Newsletter: On To The General Election, Create Surprises

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Sanders protest DNC from Salon.com video

Sanders rally DNC from Salon.com video

Above: Hillary has blood on her hands protest DNC from PhillyMag.

The make-up of elections are almost complete with only a few primary races and the Green Party National Convention (August 4-7 in Houston), where Jill Stein’s running mate will be announced, remaining. Otherwise we know the candidates that will be with us for the next three months and the potential presidents who will almost assuredly be the focus of mobilizations for the next four years.

While Bernie Sanders is no longer running for office and has shifted his energy to working to elect Hillary Clinton, many in the Bernie or Bust Movement have shifted to Jill or Bust, with the initial goal to get Jill Stein into the highly restrictive (and anti-democratic) debates.

The Conventions Show Two Divided Parties Pretending to be Unified

The nominations showed that the two establishment, big business parties are fracturing.  The social movement mobilized for both conventions, but especially at the DNC, where there were constant protests inside and outside of the convention.RNC protest Shut Down Trump Banner with Shadow 7-18-16

The big news of the Republican Convention was that the divide between establishment Republicans and populists, represented by Donald Trump, has become a chasm. All living Republican presidents and presidential candidates refused to attend the convention except for Bob Dole, who lost in a landslide in 1996. Many members of Congress, especially those running for re-election, also did not attend and many traditional big donors did not attend. Even the social conservatives were divided with Ted Cruz, their elected leader, refusing to endorse Trump. The poorly run RNC showed a party in crisis with amateurish leadership.

Banner drop at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame July19, 2016

Banner drop at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame July19, 2016

The Republican Convention had a smaller turnout for protests than the Democrats, but the RNC began with protests and many showed a lot of creativity, including 100 naked women responding to Trump’s anti-female comments, throughout the RNC. Medea Benjamin of CODE PINK, which was active at both conventions, was able to interrupt Donald Trump’s speech and was removed from the convention. Protests outside of the RNC mocked Trump and focused on a range of issues. Immigration was a big issue because of Trump’s anti-immigrant record. One of the protests was a banner drop at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and another focused on building an anti-Trump wall. A People’s Caravan, for immigrant rights, traveled from Cleveland to Philadelphia to participate in both conventions.

The DNC was a much more well-orchestrated event, putting forward a more effective mainstream sales pitch. The Democrats continue to heighten fear of Trump as their primary selling point, but also tried to re-introduce the widely disliked Hillary Clinton and emphasize the historic nature of the first female president. They sought to project unity, but divisions among Democrats were evident. The DNC was shaken by Wikileaks’ disclosures of DNC emails and voice mails which enraged Sanders supporters who were already angry by the mistreatment of Sen. Sanders in the primaries. The leaks caused the DNC chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz to resign and play no role in the convention.

1dncjillWhile Sanders did all he could to convince people to support Clinton, in a speech that many saw as selling out the ‘political revolution,’ his supporters protested inside and outside of the convention. They booed the mention of Hillary Clinton, shouted anti-TPP slogans, drowned out former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta with chants of “No More War“, wore neon Green to show support for Stein, walked out and took over the media tent and more.  Protests were a constant concern of the DNC and on multiple occasions Sandernistas, many of whom now support Jill Stein, were evident with their protests inside the DNC making it on corporate television.

The Sanders supporters were joined in the streets by a wide range of movement activists including Black Lives Matter, opponents of the TPP, advocates for climate justice, gun regulation, marijuana legalization, advocates for Palestinian rights, democracy activists and more. Targets were not only the DNC but their funders, as in a protest against the oil and gas industry. Every day and night, thousands of people protested at the most contentious convention since 1968. The police gave protesters room but when the perimeter of the DNC was breached or threatened arrests were made.

TPP contingent at the March for a Clean Energy Revolution.

TPP contingent at the March for a Clean Energy Revolution. By Ellen Davidson

The Democrats persisted in their effort to create the illusion of a unified party with Clinton saying to Sanders supporters “Your cause is our cause” – a statement inconsistent with her selection of corporate-Democrat Tim Kaine as vice president. The Democrats also did their best to shut down dissent inside the arena and no doubt their $67 million propagandistic marketing effort fooled many with unity dutifully reported by the corporate media, but anyone watching knows the Democrats have major fractures in their party.  Polls continue to show that people who are supporting Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are mostly voting for them because they dislike the other corporate candidate. There are enthusiasts for each, but fear and loathing of the alternative choice dominates the thinking of voters.

The Popular Movement at the Conventions and Beyond

After five years of social movements pressuring the government to confront multiple urgent crises, such as the wealth divide, living wages, global trade, racial justice, climate change, student debt and healthcare, among others, the fact that the two parties ended up with candidates who are very unpopular and offer no solutions to these issues shows the weakness of “democracy” in the United States. Whomever is elected will not confront these critical issues, with the inevitable result being a growing popular movement.

Jill Stein speaking People's Convention in Philadelphia July 23, 2016 before DNC.

Jill Stein speaking People’s Convention in Philadelphia July 23, 2016 before DNC.

While protests at the two conventions were the most evident forms of mobilization, there was more than that going on. Thousands of people gathered together at multiple conferences to discuss where the movement goes from here. Discussions of electoral actions and non-electoral actions were debated and discussed.

On the Saturday before the DNC began, the People’s Convention was held in Philadelphia. It was attended by 400 people and had a number of components. In a participatory democratic way, the convention worked on the initial planks of a platform for the movement which included racial justice, wealth and income inequality, getting money out of politics, climate change and healthcare as a human right. There was also a world café where hundreds of activists discussed issues and next steps for the movement and issues like how we relate to the two establishment parties.  The convention also included workshops on various issues. We led a discussion of next steps for building movement power which included our continued effort to stop the TPP with the #NoLameDuck for the TPP campaign and a campaign of protests in 2017 we are calling #NoHoneymoon. (See video of workshop.)

The final speech of the day by Jill Stein began a process seen throughout the week of Sanders supporters switching their support to the Green Party candidate and cheering her with multiple ovations. Stein said she would work with the people to continue the political revolution through November.Demexit protester

There was also a four-day Socialist Convergence which was organized by a coalition of local and national socialist organizations. It took place alongside the DNC every night focusing on education and debate about where the left movement goes from here. Jill Stein was the only presidential candidate to speak here as well, garnering rousing support from many in the room.

A constant issue of discussion was whether to #Demexit or stay in the party.  The dominant mood of the moment was to leave the Democratic Party to continue to build a left alternative party or coalition of parties. Stein described the Green Party as using its ballot lines to help put progressive, socialist and left candidates on the ballot serving as a political organization open to people independent of the duopoly.

Socialist Alternative at DNCSome argued that people should work to take-over the Democratic Party, claiming that the Sanders campaign showed how close we were to doing so. Others took the opposite lesson from the Sanders campaign saying it showed that the party, which Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report described as the home of big finance capital, would never allow a nominee who challenged Wall Street or war to be their candidate. Kshama Sawant of Socialist Alternative called for building a new party as the only way to challenge the system. Sawant and Ford expressed the dominant view in the room but everyone understood we are in a challenging political system in the United States and should not allow these different views to divide us.

Author, Chris Hedges, read a prepared statement that eviscerated Sanders for not leaving the Democratic Party and running independent of it with Jill Stein, bringing the momentum and political organization he built with him. His harsh repudiation of Sanders upset many Sanders supporters who strongly disagreed but led to applause from others who saw it as Hedges reporting the truth. Hedges also reminded people that Syriza was polling where the Greens are today and now they are ruling.Clinton's are superpredators and must be brought to heel

Announced at the convergence was that Left Elect was organizing a meeting in Chicago on March 3-5, 2017 to bring people and organizations together who seek to build an electoral alliance in opposition to the two-party system.

What Can be Accomplished in the General Election

The rising political movement has helped to create confusion in the 2016 primaries, opening up the political culture to allow the Sanders campaign to take-off, and encouraging divisions in the two parties. During the primaries the social movement protested every candidate running in the establishment parties, including Bernie Sanders, and advanced its issues in both party platforms.

DNC Leaks protest in Philly on July 25, 2016 . AFP Photo by Patrick T. Fallon

DNC Leaks protest in Philly on July 25, 2016 . AFP Photo by Patrick T. Fallon

What can the movement do in the General Election? There continue to be opportunities to raise all of the movement’s issues at candidate events. The establishment party candidates should be protested for failing to face up to the issues the social movement has highlighted. Libertarian Gary Johnson can also be protested for his support of the TPP and libertarian economics which will cut the social safety net and business regulation and taxation; he can be applauded by the movement for supporting marijuana legalization. Jill Stein, who shares the views of the social movement, is the Sanders of the General Election to make sure our message gets out through her campaign.

One democracy issue that could move to the center of consciousness this year is the anti-democratic closed debates. A lot of education will be needed to explain that the National Commission on Presidential Debates is not really a commission; it is a corporation created by the two big business parties to limit debates to their parties. Then, the movement can mobilize to protest the fake commission and open the debates. Discrediting the corporation, disguised as a commission, is a tremendous opportunity in a year when the independent parties are running strong campaigns, and a year when up to 50% of voters consider themselves independent of the two parties.

13626377_10153903500612983_4793397114388843358_nSenator Sanders awakened millions to electoral politics and while he has backtracked and endorsed Hillary Clinton, many of his supporters are not following. They are continuing the political revolution outside of the two parties. Nathan Fisher wrote: “Sanders is going through his endgame. We are going through an opening.” Many are following Cornel West and Kshama Sawant, who were important supporters of Sanders and are now important supporters of Stein.

How successful will the movement be in the General Election? We could open the debates and create a massive educational opportunity for tens of millions of Americans. Who knows what we can accomplish? The support for Sanders’ political revolution surprised everyone. Black Lives Matter’s impact has surprised everyone. The Fight for $15 has as well, as did the 2011 Occupy Movement. Indeed, on these and other fronts, the movement has surprised itself, commentators and the country. The movement is better organized, stronger and winning bigger battles.  The future is ours to make, let’s work at it and surprise ourselves again.

  • Richard Burrill

    Thank you for a well-thought out coverage of what is happening in the United States. We must keep pushing for what we want. Just remember, “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”

  • il corvo

    What I notice in my community and from reading the news online, is a increase in fear in the general population. Fear of one candidate over the other. Fear of continued wars, global warming, a confrontation with Russia, economic fears, racial fears, immigration, world fears, etc. The candidates promise the illusion of security and that pursuit instills more fear. The worst time to make major life decisions is when one is frightened. A decision made under the duress of fear is usually a knee jerk one, a reaching out to an authority that promises security even if it is against an opponent. The greatest purveyor of fear is the news media and the candidates themselves.

    The exception to this is the candidacy of Jill Stein. She is addressing the problems not the fears. She is speaking about the facts of our state and those facts will cause some that are already frightened to turn a blind eye to her solutions. Folks want to have faith in a leader to bring them security rather than the hard work of a participatory government. Take away the shroud of fear covering this nation and much of the world, and candidates like Jill Stein will gain popularity and most likely become supported.

    Fear is a psychological reaction to a fact. Coherent thought does not take place when one is fearful. When you see that you are a part of fear, not separate from it-then you
    cannot do anything about it; then fear comes totally to an end and coherent, free solutions can arise.

  • History301

    I agree with il corvo about how fear works on people. Sadly, this system uses fear as one it’s main tools of control. This is especially true when a population is misinformed, misled and propagandized by all it’s institutions and agencies of the system, whether public or private. While we could discuss definitions about this system, like “Manufactured Consent”, or “Inverted Totalitarianism” all day, the public in general isn’t listening, nor are they informed accurately by corporate media in particular on most issues of our time. Even public schools pervert history so badly, folks often don’t understand how or why we got from point A to B and this is a real problem when it comes to self governance.
    This newsletter and website attempts to address this problem and I feel it does it’s job well. I’d like to see Newsletters like this one reach as many people as the corporate media does and that can only happen if enough people share it so it does grow into a force.
    Many thanks to Kevin and Dr. Flowers for doing all the work it requires to operate this site. It does touch those who use it too and in a good way most of the time. Please keep it running.

  • DHFabian

    I think surprises are unlikely. The situation isn’t hard to figure out. The Dem voting base had long consisted of the masses — poor and middle class, workers and the jobless, for the common good. The Clinton wing deeply split the voting base back during Bill Clinton’s administration. Many saw the Obama administration as a last chance to pull the Dem voting base back together and get the party back on a forward course. It was worth a try, but it didn’t work.
    Democrats remain hell-bent on spinning their wheels in the right wing rut.

  • DHFabian

    Fear is a normal reaction under current circumstances. A good chunk of the country is a single illness/job loss from losing everything, with no way back up, in a country that has no mercy on those who are left behind.

  • il corvo

    And that is the problem isn’t it? In a highly militarizes capitalistic society there is no place for human compassion. Compassion must then come from those that still feel and care. Fear, as you mention, is the norm and that is what keeps us hoping through the merchants of security and salvation.

  • A little sobering, but reaffirming commentary from Hunter Thompson circa 1972

    “How many more of these goddam elections are we going to have to write off as lame but ‘regrettably necessary’ holding actions? And how many more of these stinking double-downer sideshows will we have to go through before we can get ourselves straight enough to put together some kind of national election that will give me at least the 20 million people I tend to agree with a chance to vote for something, instead of always being faced with that old familiar choice between the lesser of two evils? I understand, along with a lot of other people, that the big thing, this year, is Beating Nixon. But that was also the big thing, as I recall, twelve years ago in 1960—and as far as I can tell, we’ve gone from bad to worse to rotten since then, and the outlook is for more of the same.”

  • V4V

    Great to see so many have seen through the Sanders sand trap and are leaving him behind to continue the battle he has abandoned. Anyone who is a friend of Hillary isn’t a friend to social justice.

  • BeUtahful

    Go Jill Stein! A better world is possible we shall make it so

  • BeUtahful

    it’s obvious now Sanders never wanted to be president he just wanted to influence Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign for president boo Bernie boo!

  • Jon

    The title of a Doors song comes to mind and ought to be embraced by those courageous enough to see it:
    “Break on Through to the Other Side.”