates. Three of the first four debates were held on weekends (when television viewership is at its nadir); the debate before the Iowa caucus was held at the same time as the Iowa Hawkeyes football team’s showdown against their top regional rival; the New York primary debate was scheduled opposite the televised football game between the New York Jets and the Dallas Cowboys; and another debate was held six days before Christmas.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC anointed Hillary Clinton as their party’s nominee before the first primary vote was cast. This was a coronation not an election. The “super delegates” – composed of party bigwigs and officials – lined up behind Clinton at the outset, giving her more than 500 unpledged delegates on Day One. And the pro-Clinton news media disingenuously continually failed to distinguish the super delegates from elected (pledged) delegates when reporting Clinton’s “massive” delegate lead – even though her true lead over Sanders of elected delegates won in primaries and caucuses hovered around 200 pledged delegates in a race requiring 2,383 delegates and in which half the states had not yet voted.

Clinton won her “home” state of New York by a large margin. Never mind that 125,000 ballots disappeared. Never mind the claims of Democrats who arrived at the polls only to discover their party affiliation had been mysteriously changed and were turned away, not allowed to vote. Never mind the reported allegations of election fraud – or the subsequent investigation announced to be overseen by a Hillary Clinton super delegate! I kid you not. The same type of impartial oversight found in Third World rigged elections.

Hillary Clinton also won four out of five Mideast primaries the following week. The same week it was revealed the Clinton PAC had spent $1 million to hire paid Internet trolls to promote Hillary Clinton and attack Bernie Sanders supporters on social media. The same week four Bernie Sanders groups – one with more than 400,000 supporters –
were deleted from Facebook after trolls allegedly posted child pornography on the groups’ pages immediately prior to the all-important Mideast Democratic primaries.

On social media, Bernie Sanders supporters continue to espouse the virtue of their progressive candidate. But it is too late. Our ship of state has hit the dirty tricks iceberg and has begun its inexorable voyage to the bottom of the sea of hope. Either the unqualified Donald Trump or the thoroughly corrupt Hillary Clinton will assume the U.S. presidency. American politics is back on course; it’s politics as usual, and that is not good for the rest of us: the middle class, the poor, the 99 percent. The fervent Bernie Sanders supporters remain in denial, even after their candidate has said he must “reassess” his campaign – code words for “abandon ship”. Instead, they rearrange the deck chairs, choosing delegates to represent Bernie Sanders at the Democratic coronation… er, I mean convention.

And the band played on.

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