The Nation

American Capitalism has failed us: We're overworked, underemployed and more powerless than ever before

Some years ago, I faced up to the futility of reporting true things about America’s disastrous wars and so I left Afghanistan for another remote mountainous country far away. It was the polar opposite of Afghanistan: a peaceful, prosperous land where nearly everybody seemed to enjoy a good life, on the job and in the family.

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South Carolina Governor Requested Exemption to Allow Foster-Care Agency to Discriminate Against Non-Christians

In an unusual move, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, a long-standing ally of President Donald Trump, has personally intervened with the Department of Health and Human Services to secure a religious exemption from federal nondiscrimination laws for a Christian foster-care-placement agency in his state. Without the exemption, the placement agency, Miracle Hill Ministries, of Greenville, is at risk of losing its license because it refuses to place foster children with non-Christian families. Like other such agencies that participate in state foster-care programs that receive federal funds, Miracle Hill would normally be barred from discriminating on the basis of religion.

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The Circular Firing Squad Isn’t Amusing Anymore

Notwithstanding the addictive daily drama of leaks, tweets, and resistance, there are major issues that exist separate and apart from the 24-hour news cycle. These long-term problems are as salient in the digital moment as they were in the analog ’60s.

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The Tired Myth That Progressives Lack Empathy Is Hardly the Problem

If I have to read one more article blaming liberal condescension toward the red states and the white working class for the election of Trump, I’m moving to Paris, France. These pieces started coming out even before the election and are still pouring down on our heads. Just within the last few weeks, the New Republic had Michael Tomasky deploring “elite liberal suspicion of middle America” for such red-state practices as churchgoing and gun owning and The New York Times had Joan Williams accusing Democrats of impugning the “social honor” of working-class whites by talking about them in demeaning and condescending ways, as exemplified by such phrases as “flyover states,” “trailer trash,” and “plumber’s butt.” Plumber’s butt? That was a new one for me. And that’s not even counting the 92,346 feature stories about rural Trump voters and their heartwarming folkways. (“I played by the rules,” said retired rancher Tom Grady, 66, delving into the Daffodil Diner’s famous rhubarb pie. “Why should I pay for some deadbeat’s trip to Europe?”) I’m still waiting for the deep dives into the hearts and minds of Clinton supporters—what concerns motivated the 94 percent of black women voters who chose her? Is there nothing of interest there? For that matter, why don’t we see explorations of the voters who made up the majority of Trump’s base, people who are not miners or unemployed factory workers but regular Republicans, most quite well-fixed in life? (“I would vote for Satan himself if he promised to cut my taxes,” said Bill Thorberg, a 45-year-old dentist in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “I’m basically just selfish.”) There are, after all, only around 75,000 coal miners in the entire country, and by now every one of them has been profiled in the Times.

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Why Is Iran Our Enemy?

“Where are you from?” the elderly man asked politely, as my wife and I strolled through his small Iranian village in early May.

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How to Fight a Fascist and Win

In the second round of France’s presidential elections in 2002, the left was faced with an unfamiliar challenge: What accessories to wear to the polls? The Socialist candidate, Lionel Jospin, had been knocked out in the first round. Now the choice was between the fascist National Front candidate, Jean-Marie Le Pen, and the conservative sleaze magnet, Jacques Chirac. There were no good options: Chirac had once opined that French workers were being driven crazy by the “noise and smell” of immigrants. But there was certainly a catastrophic option: the election of Le Pen, who had branded people with AIDS “lepers” and trivialized the Nazi gas chambers as “a detail” in history.

So the left debated casting ballots for Chirac wearing gloves or surgical masks (until they were told doing so might nullify their ballots), and in the end, many went to vote with a clothespin on their nose. “When the house is on fire,” François Giacalone, a Communist Party local councillor, told The Guardian, “you don’t care too much if the water you put it out with is dirty.”

In 2016, Donald Trump’s clinching the Republican nomination in the same week that a right-wing extremist narrowly lost the presidential election in Austria raises a serious strategic challenge for the progressive left. We are rightly buoyed by the notion that a better world is possible and have tasked ourselves with creating it. But it is no less true that, at any given moment, a far worse world is possible too, and we should do everything in our power to ensure that we don’t let somebody else create it.

There are two crucial distinctions to be made here. The first is to distinguish between those political opponents who are merely bad, and those who represent an existential threat to basic democratic rights. The second is to draw a clear distinction between the electoral and the political. For example, Mitt Romney was bad: Had he been elected in 2012, terrible things would’ve happened, and it is a good thing that he was defeated. But Trump is of a different order entirely. Xenophobic, Islamophobic, unhinged, and untethered to any broader political infrastructure, he has endorsed his supporters’ physically attacking protestors. His election would represent a paradigmatic shift in what is possible for the American right. To call Trump a fascist may suggest more ideological coherence than his blather deserves. But he is certainly part of that extended family and, as such, represents the kind of threat that Romney (for example) did not.

The same is true of Le Pen and Norbert Hofer, the hard-right Austrian presidential candidate who called gun ownership “the natural consequence” of immigration. The fact that the Austrian presidency is primarily ceremonial is beside the point; had Hofer won, others in more substantial positions would have followed.

Since this kind of threat is of a different order, so should be the response. While fascists have learned to cloak their bigotry in less inflammatory rhetoric (one more reason why Trump is an outlier: This is a trick he has yet to learn, though I’m sure the Republicans have their best folks working on it), their blunt message must be met with a blunt response. They must be stopped. And if their route to power is through the ballot box, they must be stopped there.

The question of whether, in America for example, one should forgo the two main parties for a third that is not beholden to big money and will back the interests of the poor and marginalized is an important one. But the question in these instances is not whether we will be in a better or worse position to organize and fight back after the election, but whether there will be future elections at all—and if so, in what atmosphere of intimidation and coercion they might take place.

In that case, one should vote for the largest immovable object in the path of the extreme right—whether that’s Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton or Jacques Chirac or Alexander Van der Bellen, the former Green Party spokesman who narrowly beat Hofer in Austria. But while defeating these forces at the polls is important, it is also insufficient. It does nothing to tackle the underlying causes for their popularity or address the grievances on which these parasites feed. Preventing them from gaining office is in no way commensurate with stemming their influence or power.

Take the most likely U.S. presidential matchup: Clinton and Trump. Trump’s rise is rooted, to a significant extent, in the profound disenchantment of a section of the white working class created by the effects of neoliberal globalization in the wake of the most recent economic crash. Hillary’s staunchest advocate (her husband), whose legacy she shares on the stump (“We lifted people out of poverty” and “We created jobs”) bears considerable responsibility for the conditions that made Trump possible. Bill Clinton’s repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act exacerbated the economic collapse, and his embrace of the North American Free Trade Agreement helped depress wages. Hillary Clinton backed these initiatives at the time, even if she has rowed back on some of them since. Setting her up in political opposition to Trump pits part of the cause against the symptom, with no suggestion of an antidote.

So even as one votes for Clinton—if she’s the nominee, then no one else is going to be able to stop Trump from taking power—one must prepare to organize against her. If she wins, her agenda will make an eventual victory for someone like Trump more likely, not less. More than a decade after Le Pen’s defeat, his daughter, who now heads the National Front, could yet reach the runoffs again. Hofer’s Freedom Party came in second place in the parliamentary elections in 1999 and was in a coalition government. Elections alone cannot defeat the populist right; we have to drain the swamp from which they gather their bait. When your house is ablaze, you grab whatever’s handy and put it out. But when the flames are quenched, the laborious task of fireproofing is in order.

5 Things Hillary Can Do to Win Over Bernie’s Supporters

As Bernie Sanders said Wednesday night, he’s “pretty good with arithmetic.” While a win in California might, just about, have furnished grounds for an appeal to the superdelegates based on momentum, or on his ability to take more votes away from Donald Trump, that isn’t how it turned out. Those of us who, after New Hampshire and Michigan, allowed ourselves to believe that the political revolution this country so urgently needs might start at the top in November—a group that might well include Sanders himself—will need some time, first of all, to mourn that dream.

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How the NY Times' Use of False Equivalencies Badly Distorts the Presidential Campaign

On March 15, Donald Trump won Florida, North Carolina, Missouri, and Illinois, dispatching Marco Rubio’s campaign to the ash heap of history and giving every impression that he had become the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee. Hillary Clinton also did extremely well that day, taking Illinois, Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina. The New York Times gave its prime spot—the top-right corner of the paper’s front page—to a story headlined “2 Front-Runners, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Find Their Words Can Be Weapons.” Readers quickly learned, if they had missed it previously, that Trump frequently used words like “bimbo,” “dog,” and “fat pig” to refer to some of the women he didn’t like, and this had led to disapproval ratings among women that reached historic proportions. And what “weapons” did Clinton give her adversaries? During a recent speech in coal country, she had suggested that her support for sustainable, clean-energy jobs would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”

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What's Next for Bernie Sanders' Grassroots Army?

The truth is, nobody knows how this story ends. We know what was supposed to 
happen: Bernie Sanders was a sideshow act, a relic to entertain the kids. After warming up the crowds and falling amusingly on his face in the primaries, Sanders was supposed to disappear, leaving the audience happy to settle down for four—or eight—more years of grown-up government under the Clintons. Instead, Sanders waged a campaign that stunned both Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party establishment. Raising in excess of $200 million through more than 7.4 million contributions, he proved that candidates no longer need rich donors or corporate money to compete.

Winning in state after state, Sanders refused to triangulate, instead expanding the American political universe to the left, putting the vision of a social democracy whose fruits have long been taken for granted in much of 
Europe—state-funded childcare, paid family leave, universal healthcare, free tuition at public colleges and 
universities—back on the American agenda. On foreign policy, too, he shattered decades-long taboos, denouncing the legacy of “regime change” from Chile to Iran, and even daring to defy the ban on criticizing Israel.

By the time the last primary votes are cast in California, Sanders will have taken his political revolution further than anyone—including Sanders himself—ever imagined possible. And if he’s had little impact on Clinton’s hawkish stance abroad, on the home front Sanders can claim victories in opposing the Keystone XL pipeline and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and in supporting a $15 minimum wage and even, as of a few weeks ago, Medicaid expansion. Bernie Sanders has won the battle of ideas, hands down.

But he isn’t going to be president. So if Bernie’s Army isn’t marching to the White House, where is it going? Over the past two weeks, I’ve spoken with dozens of Sanders supporters, staffers, and volunteers, in states from Vermont to Florida, California to the Carolinas. I heard both anger and acceptance, but very little agreement—although in all of those interviews, I didn’t find a single person who said they were going to work just as hard for Hillary Clinton. The closest I came was Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America, the group founded by Howard Dean after his candidacy imploded in 2004. Although Dean, who is now a superdelegate, backed Clinton, DFA members voted overwhelmingly to endorse Sanders.

“Of the 88 percent that chose Bernie Sanders, 98 percent of them told us to endorse the nominee,” says Chamberlain, who also believes that Sanders should “continue to lead the political revolution. If he needs to set up his own organization to do that, then that’s a smart move.”

So far, though, Sanders has said nothing about his plans. Although all of the activists I spoke with would welcome his involvement, whatever happens after the primaries, four main groups have already begun to form:

• The Occupy Democrats, who see the Democratic Party as ripe for a takeover.

• Brand New Congress, an effort launched last month to elect a Congress in 2018 that will “enact Bernie’s program” regardless of who’s in the White House.

• The Working Families Party, which in many states provided the ground troops for the Sanders campaign and is now benefiting from—and struggling to digest—a huge influx of new recruits.

• The People’s Summit, an alliance of National Nurses United and People for Bernie—the latter a coalition of activists and online groups like Vets for Bernie and Jews for Bernie—that has called a “gathering of the tribes” in Chicago on June 17–19 and represents more of the “movement” elements of the Sanders campaign.

None of these people want Sanders to drop out before the convention or to run with one hand tied behind his back. But the groups do differ—on strategy, tactics, and most of all on their degree of distance from the Democratic Party. Like many divisions on the left, you can also read that as a contest between pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will.

* * *

Larry Cohen has long been a paladin in 
the party of optimism. The former president of the Communications Workers of America founded Labor for Bernie last July and is a close adviser to Sanders and frequent surrogate on the campaign trail. He predicts that “the campaign will be there in force” at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this July, but he also expects the party to unify behind the nominee. “This isn’t about being in opposition” to Hillary Clinton or anybody else, he said. “It’s about what we stand for.”

At the convention, Cohen wants to see changes in the rules regarding superdelegates. “They need to be eliminated, or at least prevented from voting on nominations.” He also wants changes that limit the role of big money in the nominating process, such as a pledge from all Democratic candidates to reject absolutely the involvement of super PACs in the primaries. In short, Cohen adds, “the party must move toward populism and away from control by the financial elite.”

Cohen also thinks a progressive platform is worth fighting for—an effort bolstered by a recent deal between the campaigns and the party that allowed Sanders to name five out of 15 members of the platform committee. (Sanders chose African-American scholar Cornel West, climate-change activist Bill McKibben, Representative Keith Ellison, Arab American Institute president James Zogby, and Native-American activist Deborah Parker.)

“Platform planks don’t just exist on the platform,” Cohen points out. “They can send a clear message to Obama and Congress: ‘No TPP’—we can stop that slipping through in a lame-duck session. ‘We need a living wage of $15 an hour.’”

And though the nomination may be beyond Sanders’s grasp, Cohen thinks the Vermont senator is entitled to a considerable say over the direction of the party. “In some states, the Sanders forces already are the dominant structure, and we need to claim it. That’s probably going to be true for at least 20 states.” Instead of acting as ballot fodder while the party takes its cue from corporate donors, progressives “need to act like the majority. Because we are the majority,” Cohen adds—especially if you factor in voters who resisted Sanders’ candidacy but respond positively to his message.

Chris Covert, who ran the Sanders campaign in South Carolina, points to the appointment of Christale Spain, the campaign’s state political director, as executive director of the state party as an example of the way “Bernie-crats” are already making an impact. “Our people are very organized, very determined,” says Covert. “We’re going to see a lot of young people running 
for office.”

* * *

Stacey Hopkins started pushing back 
against the claim that Sanders couldn’t connect with black voters last summer. A mainstay of Atlanta for Bernie Sanders, Hopkins tells me: “I refuse to sit back and watch this incredible energy go dormant once again.” Her focus, however, isn’t on Philadelphia this July, but on 2018. “As far as the Democratic Party is concerned, I had an epiphany: It’s their party, and they can do what they want to. But I don’t have to attend.”

She’s decided her activism can be put to better use working for Brand New Congress. “When we talk about parties—especially when we talk about African Americans—there’s a machine that will protect their candidates.” Doing battle with that machine in Georgia—where Clinton pulled over 70 percent of the vote, and 85 percent of the black vote—gave Hopkins a respect for the machine’s strength. But it also showed her a way in: through the widening gap between the interests of the party’s corporate funders and its base among working people and the poor.

“We are seeing the rift that the Democratic Party has denied for so long crack wide open,” Hopkins says. “At the moment, we don’t really have a choice. Their strategy now is ‘Vote for us—because look at the other side!’ People are getting tired of being told, ‘We’ll get to you in a minute.’”

Brand New Congress aims to give people a choice—in every district in the country. “Let’s run one campaign to replace Congress all at once (except those already on board) that whips up the same enthusiasm, volunteerism and money as Bernie’s presidential campaign,” says the group’s website. Zack Exley, who was the Wikimedia Foundation’s chief revenue officer before he started traveling the country to lead “Bernie Barnstorms” that trained thousands of volunteers for the Sanders campaign, is one of the group’s founders. They’re targeting the 2018 midterms because, Exley told me, “it takes a while to build the infrastructure to win elections—especially against entrenched incumbents.” The plan is to “recruit a full slate of candidates from people who are not politicians. People who never considered running for office. The majority will be women. A disproportionate number will be people of color. These will be people who are really good at what they do—nurses, engineers, teachers. People who have chances to sell out—but didn’t.”

That prompts lots of questions, beginning with how Brand New Congress can possibly win with progressive candidates in deep-red districts. Exley says the strategy is still up for discussion. And while the group may have set a hugely ambitious goal, I’ve met too many accomplished Sanders organizers in too many states who told me their only contact with campaign headquarters was “a visit from this guy Zack Exley” to dismiss the effort out of hand.

Ramon Ryan, a former organizer for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees who’s been working for Sanders in Nashville, said the campaign taught him “how effective we can be organizing ourselves in our own communities.” Tennessee was another tough environment for Sanders supporters, and after the primary “a lot of us have been struggling to figure out where we fit in,” Ryan says. For him, Brand New Congress—which aims to build on the Sanders network, letting local campaigns run their own show while giving them access to a unified national campaign and national online fund-raising—offers an alternative to surrender or a return to marginality. “We’ve seen how the nature of presidential campaigns has changed from Dean to Obama to Sanders,” Ryan tells me. “We want to take this model and apply it to Congress. I love the simplicity of being able to use one campaign to effect so much change.”

* * *

When I last spoke with Billie McFadden, she was “on the road for Bernie,” changing a tire somewhere in California. Before that she was a volunteer shepherding the Sanders delegation at the now-infamous Nevada Democratic Convention, where Sanders supporters became enraged after some of their delegation were excluded and their motions dismissed by Nevada Democratic chairwoman Roberta Lange, who later became the target of sexist abuse. “I’m still confident that this man will be our next president,” McFadden told me in mid-May. But that hasn’t prevented her and others in the Nevada Sanders campaign from also starting a branch of the Working Families Party.

“We’re not abandoning the Democratic Party,” says Shirley Schludecker, another Las Vegas Sanderista who’s joined the WFP. I ask Shirley’s partner, Tazo Schafer, whether the unruly state convention would keep Sanders voters home on Election Day. “Most people are not going to give up on the possible for the ideal,” Schafer replies. “But we will want to hold people accountable.”

That yearning for accountability is a key part of the WFP’s appeal. “We’ve attracted a lot of new members in the fallout from the Nevada convention,” Schafer says. The idea is to create a vehicle—one both inside and outside the Democratic Party—to wrest power from the hands of the party establishment. In New York, the WFP has been both helped and hindered by its dependence on fusion laws that give it a line on the ballot, but also make its members ineligible to vote in the Democratic primary. Nevada doesn’t allow fusion voting, so the WFP is piloting a new strategy aimed at building a large membership base. Without a ballot line, the Nevada WFP functions more like a faction—or a caucus—than a party.

Why build a separate organization? The danger with an inside-only strategy, say WFP leaders, is that without a distinct identity, progressives will get shut out of power—or coopted. The WFP’s national director, Dan Cantor, once told me: “You can’t occupy the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party will end by occupying you.” Or as Waleed Shahid, a talented young organizer I met on the Sanders campaign in Philadelphia, put it: “The biggest lesson to be learned from the Tea Party’s playbook is that they don’t work for the Republicans ; they make the Republicans work for them.”

Bill Lipton, the WFP’s state director in New York, warns “there’s a lot of danger now for the left in a Clinton candidacy.” Reflecting on the New York primary, which saw most white progressives backing Sanders while Clinton took a heavy majority of the black vote, Lipton urges: “Let’s not rush into something—and replicate that racial fault line.” He’s also doubtful about Brand New Congress’ reliance on social media. “We’ve been working on this for almost 20 years,” he says. “You need a party—rooted in ideology, with an organic connection to a social base, and with a desire over the long term to systematically recruit people to run for office to contest state power.”

* * *

Charles Lenchner is also wary of quick 
fixes. Back in 2013, he helped to start Ready for Warren, less as a vehicle for the Massachusetts senator and more as “a left power-building project,” he says. When Sanders announced, Lenchner cofounded People for Bernie. He argues that “the digital era has created a new basis for politics.”

“We used to need political parties to organize ideas—and they, in turn, would sponsor newspapers as a way of spreading their ideas. Now there are alternative methods to make a candidate viable, whether that’s through leveraging reality-TV celebrity, as Trump did, or through social media,” Lenchner says. “People for Bernie has had 2.5 billion interactions—shares, posts, comments, Facebook likes. There’s something out there. My prediction is it will continue.”

In a sense, the People’s Summit is a holding action. Not because the people involved are waiting for a signal from on high—“Bernie is not really an organization builder,” Lenchner notes—but because there is no shortcut to the hard work of building a genuinely diverse movement. “You have to understand that the early adopters for any effort are going to be a relatively privileged cohort,” Lenchner says. “That’s who can put in the time. So you have to always ask yourself, ‘Who are the leaders we want to have? And how is that different from who is in the room right now?’”

“We like Bernie,” said Leslie Lee III, the writer who, fed up with way “people used identity politics to keep the left and minorities apart,” came up with the Twitter hashtag #BernieMadeMeWhite. “But we don’t likelike Bernie… we respect him. And we do understand the limitations of Bernie as a politician.” For Lee and other millennial activists, the Sanders campaign was a vehicle, not a destination.

Lenchner says he has no idea whether a dozen different groups will show up in Chicago—or a thousand. “The question is: How many will still exist in a year or two? For now our role is to support these groups wherever they are. Whatever position they take on Hillary—or whatever.”

* * *

Sanders himself has pledged to support 
the Democratic nominee—and though he may not do so as fast or as fulsomely as Clinton’s supporters would like, he has never shown any desire to play the spoiler. Especially when the alternative is Donald Trump, a candidate he describes as “a pathological liar” who “has promoted hatred and division against Latinos, Muslims, women, and people with disabilities.” How quickly, and enthusiastically, Sanders fulfills his pledge will indeed be a test of leadership—for both him and Clinton.

Back in February, I asked Amos Miers, an Occupy Tampa veteran organizing in St. Petersburg, what would happen if Sanders didn’t win the nomination. “A third of our people will vote for Hillary, no problem,” he said. “Another third will never vote for her. And a third will do whatever Bernie says to do.”

At the time, I thought his estimate of the Bernie-or-Busters was far too high. But listen to Wendy Sejour, a former secretary of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party still on the board of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida: “I have always believed in the values of the Democratic Party. FDR is one of my heroes. But what’s happening now breaks my heart. I am not—not—
supporting Hillary Clinton in any shape or form.” Sejour, too, has signed up for Brand New Congress.

“The folks I know will vote Green,” says Hugh Espey, executive director of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. “I’m sick and tired of the lesser of two evils. I’m a registered Democrat, but they screwed us too many times.” He’s going to the People’s Summit.

Not even the specter of Donald Trump scares David Fredrick, who cofounded Grassroots for Sanders back in 2013. “We didn’t decide to support Bernie because we thought that Bernie was going to come in and save the day,” he says. “The ultimate goal is to get people away from Bernie Sanders and into going out and doing things. If Trump becomes president, I see a lot of anger; if Hillary wins, I see a lot of people sliding back to apathy.” And while Fredrick, a furniture designer from San Jose, might possibly be described as a “bro,” that label hardly applies to Espey, who is too old, or to Sejour, an African-American woman.

Nor is it so easy to dismiss Daniela Perdoma, the tech entrepreneur who created “If the DNC are smart, they’ll realize the future is in the Sanders-
Warren wing,” she says. “But I’m not sure they are, frankly. Though I am hopeful that at the convention they’ll finally [recognize] that no matter who the candidate is, the party’s platform has to look more like Bernie’s than Hillary’s in order to win the White House.”

* * *

This doesn’t have to all end in tragedy. But it 
might. Because even if America could survive a Trump presidency—a doubtful proposition—we simply can’t afford to throw away the energy, the idealism, the thirst for justice that the Sanders campaign has revealed and revived. In the long run, that probably matters even more than who sits in the Oval Office.

For the Democrats, the road to reconciliation is not obscure. Sanders is right to rail at our rigged system—but if the Democrats win in November thanks in part to his ideas and his voters, he’ll be positioned to do something about it, fighting in the Senate alongside Elizabeth Warren and still the leader of a political movement that was always about more than winning the presidency.

If by some miracle he ends up with more votes and more pledged delegates than Clinton, she’ll need to step aside gracefully. More likely that will be Sanders’ role. Clinton can—and should—do a lot to make that easier, by remembering what it felt like when she came up short in 2008 and dropping the campaign to pre-position Sanders supporters for blame if she loses in November. Heartbreak doesn’t have to be fatal.

“If he doesn’t want to spend the fall saying nice things about Hillary, he can do issue events instead,” says Steve Cobble, 
cofounder of Progressive Democrats of America. “Besides, he doesn’t have to say Hillary is a goddess to point out that Donald Trump is a fraud.”

Sanders could also make good on his slogan “Not Me. US.” by supporting the wave of Berniecrats that his campaign has inspired to run for office—people like Dimitri Cherny, a former CEO turned truck driver running against Mark Sanford in South Carolina, or Jamie Raskin (who’s also joined Brand New Congress) in Maryland. Indeed, the Sanders campaign has already endorsed and raised money for Pramila Jayapal in Washington, Lucy Flores in Nevada, and Zephyr Teachout in New York, as well as for a slate of eight statehouse candidates from South Carolina to California. (Though a welcome move, Sanders’ recent endorsement of Tim Canova in Florida had a strong element of payback for DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s latest scolding.)

What Sanders himself decides to do with the power he has acquired is enormously important. Ultimately, though, what his people—Bernie’s Army—do with their power is even more important. And that might take some time to figure out.

“Movements are messy,” Larry Cohen points out. “That’s a good thing about movements: People have to try different things to figure out what works.”

“We have to be connected and stay in touch with each other,” says Leslie Lee III. Like everyone else I interviewed, Lee has no intention of giving up the fight—or the power he’s discovered these past few months. “Liberals were afraid of using their power. We have to get over that.” But he, too, understands that real change takes time—and is seldom smooth.

“Everybody might have to stay in their lanes for a while, fight their fights,” he says. “And it does not come together like a Voltron at the end. It’s not going to come together neatly.

What Black Americans Say About 'Black-On-Black' Gun Violence

Over Memorial Day weekend, at least 69 people were shot in Chicago. If past trends continue, most of them are people of color. Mass shootings in places like Newtown, Aurora, and San Bernardino grab national attention, but gun violence is a regular part of life in many communities of color. Among boys and men ages 15-34, for example, African Americans are over 20 times more likely than whites to be victims of gun homicide.

While more attention to gun violence in communities of color is sorely needed, too often existing coverage focuses on “black-on-black” dysfunction rather than structural causes and potential solutions.

A recent New York Times story provides an example. “A Drumbeat of Multiple Shootings, but America is Not Listening” chronicled the victims of 358 shootings with four or more deaths or injuries. Many stemmed from arguments over a petty grievance, an insult, or another sign of disrespect. The story emphasized the “black-on-black” nature of gun violence, and suggested black activists expend too much energy protesting police violence against African Americans and too little energy focused on “routine gun violence.” While the story’s narrative describing the death of an innocent bystander put a compelling face on statistics, the story did not offer meaningful solutions.

The problem of gun violence stems not just from petty grievances among impulsive youth of color, however, but from larger structural issues such as credibility of law enforcement, easy access to guns, and a lack of job skills and opportunities. Communities of color care about both gun violence and police violence. Further, communities of color are not simply sources of problems—they also provide important solutions.

Last month, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the Urban Institute, and the Joyce Foundation released Engaging Communities in Reducing Gun Violence: A Road Map for Safer Communities. Our research debunked the notion that African Americans are less attentive to the problem of gun violence than police violence.

In compiling this report, we brought together and listened to residents of communities hard-hit by gun violence—faith leaders, formerly incarcerated individuals, law enforcement, elected officials, social service providers, community activists, and others. Most of the participants were black or Latino—people like Fathers & Families of San Joaquin Executive Director Sammy Nunez; Petersburg, Virginia, Police Chief John Dixon; and Wanda Montgomery of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Others were members of our steering committee and have devoted their careers to building safer communities—people like Gary, Indiana, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson; Rev. Michael McBride of PICO National Network; and Kayla Hicks of the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence. We then tested the ideas that emerged against a nationwide survey of 600 African Americans and 600 Latinos conducted by Benenson Strategy Group (BSG) and Ron Lester and Associates.

While about half of African Americans we surveyed nationally described police brutality (54 percent) and police misconduct (50 percent) in America as extremely serious problems, 80 percent of African Americans described gun violence in America as an extremely serious problem. Indeed, rather than discounting gun violence or seeing it in a silo isolated from police violence, many African Americans see the problems as interconnected. For example, 61 percent of African Americans agreed with the statement that “fewer guns on the streets would improve the relationship between the police and the communities they serve.”

Similarly, the communities with which we met thought improving police-community relationships was a key factor in reducing gun violence. Distrust that stems from arbitrary stops and discriminatory enforcement makes residents less willing to work with police, and makes communities less safe.

Solutions put forth by community members were supported by the survey research. Over 90 percent of African Americans and Latinos supported strengthening police accountability through civilian review boards, body-worn cameras, and racial bias assessment and training of police (including new recruits). Over 76 percent of both groups support prioritizing enforcement on higher-level gun violence offenders rather than lower-level “broken windows” offenders.

Community members also emphasized other solutions that address structural factors that underlie gun violence.

For example, community residents recommended limiting access to guns by the small group of people at high risk of engaging in violence—sometimes no more than 0.25 to 1 percent of a city’s population. Rather than looking to greater penalties for handgun possession that could increase mass incarceration, community members emphasized universal background checks, mandatory reporting for lost and stolen firearms, and increased oversight of licensed firearm dealers. Each proposal was supported by over 86 percent of African Americans and Latinos in the survey research. These restrictions are seen as reducing rather than fueling mass incarceration. About three-quarters of both African Americans and Latinos agreed that “if we keep guns out of the wrong hands, we can also help decrease the number of people who are in prison.”

Community members also recognized that areas hardest hit by gun violence often have suffered disinvestment of resources by companies and the public sector, and that many of those at high risk to commit or to be victimized by gun violence face a lack of job skills and opportunities, addiction, and other challenges. Thus, our report recommends increased investment in social services targeted at high-risk populations and their families, such as drug treatment, mental health services, job training and placement, and conflict interrupters who mediate disputes and discourage retaliation. Over 92 percent of African Americans and over 88 percent of Latinos support solutions like job training, life skills support, and mental health counseling available to young people and people just released from jail or prison.

In addition to these solutions, we heard a deep desire for community members to engage with law enforcement, elected officials, and other community leaders in developing and implementing solutions to gun violence.

While we should be honest and give much-needed attention to gun violence in communities of color, we need to consider all the facts. Focusing largely on shallow black-on-black spats makes gun violence a “black and brown” problem, masks deeper structural causes of gun violence, and obscures the responsibility of all Americans to help solve the problem. Our new research suggests that communities that are most affected by gun violence understand the challenges, know the solutions that will have the greatest impact, and are eager to be at the table to drive those solutions forward.

The Left Is Winning the Debate Around the World: So Now What?

After the Labour Party’s electoral defeat in Britain last year, the party’s small left caucus debated whether it should stand a candidate for the leadership at all. Some feared defeat would expose just how small the caucus was. Others insisted that someone needed to at least raise the arguments against anti-austerity and for a progressive foreign policy to counter the narrative that Labour had lost because it was too progressive.

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A Contested Convention Is Exactly What the Democratic Party Needs

Joe Biden understands something about the Democratic Party and its future that his fellow partisans would do well to consider. “I don’t think any Democrat’s ever won saying, ‘We can’t think that big—we ought to really downsize here because it’s not realistic,’” the vice president told The New York Times in April. “C’mon man, this is the Democratic Party! I’m not part of the party that says, ‘Well, we can’t do it.’” Mocking Hillary Clinton’s criticism of Bernie Sanders for proposing bold reforms, Biden dismissed the politics of lowered expectations. “I like the idea of saying, ‘We can do much more,’ because we can,” he declared, leading the Times to observe that, while Biden wasn’t making an endorsement, “He’ll take Mr. Sanders’s aspirational approach over Mrs. Clinton’s caution any day.”

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The Black Lives Matter Movement Is Most Visible on Twitter but Its True Home Is the Hard Work of Organizing

In March 2012, nearly a month after George Zimmerman killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, hundreds of high-school students in Miami-Dade and Broward counties staged walkouts to protest the fact that Zimmerman hadn’t been arrested on any charges. A group of current and former Florida college activists knew that they had to do something too. During a series of conference calls, Umi Selah (then known as Phillip Agnew) and others in the group planned a 40-mile march from Daytona Beach to the headquarters of the Sanford Police Department—40 miles symbolizing the 40 days that Zimmerman had remained free. On Good Friday, 50 people set off for Sanford. The march culminated in a five-hour blockade of the Sanford PD’s doors on Easter Monday. The marchers demanded Zimmerman’s arrest and the police chief’s firing. Within two days, both demands had been met.

A little over a year later, a jury found Zimmerman not guilty on charges of second-degree murder or manslaughter. Undeterred by the legal setback, the activists—calling themselves the Dream Defenders—showed up in Tallahassee and occupied the Florida statehouse for four weeks in an effort to push Republican Governor Rick Scott to call a special legislative session to review the state’s “stand your ground” law, racial profiling, and school push-out policies, all of which the organization linked to Martin’s death. Fueled in part by participants sharing updates on Twitter, the occupation became a national story, and Selah fielded a flood of requests from media and progressive organizations. Some wanted to give an award to the Dream Defenders; others wanted to add Selah to lists proclaiming the arrival of a new generation of civil-rights heroes. (One writer said he embodied the spirit of Nelson Mandela.) Others wanted his perspective on the burgeoning racial-justice movement. After a while, Selah wanted none of it.

The breaking point came when a major news outlet profiled him without first conducting an interview. The result, he says, was an account that credited him with successes in social-justice movements he wasn’t even involved in. “If I was a person in the [immigrants’-rights] movement, I would look at this article and think, ‘Who the hell is this dude?’” he told me. “I really panicked. I imagined somebody saying, ‘Why is this dude telling Time magazine that he’s been in the forefront of these movements, and we’ve never seen him here?’”

Selah’s response was to pull himself out of the spotlight. He started declining media requests and posting less often to social media. When he did accept an invitation to speak, his goals were to disavow any hero label thrust on him by others and to demystify the Dream Defenders’ work.

Selah is an organizer, not a media personality, and so the trade-off made sense for him. But for others, that might not be the case. Twitter personality and trailing Baltimore mayoral candidate DeRay Mckesson was described in a recent New York Times profile as “the best-known face of the Black Lives Matter movement” and BLM’s “biggest star.” Now followed by more than 300,000 Twitter users, Mckesson began building his following by live-tweeting the protests in Ferguson in August 2014 after driving there from Minneapolis, where he lived at the time. More than a million mentions and retweets on the social-networking platform made him the protagonist of the Times magazine’s cover story on Black Lives Matter and earned him a spot on Fortune’s World’s Greatest Leaders list. But is he an organizer? The historian Barbara Ransby, author of Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement, says she defines organizing as “bringing people together for sustained, coordinated, strategic action for change.” Mckesson, who wisely calls himself a “protester,” is doing something else entirely. The problem is that too many of us don’t know to look for the difference.

* * *

Today’s racial-justice movement demands an end to the disproportionate killing of black people by law-enforcement officials and vigilantes, and seeks to root out white supremacy wherever it lives. Social media has allowed its members to share documentary evidence of police abuse, spread activist messages, and forge a collective meaning out of heartrending news. At certain key moments, Twitter in particular has reflected and reinforced the power of this movement. On November 24, 2014, when the St. Louis County prosecutor announced that a grand jury had decided not to bring charges against the officer who killed an unarmed Michael Brown, Twitter users fired off 3.4 million tweets regarding the police killings of black people and racial-justice organizing, with the vast majority coming from movement supporters and news outlets, according to a recent report by American University’s Center for Media and Social Impact. Weeks later, when the police officer who choked Eric Garner to death in New York City was also not indicted, 4.4 million tweets over a period of seven days kept the nation’s attention focused on the fight for police accountability. Hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter, #Ferguson, #HandsUpDontShoot and #IfTheyGunnedMeDown gave users—including those not yet involved in activism—a way to contribute to conversations they cared about.

But while social media turns the microphone over to activists and organizers who are often far from the center of the media’s attention, its power doesn’t come without pitfalls. In August, a nasty Twitter fight erupted after Mckesson initiated a meeting with Bernie Sanders’s campaign. Writer and activist dream hampton posted a tweet that read: “While a meeting with @deray might be a blast, I would expect @BernieSanders to meet with actual BLM folks, those who forced this platform.” At the heart of the criticism was the claim that Mckesson was not in a position to speak to a presidential candidate on behalf of the Black Lives Matter network—an organization with chapters that grew out of the hashtag created and popularized by Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Khan-Cullors.

“We’re building the bicycle while riding it and being shot at. ” —Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, Project South
That distinction was lost on many of Mckesson’s followers. For them, he was a reliable voice: at times a source of first-person accounts of the protests, at others a consistent and inspiring source of commentary on the issues they cared about. The difference between an organization called Black Lives Matter and a movement that had come to be known by the same name was, to many, negligible and a distraction from the real story: a young black man who was saying the right things on Twitter would be meeting with a presidential candidate.

But for someone like hampton or Selah, the stakes were much higher. “The people who the liberal media and social media have elevated to the position of national leader or spokesperson do not share the values of the movement,” Selah told me. “The ideas that they put forth, the platforms that they put forth, are neoliberal and do not come from a rooting in movement, don’t come from a liberation framework, from an abolition framework.” (Mckesson declined repeated requests for an interview for this story.)

So what are the values of the movement? Who is spreading them—and how? Charlene Carruthers, national director of Black Youth Project 100, has been engaged with those questions for more than a decade. While an undergraduate at Illinois Wesleyan University, she was active in the Black Student Union. She worked on campaigns in support of young black candidates while getting her master’s degree in social work in St. Louis. After she graduated, she joined the staff at an affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation in Virginia and managed online campaigns at the civil-rights organization ColorofChange. (Full disclosure: She and I were colleagues there.)

Since July 2013, when Zimmerman was acquitted, Carruthers has helped build BYP 100, a youth-led organization made up of people between the ages of 18 and 35. BYP 100 has developed a democratic decision-making process and operates from what Carruthers calls a “young black queer feminist” perspective. The group now has an estimated 300 members nationwide and chapters in Chicago, New Orleans, Detroit, Oakland, and Washington, DC. Its work in Chicago has drawn the most attention: In response to the police killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and the killing of 22-year-old Rekia Boyd by an off-duty officer, BYP 100 organized protests and marches that played a key role in the firing of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy in late 2015. A recent Chicago magazine article declared the chapter “the most vocal and arguably most effective activist group in town.” How did they get there? Carruthers explains: “We recruit. We do trainings. We do campaign work. That’s the slow, hard work of organizing. Building a base is what we do.”

Writing in Truthout, organizer Ejeris Dixon, who has worked with the New York City Anti-Violence Project and the Audre Lorde Project, describes base-building as, at heart, relationship-building: “a series of activities designed to introduce, engage, and keep people involved in our movements. That means meeting individuals where they are and building forward from that place—the barbershop, the salon, the laundromat, the doorway—where we come together as people and have a conversation.” The Movement for Black Lives policy table, which grew out of a national gathering of activists at Cleveland State University last summer, recently set out to do just that. In January, the policy table announced the start of a six-month process to develop a national agenda. Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, a regional organizer with Project South, is a participant. She says she feels the pressure of developing a vision and creating infrastructure while responding to the seemingly endless killings of black people by police: “We’re building the bicycle while riding it and being shot at.”

Henderson’s background, like Carruthers’s, shows deep connections to earlier iterations of the black-liberation movement in the United States. “My mom is an original Black Panther Party member, and my father was very big in the Black Arts Movement in Tennessee and also in the black radio scene,” Henderson says. When a 66-year-old black man named Wadie Suttles died in custody at the Chattanooga jail in 1983, her father took the bold step of naming the police officer suspected of the fatal beating on the air. In 2004, Henderson met veterans of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference when she took a monthlong bus ride with other young activists to register voters and commemorate Freedom Summer.

Among the current organizers, evidence of such long-standing commitment to racial justice is common, notes Barbara Ransby. Many leaders are taking the skills developed in labor or prison or community organizing and applying them to new collaborations. “Oftentimes we don’t do that genealogy, and a new organization feels like it came out of the blue,” she said. “There were new formations, but they were not newly formed organizers.”

* * *

“The work we have to do doesn’t necessarily lend itself to 140 characters.” —Rachel Gilmer, Dream Defenders
What is new, at least for many, is the space for explicitly black organizing undertaken by activists tied to black communities. Makani Themba, a longtime organizer and founding director of the Praxis Project, explains that in the 1960s, the leaders of the movement were the heads of black institutions with sizable bases—think Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Ella Baker, Stokely Carmichael. That changed in ’70s and ’80s, as black leadership came to mean “the most deeply penetrated black person in white or mainstream institutions,” Themba adds. As civil-rights organizations began to depend more on corporate contributions than member donations, and as Reagan-era cuts decimated organizations serving the black poor, black activists who wanted organizing and advocacy jobs turned to the institutions that had the resources to pay and retain them—often unions and economic-justice organizations that operated outside any explicitly black cultural context.

That pattern has shifted in recent years. The phrase “unapologetically black” appears on T-shirts and hoodies worn by movement activists, and a dedication to using messages appealing to black audiences dominates today’s approach to racial-justice organizing. New groups like BYP 100, the Dream Defenders, and Black Lives Matter have blossomed in the wake of Zimmerman’s acquittal. Denise Perry directs Black Organizing for Leadership & Dignity, whose stated mission is to “help rebuild Black social justice infrastructure…and re-center Black leadership in the US social justice movement.” BOLD launched in 2011 and graduated its first class of trainees the following year. Perry says that the focus on black organizing was new for a majority of participants. “Many of them were organizing in multiracial, multiethnic organizations. That work is important; we’re not going to win on our own. But the space to have conversations about what we need to work on was new for 98 percent of the people in the room.”

* * *

After the Dream Defenders’ successful occupation of the Florida statehouse in 2013, its members were tempted to focus on actions that would satisfy a Twitter following that had jumped from about 4,000 to more than 30,000 in a month’s time. But the work of organizing “has to be done,” says Rachel Gilmer, 28, who joined the group last summer, “and it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to 140 characters that are going to get retweeted thousands of times.”

In the end, the commitment to building local campaigns won out over the lure of high visibility. The organization, which has eight chapters in Florida, is now in the midst of a yearlong effort to determine its long-term strategy, regardless of the ebbs and flows created by social-media buzz. Last fall, the group put a three-month moratorium on social media, which strengthened relationships and built trust among colleagues, Gilmer says. “It was an opportunity for us to take a break from all the noise in order to get back connected with one another.”

It also forced a reality check about relationships in the movement. “We’re like ‘Hey, fam!’ [online], but people don’t really know each other,” Gilmer says. “There’s no substitute for human interaction.”

Twitter feeds constantly updated with smart observations about the latest cause for outrage are a lot more visible than the painstaking meetings that precede a transit-system shutdown, a citywide protest, or a collaboratively written 40-page policy agenda. But understanding the distinction between organizers and amplifiers matters; otherwise, we’ll overrate those who excel at amplifying the passion of a movement and undervalue the organizers, who make concrete change happen. Or as Henderson puts it: “The press doesn’t tell me who the leaders of particular movements are—communities do.”  

Bernie Sanders Is Not Going to Be President of the United States - He Should Keep Running Anyway

Despite winning 49 New York counties to Hillary Clinton’s 13, and more votes in the state than Donald Trump and John Kasich combined, Bernie Sanders is not going to be the next president of the United States. For those of us who really thought he might, his defeat here hits especially hard. The temptation to abandon ourselves to recrimination and despair will be strong. Yet it must be resisted.

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27 Percent of New York’s Registered Voters Won’t Be Able to Vote in the State’s Primary

In June 2013, North Carolina passed the most sweeping voting restrictions in the country, requiring strict voter ID, cutting early voting and eliminating same-day registration, pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds, and out-of-precinct voting, among other political reforms. The state defended its cutbacks in court last summer by invoking, of all places, New York.

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Global Warming's Terrifying New Chemistry

Global warming is, in the end, not about the noisy political battles here on the planet’s surface. It actually happens in constant, silent interactions in the atmosphere, where the molecular structure of certain gases traps heat that would otherwise radiate back out to space. If you get the chemistry wrong, it doesn’t matter how many landmark climate agreements you sign or how many speeches you give. And it appears the United States may have gotten the chemistry wrong. Really wrong.

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Donald Trump Could Be the Military-Industrial Complex's Worst Nightmare

Let’s admit it. As political provocateur, Donald Trump has a dizzy kind of genius. He feints to the right, then he spins to the left. Either way, the hot subject for political chatter becomes Donald Trump.

This week, while people everywhere were fretting over his violent talk, the candidate came to Washington and dropped a peace bomb on the neocon editorial writers at The Washington Post and the war lobby. Trump wants to get the United States out of fighting other people’s wars. He thinks maybe NATO has outlived its usefulness. He asks why Americans are still paying for South Korea’s national defense. Or Germany’s or Saudi Arabia’s.

“I do think it’s a different world today and I don’t think we should be nation-building anymore,” Trump said. “I think it’s proven not to work. And we have a different country than we did then. You know we have $19 trillion in debt. We’re sitting probably on a bubble, and, you know, it’s a bubble that if it breaks is going to be very nasty. And I just think we have to rebuild our country.”

Will anybody give him an amen? Yes, lots of folks. People who read The Nation (myself included) have been saying something similar for a long time. So have libertarian Republicans on the right. But this sort of thinking is mega-heresy among the political establishment of both parties. The foreign-policy operators consider themselves in charge of the “indispensable nation.”

This new Trump talk is definitely career-threatening for the military-industrial complex. It was particularly playful of Trump to choose The Washington Post as the place to drop his bomb; after all, it’s the Post that has made itself such a righteous preacher for endless war-making.

The Donald, usually bellicose in style and substance, is singing, “give peace a chance.” What does his detour portend for national policy? We can’t know for sure, since Trump also has a tendency to casually contradict himself before different audiences. Later on the same day, he addressed AIPAC’s convention and sounded a like a warrior for Zion. He got thunderous applause after making the ritual promises that candidates from both parties always make at AIPAC meetings.

But Trump has, in his usual unvarnished manner, kicked open the door to an important and fundamental foreign-policy debate. It is far more profound than the disputes we usually hear between hawks and doves. He’s proposing a radical standard for testing US policy abroad, both in war and peace: Is it actually in America’s interest? Or has US global strategy become a dangerous hangover from the glory years, when Washington armed and organized nations for the Cold War?

Whatever happened in past decades, Trump insists that this US ambition always to be in charge is now actively damaging our country, wasting scarce treasure and drawing us into other people’s conflicts. ThePost opinionators must have choked on his words.

“I watched as we built schools in Iraq and they’d be blown up,” Trump told the editors. “And we’d build another one and it would get blown up. And we would rebuild it three times. And yet we can’t build a school in Brooklyn.… at what point do you say hey, we have to take care of ourselves. So, you know, I know the outer world exists and I’ll be very cognizant of that but at the same time, our country is disintegrating, large sections of it, especially in the inner cities.”

Trump has thus shrewdly articulated what ought to be a vital subject for debate in 2016. Instead, I suspect, he will be inundated with lordly rebukes by the policy elites. And the editorial writers will explain how half-baked and dangerous his ideas are to the future of mankind.

We can imagine the labels they’ll haul out from history: Protectionist. Nationalist. Isolationist. America Firster. His challenging proposition reminds me of my childhood, because I grew up in idyllic small-town Ohio, where those skeptical views of “foreign entanglements” defined the Republican Party (there weren’t many Democrats in my home town, and they mostly kept quiet).

As teenagers, we grew up as Robert A. Taft Republicans and deeply suspicious of the “Eastern Establishment,” who looked down on us as Midwestern bumpkins. The decisive election was 1952, when Taft lost the GOP nomination to a genuine national hero, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower. We were heartbroken. In the Midwest we lived in the middle of a great big country and could reasonably feel that we should stay out of other people’s troubles. The Cold War pretty much destroyed that common sense.

Ike’s victory ratified America’s commitment to developing a new world order of global alliances and foreign military deployments. That order seemed like the right thing to do 60 years ago, but now it falls to an outsider named Trump to demand fundamental reconsideration.

I suspect most Americans would agree with Trump’s tough questions but are not sure of the answers (neither perhaps is he). Plus, in these insecure times, people do not wish to sound unpatriotic. In my hometown, we quickly fell in love with Eisenhower the moderate Republican, who resisted the party’s hard right (who thought Ike was a commie).

At the end of his second presidential term, Eisenhower, the general who won World War II in Europe, was warning us about the dangers of something he called the “military-industrial complex.” I wonder what he would tell us today.

Ted Cruz Is an Anti-Muslim Bigot, Too

 This is a frightening time for Muslims in America. One of the country’s major parties is in thrall to anti-Muslim ideologues.

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How Trump Dog-Whistles the Business Establishment

Even as Donald Trump woos working-class voters by trashing Washington politicians, he is sending a reassuring message to the business-financial establishment: Don’t worry, I’m on your side, he’s telling corporate execs in coded language. Trump the dealmaker has signaled that he’ll deliver mammoth tax “forgiveness”—worth hundreds of billions—to the largest multinational corporations.

Trump delivered this message during his victory speech in Florida on Tuesday, but it was couched in evasive and deceitful terms that only insiders were likely to understand. Business and financial leaders will certainly get it, because they’re lobbying intensely for the same deal: massive tax reductions for gold-plated names like Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and scores of other globalized American corporations.

The companies have $2.1 trillion in overseas profits parked offshore and untaxed, and they won’t bring the money home until Congress agrees to give them another “tax holiday” and permanently reduces the corporate tax rate.

Except Trump makes it sound like the multinationals are the victims—held hostage by dirty politicians. In fact, it’s the opposite. The tech companies, mega-banks, and drug makers are carrying out the corporate version of highway robbery: If Congress doesn’t give in to their demands, they threaten to pull the trigger by moving to Ireland or other low-tax hangouts.

“I’m disgusted with it; I’m tired of seeing it,” Trump told his adoring fans. “People can’t get their money back into the country because the politicians can’t get along, they can’t make a deal…. Companies are leaving our country in order to go and get money—that’s their money—because there’s no way of bringing it in.”

Trump says he would change all that instantly as president. The dealmaker would introduce a cooperative spirit of compromise. “If I sat down with a few of the senators, or a few of the congressmen, you could make a deal on that in 10 minutes,” he said.

Like so much of his campaign rhetoric, Trump turns reality into baloney. The multinationals can bring their profits home anytime they wish. Like right now. They merely have to pay the taxes they already owe. The threat to American citizens is that both Democrats and Republicans will cave in and collaborate in giving the corporate tax dodgers what they want. The rest of us will pick up the tab.

Campaign reporters and cable-TV talkers missed the story entirely, though it’s not exactly their fault, because Trump distorted the true meaning of what he was promising. I imagine campaign reporters ignored this talk because it sounded like more of Trump’s goofy stream-of-consciousness soliloquies.

The only reason I caught his drift was that Trump was talking about the very subject of my recent Nation blog, “Democrats and Republicans Are Quietly Planning a Corporate Giveaway—to the Tune of $400 Billion.” Senator Elizabeth Warren has already denounced this bipartisan political scheme as “a giant wet kiss for the tax dodgers.” Indeed, it is another stunning example of why Washington deal-making enrages citizens.

Most voters don’t have a clue. They certainly do not realize that this working-class hero named Trump is actually a willing agent of the 1 percenters. Who will tell the people, if reporters covering the presidential election think it’s only a horse race?

Trump, I suspect, is turning a corner in his campaign. Having bonded with millions of hurt and angry working people, he’s attempting now to assure elites that he can also play “presidential” in a convincing manner. After ridiculing Marco Rubio mercilessly for months, Trump congratulated the young man on his campaign and predicted a promising future for him. Ho-ho-ho.

Trump also had a nice talk with the Grand Wizard of GOP obstruction, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, who urged him to go light on the violent lingo. Trump also made nice with House Speaker Paul Ryan.

I expect this next phase of the Trump campaign will test the Republican temperament generally. Will party regulars depart on principle if he wins the nomination? (Not many have, so far.) Or will they hop on board in the vague hope that Trump is a winner who might “mature” in the cauldron of presidential responsibilities?

I imagine Trump is imperially pleased with himself. He chuckles when he does his hair. Not sure himself which way to go, he knows it will be great.

Why Bernie's Revolution Has Just Begun

Well, we’ll always have Michigan….

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It's Not About Trump - Our Political Culture Is Corrupt

Trumpism was created in the crucible of the “Southern strategy.” We have sown to the wind, reaping the whirlwind.

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Why Our Generation's Best Chance Is Socialism

Every election season is a time of bemoaning why millennials won’t vote for politicians boldly committed to picking at the edges of their problems. Consider a snapshot of the situation young people face: the unemployment rate for workers under age 25 is 18.1 percent; unemployment for black people who have not graduated from high school is 82.5 percent; the people most likely to be shot by police are black 25–34-year-olds; the national student loan debt has surpassed $1 trillion; and the only jobs lucrative enough to pay off college loans are in the financial industry that detonated our economy or Silicon Valley companies deregulating working-class industries.

The future doesn’t hold much hope either, with median household income declining 12.4 percent between 2000 and 2011. Having a family is simply harder to afford now. Meanwhile, each new year sets another low record for union density, meaning we have few levers for turning those income numbers around. Unlike most wealthy countries, the United States lacks universal childcare and maternity leave, so women are stuck with the same old debates over an impossible work-life balance.

We were told that in the knowledge economy good jobs followed higher education; there are few jobs, and we lock ourselves into miserable ones as quickly as possible to feed the loan sharks. The magazine writers who report on self-indulgent 20-somethings (think Time’s “The Me Me Me Generation” cover), the well-meaning guidance counselors who coach kids to “invest in themselves”—they should save their breath. You don’t need a college course to know when you’re getting screwed.

The most grotesque feature of the 2016 election is the razor-thin spectrum of solutions proposed by the front-runners to a historic set of problems. Lost in the noise of the 2016 election cycle is the fact that no viable candidate offers any hope for a radically more equal society: The policies on offer would merely mitigate the dire inequality that has been growing since Reagan. And this is despite the fact that a majority of Americans express widespread discontent with the country’s extreme consolidation of wealth: about three in four Americans think that inequality is a serious problem in the United States. (This places Americans in the mainstream of world opinion, where in all 44 nations polled by Pew, people think inequality is a big problem facing their countries.) It is this popular dissatisfaction that no doubt accounts for the unexpected surge of support for the unlikely long-shot Democratic candidate, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist.

Indeed, the most obvious source of this election’s futility is that popular opinion, expressed through elections, has essentially proved to have no influence on policy. According to a now-famous 2014 Princeton and Northwestern study measuring influence in American politics, “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.” On key issues like gun control, financial reform, and education spending, the policy-makers’ divergence from popular opinion has been particularly stark. The United States is now, in effect, an oligarchy. Beyond this sad reckoning lies an even more fundamental problem: There is no better alternative on offer. We need a vision of a better future, one that turns our modern capacity for abundant food, shelter, and health into a guarantee that no one will suffer for their lack.

So when people demand that we vote, you can see why the answer comes back: For what?

The economic crash was not just an ugly fluctuation that we’re all trying in good faith to correct. It has provided cover for neoliberal benefit rollbacks—cutting government services in the name of budget crises—in which all of these candidates have participated. Vulnerable people who need the services the most get screwed first: the young, the old, the poor. Eligibility for unemployment benefits has been tightened and opportunities to extend them rejected because we “can’t afford them.”

A college education is edging beyond reach for many of us. In 2012, Congress restricted Pell grants for low-income college students. While national student debt has surpassed $1 trillion, the federal government has made it impossible to default on these college loans—even your Social Security can be garnished to pay them off. And before students even make it to college, they are subjected to schools with such attenuated budgets that physicians have started prescribing Adderall to poor kids to keep them focused in unruly classrooms, whether they have ADD or not. In the words of one doctor, “We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid.”

Perhaps it’s wise to modify the kid for the brave new world that will await her: one with constantly shifting and disappearing jobs and no safety net of any kind. It is a truism now that no one expects one career. Most people now in college or high school will have six jobs by the time they’re 26. And let us not mistake flexible work for fulfilling work. This is an age when the power of the boss is so ascendant over the power of the worker that we can be shuffled around to match precisely the needs of capital. Department stores and retailers now use apps that will inform an employee midway through a workday if their services are no longer needed to match customer demand. About half of early-career hourly workers learn their schedule for the week less than one week in advance. A full day’s work, or a “steady” job, is a thing of the past. This is a chronically unstable way to operate in the world, picking up bits of knowledge work, service work, or manual labor as needed.

When asked what factors led to such a dramatic divide between the needs of the average citizen and the actions of the state, Princeton sociologist Martin Gilens, co-author of the 2014 study measuring influence in American politics, cited moneyed lobbying on the one hand, and “the lack of mass organizations that represent and facilitate the voice of ordinary citizens,” on the other. “Part of that would be the decline of unions in the country, which has been quite dramatic over the last 30 or 40 years,” Gilens added. “And part of it is the lack of a socialist or a worker’s party.”

It is not only in the United States that unions are crumbling and the safety net is being torched in the name of leaner, more responsible budgets. The eurozone, which was once touted as the means to a prosperous and peaceful continent, has revealed itself to be nothing more than a continental system of extraction.

Poor countries in Southern Europe borrowed money from foreign banks before the devastating financial crisis of 2010, only to find themselves unable to pay them back. To protect the euro, much of this debt was restructured and taken over by the troika—the International Monetary Fund, European Commission, and the European Central Bank—that then forced countries such as Greece, Spain, and Italy to cut social spending to pay off the debts. Now in Greece, for example, unemployment has hit 25 percent in part because of huge public-sector cuts, and suicide, addiction, and infant mortality are all on the rise because the troika has required cuts in healthcare spending.

For examples of turning radical ideas into platforms for power, we might consider the rise of radical European parties in opposition to this sort of austerity—examples of Gilens’ counterweights to oligarchy. As we write, these parties are being buffeted by international creditors and may collapse, but they have far outpaced Americans in organizing militant-left institutions. Greece elected Syriza, the first radical leftist, antiausterity party to hold power within the EU. Syriza entered government promising to defy troika mandates and leave debt unpaid rather than starve Greeks. They promised, as well, greater democracy in the workplace, supporting enterprises such as the national television station, which had come under worker control during the crisis. In Spain, the Indignados movement, a sort of precursor to Occupy in the United States, has transformed into a political party called Podemos. They, too, promise to defy EU austerity measures, root out corruption, and devolve more democracy to local councils. These parties are quite different from each other, the former born from a fusion of radical-left forces and the other out of a haphazard and less ideologically coherent coalition of regional groups. They will not solve the crisis right away, and may even disintegrate under pressure from the troika, but they provide an example of organizing successfully for power.

The United States has shown glimmers of such radical potential. The surge of youth politicization embodied by Occupy injected class into our public debate back in 2011 and formed connections with antiausterity movements across the world, especially with the Spanish Indignados. More recently, the Black Lives Matter movement for racial justice has forced the whole country to confront not only the violence that oppresses black people in America but also the recession that black America has suffered since 2001. Parts of the movement are putting forward economic programs.

Like Occupy, Black Lives Matter eschews centralized leadership in favor of a more horizontal structure that privileges local autonomy. On December 13, 2014, some 30,000 people marched through New York City in honor of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and other black victims of police brutality, creating a new normal in the public’s response: Today, police shootings, which are no more prevalent than before, regularly make headline news and inspire mass protests. One of President Barack Obama’s last acts in office will be limiting military equipment for police departments; his reform barely scratches the surface of the problems with American policing, but is one of the first tangible results of the movement at the federal level. No change would be on the agenda without pressure from the new organization.

Young activists in the United States are embedded in other rising leftist forces as well. Fight for 15 is a low-wage workers’ movement that started with promising victories for fast-food workers and has most recently achieved a previously unthinkable $15 minimum wage for all of Los Angeles. The domestic workers’ movement, almost entirely run by and representing immigrant women of color, has organized to achieve a domestic workers’ bills of rights—which includes the right to overtime, days off, and legal protection from sexual harassment—in New York, California, Massachusetts, and Hawaii. The debt-abolition movement, which emerged from Occupy, has recently been the undoing of Corinthian Colleges, a shady for-profit education company that ripped off thousands of students, a few of whom, in an act of economic disobedience, are now refusing to pay their student debts in protest. The immigrants’ rights movement has been tremendously brave, with many young people taking leadership roles and exposing themselves to potential deportation. All of these organizations have enormous challenges ahead of them, especially because most are reliant on centralized labor union and foundation funding and are not self-sustaining through dues or other traditional labor methods. They also represent a tiny fraction of citizens, even as they point to creative ways forward.

So where does that leave us? Some across left-of-center American politics have stepped forward to condemn the new activism. If the reaction to Occupy was “What are your demands?”—shorthand for “show us your reasonable think tank–approved white papers”—then the reaction to Black Lives Matter has not been far off. Establishment liberals such as Al Sharpton have condemned the movement for lacking leaders and have demanded a focus on voter registration and mobilization. Black voter registration did surge in Ferguson, Missouri, after Michael Brown’s killing by police officer Darren Wilson, but in the poignant words of one activist and scholar, “Voting would not have saved Michael Brown.” Certainly, voting for Obama has produced little change, either in the treatment of black people by the police and the criminal-justice system, or for students and their chronic state of debt, or for the falling incomes of ordinary workers.

The unimaginative stance of established politicos demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of grassroots politics. Protests don’t write policy in their first months, but rather shift conversations and tell everyone suffering through American capitalism that they are not alone. More important, all of these movements for change ultimately have one focus: on redistribution—of wealth, power, and justice. Their decentralized structures pose challenges, and are sometimes liabilities, but they indicate a real hunger for democracy, one that may manifest itself differently in the future.

In fact, according to a 2011 Pew poll, a higher percentage of Americans between the ages of 18 and 30 have a more favorable opinion of socialism than of capitalism. This points to a tremendous churn of radical potential, and while we should not get too utopian about its imminent triumph, it is crucial that we, like the rising European parties, articulate the sort of world we would like to see, the world that no leading candidates have promised. This is a world that could only be born with the force of social movements at its back.

It is time, in other words, for ideas big enough to be worthy of the global discontent that put them on the agenda. The ideas in this volume draw on a rich tradition of socialist proposals, long a force in American politics, only recently quashed into obscurity. It’s easy to forget that socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs won almost a million votes, twice. Or that hundreds of mayors and local officials were socialists in the first half of the 20th century, and that Milwaukee elected three “sewer socialist” mayors, the last as late as 1956. Even today, the Senate boasts a self-described democratic socialist, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. This is not a strain alien to American soil—despite the neo-McCarthyite language of the Republican Party. The modern GOP accuses every Democrat of being a socialist (we wish!) and slurs progressive taxation, universal healthcare, and a host of other decent policies as “foreign” and “European” in order to cast suspicion on anyone left of center.

We propose an alternative vision—both reformist and revolutionary, utopian and pragmatic. Leftists have often shied away from suggesting blueprints, thinking them undemocratic. But proposing a course isn’t the same thing as imposing one. If the movements we’ve embraced in the past couple of years are worth taking seriously, it’s because they can form the political basis for social plans. People want to know that there is another way.

The openness of young people to socialism may indicate two things: They are fed up with being repeatedly let down by capitalism; and people who came to political consciousness after 1989 do not have a vision of socialism heavily influenced by the Cold War. When the economic crisis hit, there was a resurgence of casual interest in Marx, with headlines like “Why Marxism Is on the Rise Again” and “A Generation of Intellectuals Shaped by 2008 Crash Rescues Marx From History’s Dustbin.” Some Black Lives Matter activists have taken up the mantle of the Black Panthers, whose vision of socialism confronted centuries of racist exploitation. Newfound engagement resulted from attempts to describe what was happening to us, and Marxism—which describes a system designed to produce expropriation at the bottom and growing windfalls at the top—suddenly seemed more convincing than liberal fumbling to explain how Democratic policies generated by people such as former Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers could have contributed to the disastrous crash.

The socialism we envision, and toward which we take some first steps toward describing, is one that prizes democracy, striving always for the sort of mass redistribution that makes individual human flourishing possible. Our goal is an economic democracy that produces more freedom than we could ever hope for under our current system.

What the Democratic Primary Contest Is Missing, When It Comes to Women

As the 2016 presidential primary race moves on to Nevada and South Carolina, then to bigger states in March, let’s hope we’re leaving behind the tedious and divisive way both campaigns and their supporters talked to and about women.

Let’s especially hope we’re leaving behind two of the most annoying features of the campaign to date: the so-called Berniebros preying on female Hillary Clinton supporters with, at best, condescension and, at worst, sexist abuse, and the hellfire from Hillary Clinton backers—we’ll play on Madeleine Albright’s unhelpful quote about the “special place in hell for women who don’t support other women”—insisting that female Bernie supporters are failing their sister Hillary Clinton with their terrible taste in men.

What do both sets of attacks have in common? They’re both directed—critically, condescendingly, and annoyingly—at women. Of course.

To his credit, Sanders has denounced his abusive keyboard-warrior fans who troll women with sexist invective. “Anybody who is supporting me that is doing the sexist things—we don’t want them,” he recently told CNN, echoing comments he made earlier in the campaign. That meant a lot—especially when some of his high-profile male media defenders, trying to gaslight the women who’ve been targeted by obnoxious pro-Sanders sexists, have insisted that Berniebros don’t even exist. It’s also interesting to note that since the Sanders campaign spoke up, the incidence of online abuse has gone down (as far as I can tell). Apparently the keyboard warriors are listening to their leader.

I’m also bothered by the Clinton campaign’s response to the issue of younger women’s supporting her opponent. Again, it’s not coming from the candidate herself. Clinton has had a generous and pragmatic response to the phenomenon: “They may not be for me, but I am for them.”

But last weekend we saw the campaign’s messaging unravel thanks to three passionate supporters. Gloria Steinem, in a quote that’s been taken out of context, somewhat unfairly, lamentably claimed that “when you’re young you’re thinking, Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.” Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright spoke aloud, in the context of this campaign, the maxim so famous that it’s adorned Starbucks cups, seeming to condemn Sanders’ young female supporters not merely to the political margins but to hell. Finally, former president Clinton railed against the Berniebros and cited me by name, referencing the piece I wrote about the abuse I’ve taken from some of Sanders’ ugliest male supporters.

None of that helped Clinton; it may have hurt her. I hope that condescending approach to women who support Sanders is behind us—but it may not be, because when the Clinton campaign is feeling cornered, misunderstood, and down in the polls, as in was in 2008, its worst instincts come out. The campaign has to learn from that loss; defensiveness never works, and attacking her opponent only reinforces the stereotype that she plays dirty (never mind that both Obama and Sanders gave as good as they got; they were insulated from attacks because they weren’t seen as mere politicians; they were judged to have transcended politics to become movement leaders). Clinton began to rebound in 2008 when she shook off her angst about media bias and campaign sexism and became a fighter again. She needs to do that this time around.

In particular, Clinton has to look squarely at her dismal numbers with millennials to try to understand the desperation, and related distrust of politics, behind them. It’s absolutely accurate to say that Clinton’s negative numbers on honesty and trustworthiness have been driven by a 25-year “vast right-wing conspiracy”; but what’s done is done. Sanders is bringing in new voters who have little knowledge and no ingrained defensiveness about what Democrats have suffered at the hands of increasingly radical and politically vicious right-wing Republicans (and compliant media). Many have no loyalty to the Democratic Party in the first place. Democrats, starting with Clinton, must try to win their loyalty.

Young women in particular have to be a Clinton concern. Women are always more “liberal” than men, and more pro-government, because they have always been more vulnerable to the unfairness of the market. The gender gap has been at least as driven by economics as by concerns about reproductive rights and gender discrimination—poorly labeled “women’s issues”—if not more so. On one level, then, it makes sense that young women are open to Sanders’s radicalism, and his appeal to a vastly expanded welfare state, providing free college, and single-payer healthcare financed by higher taxes.

They may also feel more free of sexism than their mothers, aunts, and older sisters. They probably are more free of it. I’ve heard two messages coming from Clinton supporters, in response to that argument, in the last two weeks. One is: OK, you’re more free of sexism. That’s due to our hard work. And this is how you thank us? The other is to say: Life only seems fairer to millennial women; wait until they get older and face the condescension, contempt, and outright discrimination women meet in the workplace—especially as they age. It’s either “You’re an ingrate!” or “Life gets worse!”

As the mother of a millennial woman (albeit one who supports and works for Clinton), let me tell you, those are terrible messages. We have to drop them.

But what should Clinton say instead? She isn’t a radical, and she shouldn’t pretend to be one. She does not believe in the rapidly and vastly expanded welfare state, financed by vastly expanded taxes, that Sanders promises. But she must cast her own progressive vision in much bolder terms than she has to date. She has decent reasons to oppose “free college”; first of all, it would crowd out most of the other new and expanded government programs she has proposed. Still, Clinton must feel the desperation of a generation saddled with student debt for whom “free college” makes absolute sense. When she said flat-out in the last debate, “No, I don’t believe in free college,” I cringed. There’s a tough, candid, but sometimes flippant side to Clinton—”That’s what they offered me,” in response to concern about her Wall Street speaking fees—that I respect. To me it’s like Cautious Hillary finally doesn’t GAF, as the kids say. But she has to GAF, lots more of them, about these issues if she wants to win.

Clinton’s incrementalism is a tough sell to a younger generation unschooled by life’s limits and desperate for change. She needs to cast her own agenda boldly, as the answer to strangling student debt, stagnating wages, and a cruelly threadbare safety net for parents and children, especially compared to the rest of the developed world. Her pitch ought to be something like: “Free college may ultimately be a good idea, and maybe we’ll get there. But funding free college now would make it impossible to fund everything else on our agenda. We need universal preschool, for example, and more widely available childcare. We need to expand the Affordable Care Act until it’s truly universal. We need paid family leave. Yes, we need to make the rich pay their fair share of taxes, and we’re going to. But we are probably going to have to prioritize our most urgent issues first. So I’m starting with debt-free college, and universal preschool, and paid family leave. Until we get all of that done, I’m fine with Donald Trump’s grandkids—and my granddaughter, Charlotte—having to contribute something to their own education.”

While I’m giving free campaign advice, I’d also advise her staff to schedule a lightly moderated town hall at a South Carolina university—maybe at an historically black college. I saw her speak at Claflin University, an HBCU, in November, and she shined. But it was a small crowd, and only a minority of the audience were students. In New Hampshire last week, Clinton reportedly took questions from college-aged Sanders supporters, which was a good idea—but almost nobody saw it. There’s no guarantee we’ll see it this time, but it’s worth a try, and if she goes big and bold enough, media invested in the idea that she can’t do it might televise the spectacle.

What does Sanders have to do, on gender issues, besides keep the Berniebros reined in? I’d like his campaign to ponder its own gender gap, in which men overwhelmingly favor Sanders. Yes, the Vermont senator won women in New Hampshire, 55-45, a blow to Clinton. But he won men 66-32, an 11-point gender gap. Why did two-thirds of men reject Clinton for Sanders? It’s certainly not all sexism, but some of it is. That should give the Sanders team pause when it comes to messaging.

Sanders also heads into less-white states where the votes of African-American women, Asian women, and Latinas will matter much more. There is little polling on whether millennial voters of color, particularly women, are #Feelingthebern. He needs to work harder to make sure they do.

Finally—and this isn’t about Berniebros—he needs a dose of kindness and humility toward his opponent, and her supporters. As he takes on yet another woman—Vermont Governor Madeline Kunin has written about his tone-deaf but unsuccessful campaign against her—he ought to be a little more sensitive to the tens of millions of women who do support Clinton. (So do the media, which sometimes treat Clinton’s over-45 supporters as an albatross she should shake off rather than an advantage.) Sanders’ self-pitying victory speech Tuesday night cast him as a victim of a Democratic “establishment”—including, as he’s claimed in the past, feminist groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America—that he’ll very much need to become president. He can’t win by only being the candidate of white men and young white women. A little bit of generosity, a dose of share-the-political-warmth, from our first realistic socialist presidential contender could go a long way.

Why Hillary Clinton Doesn't Deserve the Black Vote

Hillary Clinton loves black people. And black people love Hillary—or so it seems. Black politicians have lined up in droves to endorse her, eager to prove their loyalty to the Clintons in the hopes that their faithfulness will be remembered and rewarded. Black pastors are opening their church doors, and the Clintons are making themselves comfortably at home once again, engaging effortlessly in all the usual rituals associated with “courting the black vote,” a pursuit that typically begins and ends with Democratic politicians making black people feel liked and taken seriously. Doing something concrete to improve the conditions under which most black people live is generally not required.

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How Progressives Can (and Must) Regain the Moral High Ground

After the Civil War, when the peace had been won and Reconstruction had begun, The Nation sent a writer through the South to report on the fledgling democracy. Both the heirs of William Lloyd Garrison and the new black citizens of Dixie understood that winning the South could mean a new America. Fifty years ago, when the South stood in the throes of a Second Reconstruction, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. filed reports on the civil-rights movement for this publication. King sought not only to document the South as it was, but to envision the nation as it should be. “Throughout our history, the moral decision has always been the correct decision,” he insisted. And the struggle for that moral decision, King added, was being waged in the South.

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The Young Activists Who Remade the Democratic Party’s Immigration Politics

Shortly after Hillary Clinton took the microphone to deliver a speech on immigration to a packed Brooklyn ballroom in December, the interruptions started. Activists calling attention to hunger-striking detainees silently unfurled a banner. More vocal protesters criticized Clinton for saying last year that asylum-seeking child migrants should be “sent back” to Central America. Clinton simply raised her voice and spoke more forcefully. But after the silent banner and before the heckling, she also paused to recognize Lorella Praeli, her new director of Latino outreach.

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Human Rights Watch Calls on Businesses to Withdraw from Israeli Settlements

For almost a half a century, Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories occupied during the Six Day War have grown, imposing a two-tiered system—one that not only discriminates against Palestinians, but deprives them of basic rights and adversely impacts their society’s economic viability. Proponents of a two-state solution have watched with dismay as every new apartment and settlement erected in occupied territory created new stumbling blocks on the path to peace and ending the conflict. And yet Israel has faced few consequences. On Tuesday morning, however, New York-based Human Rights Watch released a report calling for an end to this impunity, at least where the international business community is concerned.

The new 162-page report, “Occupation, Inc.: How Settlement Businesses Contribute to Israel’s Violations of Palestinian Rights,” calls for businesses operating in and dealing directly with Israeli settlements to end their endeavors there. “In Human Rights Watch’s view, the context of human rights abuse to which settlement business activity contributes is so pervasive and severe that businesses should cease carrying out activities inside or for the benefit of settlements,” the report says. “They should also stop financing, administering, trading with or otherwise supporting settlements or settlement-related activities and infrastructure.”

The report coincides with recognition from an unlikely place of just how bad Israeli discriminations and rights abuses have gotten. On Monday, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, a fluent Hebrew speaker who is well liked in the Jewish state, told an audience in Tel Aviv that “at times it seems Israel has two standards of adherence to rule of law in the West Bank: one for Jews and one for Palestinians.” Though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decried Shapiro’s statement as “unacceptable and untrue,” the settlement enterprise—which is illegal under international humanitarian law—patently imposes different standards on many aspects of life in the West Bank.

“Occupation, Inc.” leverages case studies to demonstrate just how businesses contribute to discrimination, rights abuses, and violations of humanitarian law. It divides businesses into two broad categories: those that directly contribute to supporting settlements—such as construction of settlements and the infrastructure needed to establish and maintain them—and those that are based in settlements, which don’t necessarily directly bolster the inherently rights abusive enterprises, but nonetheless provide benefits to exclusive Jewish Israeli communities in Palestinian territories.

“We’re trying to be very strongly based in law,” says Sari Bashi, HRW’s Israel-Palestine country director. “Under international law, businesses have responsibilities. Our position is doing business in the settlements is inconsistent with those responsibilities.”

The move will no doubt be seen as controversial. “Israel is not going to care about this distinction that Human Rights Watch is making,” said Ali Abunimah, an activist and journalist who advocates for boycotting Israel. “As far as Israel is concerned, it’s a call for a boycott.”

The Israelis are almost certain to view the report as part of the growing movement to Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Israel, known by its initials BDS. As BDS has gained traction, it has been met by increasingly fierce resistance from the Israeli government and many pro-Israel groups in the US. In his 2014 speech to the most influential American pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC, Netanyahu focused on the fight against the movement, but said it was doomed to fail. By last summer, Israeli rhetoric against BDS grew more intense and the government poured $25 million into anti-BDS efforts. “We are in the midst of a great struggle being waged against the state of Israel, an international campaign to blacken its name,” said Netanyahu. The issue has even percolated into American presidential politics: In a letter to megadonor Haim Saban, an Israeli-American businessman, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton pledged to “make countering BDS a priority.”

Even while BDS most often targets Israel as a whole, some peace activists, both from the pro-Palestinian and liberal pro-Israel camps, prefer to single out settlements. Not only is the occupation viewed as a humanitarian and human rights disaster, but settlements impede chances for a two-state solution, the thinking goes. Calls outside the BDS movement for boycotting settlements have even caused rifts among liberal pro-Israel groups: Some, like Americans for Peace Now, support settlement boycotts while others, such as J Street, oppose settlements but don’t call on their membership to boycott.

Nonetheless, such distinctions are lost on Israel’s right-wing government, where settlers rule the roost. Netanyahu has overseen a massive boom in settlement growth, and his government coalition is populated by pro-settlement parties and even many politicians who disavow the two-state solution altogether. Over the holidays, Israel’s Ambassador in Washington gave gifts produced in settlements to foreign officials, ironically mimicking the erasure of the Green Line that hardcore BDS activists push for.

Those BDS activists, for their part, welcome the Human Rights Watch report. Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the BDS movement, calls the report “ground-breaking—even courageous, given the current environment of increased repression and McCarthyism in the US.” Abunimah, also a strong supporter of BDS, says it was “a very good step in the right direction,” adding, “This report will be a really useful tool for BDS activists.”

The report calls on third-party states to deny settlement products the benefits afforded by trade agreements to Israeli products, therefore subjecting those goods to full tariffs. In accordance with that, HRW calls on countries to impose strict protocols for labeling the origins of settlement products as such. The European Union is working through its own origin labeling regulations with regards to the settlements and, on Monday, stated that any EU deals with Israel must exclude the occupied territories, a move Israel opposed. Israel reportedly softened the language from European foreign ministers, an outcome one activist, who works on EU and Israeli-Palestinian issues and asked to remain anonymous, says that an earlier release of the HRW report could perhaps have forestalled.

Abunimah, the pro-Palestinian activist, also lauds HRW for having made “a big shift form their previous position and accept(ing) that any and all business is abusive and helps Israel in grave violations of Palestinian rights and international law.”

In 2010, Human Rights Watch released a report on discrimination against Palestinians in the West Bank that called on businesses to “to prevent and mitigate any corporate involvement” in rights abuses, only cutting off business entirely when the activities were inextricable from abuses. The shift occurred in part because the new report and the recommendations it makes to businesses active in the settlements, Israel, and third-party states relies heavily on the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which was not adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011, says Arvind Ganesan, who directs the Business and Human Rights division at HRW. “It’s very clear that if a company is contributing to violations or operating in a place where there is a high risk of exacerbating or contributing to violations, you shouldn’t do that,” says Ganesan. “The whole nature of settlements and way land is seized and the nature of who benefits makes it hard to see how you can operate there.”

“Occupation, Inc.” makes this case through meticulous research and careful attention to the consequences of Israel’s illegal actions in the West Bank. One particularly strong section deals with one of the most common pro-Israel defenses of settlement business: that it supports Palestinian economic life. Settlement businesses claim to bring jobs for Palestinians, but HRW’s report shows that the discriminatory legal system makes labor abuses possible. And, as the report and countless others have pointed out, the World Bank has estimated that with an end to restrictions on Palestinian economic activity in Area C (some 60 percent of the West Bank that is controlled exclusively by Israel), the Palestinian GDP could jump by more than a third, making way for more Palestinians to be employed by Palestinian companies.

“There is an ongoing and concerted Israeli pushback against the compelling logic of acting on the illegality of settlements and the illegality of Israeli actions beyond the Green Line by way of more than rhetorical condemnation,” says Daniel Levy, the head of the European Council on Foreign Relations’ Middle East and North Africa program. “That Israeli pushback rests on very weak legal and substantive grounds. The flimsiness of those grounds is being further exposed by this Human Rights Watch report.”

Ultimately, settlements and settlement business don’t account for a huge portion of Israeli economic activity, but liberals like Levy who work on Israel-Palestine issues welcome the renewed focus. Levy says the “the major propelling factor for the status quo, the impunity that Israel feels in the face of its actions toward to the Palestinians” needs to give way to “the obvious consequences that have been called for by this Human Rights Watch report.”

“We’re a long way from that being addressed,” he adds, “but this takes us in the right direction for those who want to see peace between Israel and Palestine.”

Why the Movie ‘Concussion’ Spells Trouble for the NFL and Moral Angst for the Rest of Us

Why do I believe the film Concussion will deliver a teeth-rattling blow to the NFL? Why am I sure this Christmas-release Oscar hopeful will raise far-reaching questions about the price we collectively pay for loving football? Why can I guarantee it will it even further erode the already-subterranean reputation of league commissioner Roger Goodell? Because Concussion has something most “message films” do not possess: It’s expertly paced and one hell of a film. If you didn’t really give a damn about the tobacco industry but found yourself riveted by Michael Mann’s The Insider, then this is your film—whether you watch football or not. The pacing, the acting, the kinetic athletic sequences, the use of familiar names, stories, and uniforms, give Concussion an accessible verisimilitude that does not only educate. It shocks.

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Hillary Clinton Is Whitewashing the Financial Catastrophe

Hillary Clinton’s recent op-ed in The New York Times, “How I’d Rein In Wall Street,” was intended to reassure nervous Democrats who fear she is still in thrall to those mega-bankers of New York who crashed the American economy. Clinton’s brisk recital of plausible reform ideas might convince wishful thinkers who are not familiar with the complexities of banking. But informed skeptics, myself included, see a disturbing message in her argument that ought to alarm innocent supporters.

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Here’s What a Man Who Studied Every Suicide Attack in the World Says About ISIS’ Motives

Despite the existence of a good deal of research about terrorism, there’s a gap between the common understanding of what leads terrorists to kill and what many experts believe to be true.

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Almost Half of America’s Workers Make Less Than $15 an Hour

We’ve come a long way since that crisp November day three years ago when a small group of New York City fast-food workers launched a strike with the slogan “Fast Food Forward.” Today, the movement continues its forward march with the viral hashtag #FightFor15. On November 10, workers in hundreds of cities again went on strike and rallied, this time with an especially militant overtone, timed to launch a year-long campaign to foreground low-wage workers’ issues in the elections.
Tuesday’s protests, supported chiefly by the SEIU with backing from an array of community and labor groups, showed how many methods of raising wages have made gains—through legislation, voter referenda, grassroots labor pressure—or even administrative intervention, such as New York’s Governor Cuomo’s two major executive-led wage hikes.
But more importantly, the efforts reveal why none of these measures add up yet to structural economic change.
In Seattle and Los Angeles, which got to $15 wages by legislation, and San Francisco, which voted for a raise via ballot initiative, municipalities face new challenges in labor enforcement in sectors that have traditionally had little oversight. On the upside, as other cities lean toward $15 an hour, concurrent local policy discussions have emerged around systemic worker empowerment, such as proposals for fair scheduling and paid sick days to improve workers’ overall economic stability.
And the executive actions in New York—along with new collective-bargaining agreements raising wages for home health aides in Massachusetts and Oregon—show grassroots pressure can spur reforms through administrative measures that might otherwise stagnate in legislatures. Governor Cuomo’s new executive action will boost wages for about 10,000 workers in state government offices and executive agencies. The move may serve as a prelude to Cuomo’s push for statewide legislation that will vie with a similar initiative in California for the first statewide $15 wage floor (a refreshing upward competition, after years of employers racing to the bottom in wages and labor standards).
But the Fight for $15 has so far probably done more to shed light on the crisis of economic inequality than it has to actually improve wages directly on a wide scale. New research shows much more than wage hikes is needed to build a sustainable jobs for low-wage workers.
According to the think tank National Employment Law Project, over four in 10 workers nationwide earn less than $15 per hour. Food services have the greatest percentage of ultra-low-wage earners of any industry, with a whopping 96 percent of fast-food workers earning sub-$15 wages. About 3 million cashiers and 2 million retail sales people—a large chunk working for some of the world’s most lucrative chains—currently earn less than $15 an hour. That wage is roughly the bare minimum needed to live decently anywhere in the country.
But more disturbingly, low wages are a symptom of more systemic, structural oppression across the labor force. Ultimately, while policies to raise hourly pay have drawn populist energy, they will not directly improve the lot of workers stuck in the informal economy, undocumented laborers, people who are part-time and erratically employed, or those trapped in jobs where wage theft and overtime violations are rife.
The New York wage board’s fast-track raise for fast-food workers is limited as well. A careful analysis by the Century Foundation found that—in contrast with rosier projections by the governor’s office—the $15 wage floor is structured so narrowly it reaches just a tiny fraction of low-wage New Yorkers; the estimated 94,000 fast food–chain workers covered by the wage standard represent “just 3 percent of its sub-$15 workforce, and a scant 1.2 percent of its overall workforce.”
Incremental victories aside, the concrete effect of the Fight for $15 is more subtle, equipping many workers with the organizing tools to push their own agenda, which now touches on social-justice issues beyond wages.
The other goal of the labor campaign, unionization, remains a distant prospect for poor workers. Despite some victories before the National Labor Relations Board that ease restrictions on organizing, unions are still hugely impeded by outsourcing and casualization of low-wage jobs and corporate deregulation.
And the intensifying political debate over wage inequality opens another debate around the disproportionate impoverishment of black and Latino workers. Rahel Mekdim Teka of the Black Youth Project 100, described the racial overtones of the crisis at Tuesday’s Fight for 15 rally in downtown Manhattan.
“I know and have witnessed firsthand that low wages are a form of violence,” she said. In marginalized communities, “how can we grow and how can we dream of a better future, if we’re working full time and unable to make ends meet, unable to provide for our children, and unable to pay rent?”
The gender dimension of the Fight for 15 is also instructive for the labor movement. It’s no coincidence much of the mobilization comes from two woman-dominated occupations: childcare workers and home health aides, nearly 90 percent of whom make under $15 per hour. They’re joining the fight to call attention to the overlooked value of their work as caregivers—a side of the economy that needs to be uplifted for consumers and providers, to foster community stability across generations.
As Atlanta childcare worker Dawn O’Neal explained ahead of Tuesday’s protests, their fight is not just for economic survival but for solutions to the inequality dividing communities. She’s observed how affluent communities that she’s encountered as an educator are self-sufficient and able to provide the safe, stable households and healthy neighborhoods that aren’t accessible to families like hers, “They’re able to give back,” she told The Nation. “But here we are, and we’re struggling.… we can’t afford to take care of ourselves, let alone put anything back into our own community.” With so many working parents depending on public benefits, “there’s no reason for us to be working 40 to 60 hours a week and have to go back to the government and say, ‘We need this.’”
So now the Fight for $15 isn’t telling politicians what they need, but what their families deserve and demand. By tying workers’ economic aspirations to the horizon of political change, they proclaim that the fight is not about the money: It’s about the dignity of earning, and of giving, their fair share.

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