The DNC in Philly: Revolution postponed indefinitely? …

Or just a bump in the road?

There is nothing more common than to confound the terms of American Revolution with those of the late American War. The American war is over, but this is far from being the case with the American revolution. On the contrary, nothing but the first act of the great drama is closed.”

… Benjamin Rush, 1787


When my mate and I first decided to take the train to Philadelphia for the Democratic convention, it was not quite clear to us why we were going. We were not delegates. We had no official standing. She had worked hard for Bernie, me a little less so. Were we hoping to witness another act in the American Revolution, the one where Bernie Sanders plays a starring role? Or were we expecting to see the party implode, secretly harboring a perverse desire to be present for the autopsy?

Neither of these events transpired, of course. It is difficult to say what did happen, and what import it will have in the coming months and years.

The “real” convention took place at the Wells Fargo Center, a huge arena on the south side of the city. We never actually saw it. An assortment of delegate caucuses and other activities occurred in the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Center City. We made a brief foray into this building with a contingent from Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) in order to approach delegates and ask them to wear buttons or stickers to express solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom. A surprising number of them consented.

Those of you who stayed home and watched the convention from your couch probably caught much more of it than I did.  I saw a few snatches of it, late at night, on the TV, but even then I found it too painful to watch for long. Most of what I observed, experienced and learned was in forums sponsored by JVP and other groups or out on the streets.

One thing I hoped to discover was why presumptive progressives (or even ordinary well-intentioned people) could seriously consider supporting and electing the neoliberal Hillary Clinton. I was sincerely mystified by this strange drama that was unfolding this summer. As I got off the train from Chicago in the City of Brotherly Love, I noticed a fellow traveler with a jumble of buttons pinned to his chest. I leaned towards him to read one of the smaller ones. She’s a bitch but she can get things done, it said.

I started to ask him what it was the bitch was going to get done but, realizing I was a Bernie backer, he became irate and we fortunately lost each other in the crowd.

Later, in the B&B on the far north end of the city where we stayed, I met a young woman, an attorney, who had worked as a staff person for a high-ranking state legislator in New Jersey. I’ll call her Lisa because that was her name. She had come to Philly for the convention and was supporting Hillary. We had a long conversation and she offered the usual platitudes for why Hillary was her preferred candidate. Bernie was a nice guy with good ideas but Hillary was practical and pragmatic. She would get things done.

That’s exactly what I’m afraid of, I said. That she will get things done.

A few days later, I happened upon a spirited rally in an outdoor plaza near the convention center and in the shadow of City Hall, the imposing structure in the Second Empire style that is the nation’s largest municipal building, even dwarfing the U.S. Capitol. William Penn is perched on top of it like a gold pigeon in a top hat.

A young black activist was speaking eloquently at the rally, quoting Martin Luther King and others, about why the revolution must go on, with or without Bernie. He expressed the same thought I had in my conversation with Lisa, only with different words: “Donald Trump has said a lot; Hillary has done a lot.”

 What’s Hillary done, and what’s she likely to do?

 So what sorts of things has Hillary Rodham Clinton done throughout her illustrious career, and why should we care? Let’s take a brief look at her resume, keeping in mind that others can no doubt compile a more comprehensive list of accomplishments.

First of all, and most important, Hillary is a hawk. And not just your everyday, run-of-the-mill hawk. When she is not taking selfies with her clueless fans, she is sharpening her talons and practicing her dive-bombing technique.

She has already made Barack Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, look like Mahatma Gandhi. Yes, the same Obama who the clueless Democratic masses hoped would be our “Peace President” and put an end to all those nasty wars that George W. Bush started. Instead, Obama bombed seven countries (all more than 90 percent Muslim) during his first six years in office. In a speech in Cairo, Egypt, early on the Peace President declared he was seeking a fresh start “between the United States and Muslims around the world.” Instead, he made George Bush look like Mother Teresa.

But Hillary is worse. As Secretary of State, and even since, she has undermined Obama’s efforts to keep the lid on in Syria and has lobbied for more aggressive strategies and policies in that poor besieged country. She has already surrounded herself with a whole flock of hawks to help her carry out her belligerent policies once she assumes office.

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Brandon Do, Students for Justice in Palestine, speaking at a rally in Philadelphia

“It is true, as numerous speakers reported, Clinton is ‘most qualified and experienced,’ “ Ralph Nader wrote at the end of the convention, “but her record shows those qualities have led to belligerent, unlawful military actions that are now boomeranging against U.S. interests. The intervention she consistently called for in Libya, with Obama’s foolish consent, overrode the wiser counsel of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (and his generals), who warned of the chaos that would follow. He was proven right, with chaotic violence now all over Libya spilling into other African countries. This is but one example of what Bernie Sanders meant during the debates when he referenced her ‘poor judgment.’ ”

But Bill Clinton had a different take on it when he praised his wife’s change-making skills during his speech at the convention.  “Drop her [Hillary] in any trouble spot — pick one — come back in a month, and somehow, someway, she will have made it better. This is just who she is.”

Yes, she sure has left her mark on a number of trouble spots, but unlike Mr. Clean has usually left blood behind. (I’m going to crib now, from an article by Paul Street on Counterpunch.) They dropped her into Honduras, where she aided and abetted a vicious right-wing coup in 2009, and Honduras now bears the dubious distinction of being the most violent country on the planet.  Remember those thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America streaming across the border a couple of years ago? Part of the aftermath of Hillary’s making things better. For many people there has been no escape, like Berta Cáceres, the Honduran environmental leader, who was assassinated by a group of gunmen this past March.

Then she dropped in on Libya and led the charge for the disastrous overthrow of Gaddafi, and also dropped in on the Ukraine, (now saddled with a neo-Nazi government, thanks to her rabid anti-Russian stance). She also dropped in to Haiti, where she helped her corporate buddies oppose an increase in the minimum wage from 24 to 61 cents an hour. And finally Syria, “where a disastrous civil war and the rise of the Islamic State bear the criminal fingerprints” of her “lust for fake-humanitarian regime change,” as Paul Street put it. Isn’t it time we take this woman’s parachute away?

We’re about done folks, at least with what passes as Hillary’s foreign policy. But there’s still Israel. And this is where the neoliberals wed with the neoconservatives into one big happy family. (Others have said it before. We don’t need a third party in this country, we need a second party.)

Democrats have historically sided with Israel against the Palestinians but the worst is yet to come. Journalists have commented on the fact that there seems to be a gag order on the mention of Israel’s nuclear arsenal by members of Congress. Now it appears that any mention of the occupation is also prohibited.

On the Monday morning of the convention, I attended a panel presentation organized by US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and the American Friends Service Committee. The speakers included James Zogby, head of the Arab American Institute and long-time Democratic Party activist, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (DFL-MN) and U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA). Both Zogby and Ellison were among Sander’s delegates to the Democratic Platform Committee.

“Bernie gave us a qualified boost forward,” said Zogby, “and we cannot let it go. We’re going to help America save itself, whether it wants to or not. I refuse to let Palestinians take a back seat again to any other issue.”

But Zogby and Cornel West, the black activist and intellectual who was also a Sanders’ appointee to the Platform Committee, failed in their attempt to convince the committee to call for “an end to the occupation and illegal settlements” in the platform. They also failed to strip out language condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Zogby served on the Platform Committee for Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign in 1988 and failed then to have even more moderate language inserted into the platform. But 28 years ago Jackson’s campaign allowed Zogby to introduce a minority plank on the convention floor. This time around, Sanders caved after he endorsed Clinton on July 11, despite earlier promises to take the fight all the way to the convention.

Despite Obama’s unprecedented record of bombing seven Muslim countries, Clinton has often criticized him for being insufficiently hawkish. She used her speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual convention earlier this year to pander to right-wing American Jews, promising to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House as one of her first official acts, and pledging to provide Israel with more sophisticated defense technology “to ensure Israel maintains its qualitative military edge.” She has also vowed to fight the BDS movement. Sanders, to his credit, skipped the AIPAC convention.

Policy analyst Sean McElwee has pointed out that “the Democratic platform is now officially to the right of George W. Bush on Palestine.”  Indeed, Bush called on Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian land and criticized the illegal settlements back in 2008. Meanwhile, loyal Democratic “progressives,” who like to think of themselves as “inclusive,” prefer to pretend that the pernicious occupation of Palestine does not exist.

On Thursday of convention week, my mate, with a few other curious JVPmembers, attended a DNC-sponsored event at the convention center billed as a Jewish Roundtable. She described what transpired there as “surreal.”  For starters, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) spent most of her time at the podium reiterating all the evils of Donald Trump, as if Democratic delegates might not have heard of him. While CODEPINK Cofounder Medea Benjamin staged her own personal protest and was escorted out of the room, my mate managed to approach both Boxer and former congressman Barney Frank and asked them why the Israeli occupation was not mentioned in the party’s platform. Boxer professed to have no knowledge of an occupation, while Frank replied that he wasn’t interested.

I should acknowledge that Hillary Clinton’s vote in favor of the disastrous second Iraq War has received a fair amount of attention, during the debates and elsewhere, but our corporate media seems to have overlooked a lot of “ancient history. “ (Ancient history in the United States is anything older than yesterday.)

In the 90’s, while Hillary was busy working with her ghost writer on her book, It Takes a Village, and crafting her credentials as the champion of America’s children, her hubby was presiding over most of the ten years of economic sanctions imposed on Iraq. One and a half million Iraqis died during this decade as a direct result of the sanctions; more than a half million of them were children. It takes more than a village to raise a child when the greatest power on earth is systematically and ruthlessly destroying your country.

Then, near the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency, there was the NATO-US military campaign against the former Yugoslavia, what the US nicknamed Operation Noble Anvil. It was the second major combat operation in NATO’s history, following the 1995 bombing campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was the first time NATO used military force without approval from the UN Security Council.

The campaign lasted eleven weeks and NATO forces dropped 14,000 bombs, including depleted uranium bombs and cluster munitions. “Collateral damage” in this “humanitarian” war included schools, libraries, hospitals, historical monuments and homes. Over 200,000 ethnic Serbs were forced to flee their homeland in Kosovo. Needless to say, children died, but they weren’t American children and by then the book tour was over.

More than a few people and nations considered this aggression against a sovereign country a violation of international law and Amnesty International accused the allied forces of committing war crimes. On the positive side, as far as the US and the Clintons’ were probably concerned, it opened the door for NATO to ignore the UN when it chose to, under the guise of “humanitarian intervention,” the “war on terror” or similar justifications.

OMG! I still haven’t mentioned the “domestic” side of HRC’s resume. But Bernie did a good job on that so I’ll keep it short. You all know the story.

She was a Goldwater girl in high school and attended the Republican convention in 1968. She graduated to become a friend of Henry Kissinger, various Bush-era neoconservatives, and scores of banksters and corporate executives. She served on the board of Wal-Mart. Goldman Sachs paid her $675,000 for three speeches in 2013 and has given her and Bill over $150 million in speaking fees since 2001. And, oh yes, she’s a private person, particularly when it comes to her email.

As president, her husband presided over the largest increase in federal and state prison inmates of any president in US history.  As Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, has pointed out, Bill Clinton did not start the War on Crime or War on Drugs, but escalated it far beyond what conservatives could have imagined. On the campaign trail, Alexander noted, he accused conservatives of using race to divide the nation, but when he took office he capitulated to the right-wing backlash against the civil rights movement. He embraced former president Reagan’s agenda on race, crime, welfare and taxes, ultimately doing more harm to black communities than Reagan had done.

When the Clintons’ left the White House, the US had the highest incarceration rate in the world and Human Rights Watch noted that in seven states African Americans constituted 80 to 90 percent of drug offenders sent to prison. Is it any wonder Hillary has garnered more than $133,000 in campaign contributions from the lobbying groups for two private prison corporations?

Sure, now she says she regrets her support of the Crime Bill and her comment on “super-predators,” as well as her vote on the Iraq War. But these were pretty significant “mistakes,” one reaping havoc on the entire Middle East, the other having a similar impact in the United States. Once elected, will she make other “mistakes” to apologize for later?

 Identity Politics: The penis that was and the one that wasn’t

Back to that rally that I wandered into near the Philadelphia City Hall. One of the sponsors was a group called Black Men for Bernie. I listened to a passionate and eloquent black man for Bernie harangue the crowd as rain began to fall on the city. “If they didn’t want Donald Trump, they could have chosen the candidate who had the best chance of beating him,” he said.

So why did all those liberals and presumptive progressives throw their support to neoliberal and baggage-laden Hillary when Bernie offered the best chance in many decades for a truly progressive US presidency? I don’t know. You tell me.

The Clinton campaign is still searching for its identity and its slogan. Bill says Hillary is a “change-maker” but anyone with any sense knows what sort of change he is talking about. Hillary’s argument appears to be two-fold: I’m a woman and you need to fear Trump. The Democrats have lambasted Trump, with good reason, for waging a campaign based on fear but their own campaign seems to focus almost exclusively on fear of Trump.

I did not read the mainstream newspapers much during Bill Clinton’s presidency, but others have told me that for months or years on end the papers were full of every imaginable prurient detail concerning the Monica affair, even down to particulars about the Commander-in-Chief’s wayward member. (I can just hear Bernie ranting “Enough about the damn p_ _ _ _!”) The point being that, above and beyond the impeachment proceedings, it nearly brought his presidency to a halt. At the least it was a major distraction and obstruction.

Babes for Bernie-18I think it is not unlikely that the same thing could occur with a Hillary presidency, between the email fiasco and the Clinton Foundation scandals. A lot of energy and time may be consumed by Hillary and her staff defending her in court and in the public arena, rather than steering the ship of state.

If Bernie had been the nominee, can you imagine the Republicans shouting Lock him up! at their convention? The irony is that Hillary shares a lot more political common ground with the Republicans than does Bernie.

So what does Hillary have going for her other than people’s fear of Donald Trump? The answer: she is a woman. She doesn’t have one of those things that got her husband in so much trouble. I suspect a lot of people support her for just that reason, despite her dubious track record and her neoliberal values.

This was a common theme during the primary campaign, when former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright famously stated it was a betrayal of feminist ideals to support Bernie against Hillary, alleging that “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”

Which brings me to the concept of identity politics. I don’t see it generally as being “progressive” and I think it can be very counter-productive.  One would think that Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice and Janet Reno would be enough evidence to disabuse even the most ardent feminist of the fantasy notion that women in power will necessarily transform our government into a more caring, compassionate and peaceful institution.

Let’s consider Albright. In her careers as US Ambassador to the UN and Secretary of State, she played a major role in the dismemberment of Yugoslavia and Clinton’s “humanitarian bombing” of that country. She was instrumental in enabling and engineering wars, massacres and genocide throughout the world, most notably in Iraq, Rwanda, Yugoslavia and East Timor.

When she was interviewed on the CBS 60 Minutes show in 1996, she was asked the question: “We have heard that half a million children have died [in Iraq]. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And you know, is the price worth it?” Albright’s infamous response was: “I think this is a very hard choice but the price, we think the price is worth it.”

Albright collaborated with Hillary’s good pal Kissinger in enabling the CIA-installed General Suharto to employ his Indonesian military to carry out one of the worst massacres relative to population since the Holocaust, slaughtering about one-third of the people of East Timor. (Prior to that, Suharto had carried out one of the worst mass murders of the 20th Century against his own people. The CIA reported that the massacres were comparable to those of Hitler, Stalin and Mao.) Later, the Clinton Administration welcomed him as “our kind of guy,” according to Noam Chomsky.

It is probably not an exaggeration to say that this woman, who claims there is a “special place in hell” for those who fail to support someone of their own sex, has as much blood on her hands as Hitler. If there is such a place as hell, there is surely a special suite reserved there for her.

Do I need to talk about Rice and Reno? Spare me. But these folks all broke, or at least splintered, the “glass ceiling.” And now there’s Hillary. The trouble is that just about anyone can rise to positions of power as long as they do the bidding of the real power-brokers.

Then there was Obama, who broke another ceiling, and then broke every promise he made to the American people. Liberals and progressives found every excuse they could for his betrayal of every progressive value. Would they have excused a white president for similar transgressions? I don’t think so. I call that racism.

Instead of being the “peace president,” he prolonged and escalated every military conflict that Bush began. His drone warfare is immoral, despicable, cowardly and heinous. Our first black president has done nothing to improve the lives of blacks or Hispanics during his eight years in the White House. Look at income, education, housing, health, segregation or other indicators and you’ll find there’s been no change, except that things have gotten much more miserable for those at the bottom. The only change is that we’ve moved from incarcerating our black citizens to a new strategy, shooting them on the streets. (Over 1,600 citizens have been killed by police so far this year.)

Obama’s administration has deported more Hispanic immigrants than any president before him, and recently rounded up thousands of immigrant children and sent them back to Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras, with Hillary’s support.

He came into office promising a new era of transparency and then proceeded to prosecute more whistleblowers and go after more journalists than all past presidents combined. (James Risen, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, has called him “the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation.”)

Chris Hedges, another journalist, has written extensively about the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), also known as the Homeland Battlefield Bill. The bill allows the military to operate on US soil as a civilian law enforcement agency, seize and detain citizens, and deny them legal recourse and other constitutional rights. Hedges and other journalists have brought suit against Obama and Leon Panetta over the law.

Writing back in February, Cornel West had this to say about the identity trap: “The battle now raging in Black America over the Clinton-Sanders election is principally a battle between a declining neoliberal black political and chattering class still on the decaying Clinton bandwagon (and gravy train!) and an emerging populism among black, poor, working and middle class people fed up with the Clinton establishment in the Democratic Party. It is easy to use one’s gender identity, as Clinton has, or racial identity, as the Congressional Black Caucus recently did in endorsing her, to hide one’s allegiance to the multi-cultural and multi-gendered Establishment. But a vote for Clinton forecloses the new day for all of us and keeps us captive to the trap of wealth inequality, greed, corporate media propaganda and militarism abroad–all of which are detrimental to black America.”

Yes, there may be a color ceiling and a gender ceiling but the most pernicious and resistant ceiling of all, and the one that matters most, is the ceiling that prevents a real progressive from getting elected to a powerful office in this country. An Obama or a Clinton can get elected as long as they remain subservient and beholden to the power structure. Anyone who dares challenge the system, like Sanders did, doesn’t stand much of a chance. As Bernie himself said many times, the system is rigged.

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Linda Sarsour, Executive Director, Arab American Association of New York

So what now? If you’ve read this far, you probably realize I won’t be casting my vote for Hillary in November. Even if I believed in our “lesser of two evils” politics, I don’t consider her a lesser evil. I’ll cast my vote for Jill Stein or “waste my vote” and write in Bernie’s name.

At that first forum I attended on Monday of convention week, I also heard Linda Sarsour, the executive director of the Arab-American Association of New York, speak about her experiences in the Sanders campaign. She noted that she was the first Palestinian to be involved in the forefront of a presidential campaign and that Bernie gave her free rein to say whatever she wanted.

“The same people who justify massacre and murder of Palestinians in Israel are the ones who don’t say anything about the murder of blacks by police in the United States,” she said. She added: “If you are not a progressive on the issue of Palestine, you are no damn progressive.”

 Superdelegates aren’t so super after all

 Even before I went to Philadelphia, one question that kept gnawing at me was why so many Democratic superdelegates had gone over to the dark side, and why they had done it so early and eagerly. I was mainly thinking of the superdelegates from Wisconsin, where Bernie beat Clinton handily in the primary. I know some of these people personally and I’m sure they see themselves as progressives. So did I.

The term superdelegate conjures up images of an almost mystical being able to do great things. You know – Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!

To my dismay, nine of the ten Wisconsin superdelegates sided with Clinton. You know who you are so I won’t bother to name you. But in the end, they did their job. It turns out that the mission was not nearly as heroic as saving the planet from the mad scientist or waging the never-ending battle for truth and justice. The role of the superdelegates was to ensure that a progressive–a Eugene McCarthy or George McGovern, or even a Jesse Jackson or Gary Hart–never became the Democratic candidate for president. So they circled the wagons and did their job well. Sanders gave them a scare, rocked the boat a little, but he wasn’t able to capsize it. Even people like Barbara Lee and Patrick Leahy (from Vermont!) felt obliged to toe the line.

I caught a few more minutes of the convention on TV late in the week. It almost made Law-and-Order Night at the Republican convention look progressive. It was truly repulsive. All those delegates and superdelegates kneeling down in idolatry before the military industrial machine that Eisenhower had warned the nation against when he retired. (Who would have even thought that Ike, the Word War II general, would someday look like a radical!)

And then there was Michelle’s thrilling speech, (I didn’t see it, thank God, only heard about it), continuing her husband’s mission of buttressing the mythology of American Exceptionalism. You don’t actually have to venture out into the world or read a book to understand that this notion is a dangerous and despicable lie. Just sit in front of your TV and watch a couple Michael Moore movies and you can create your own long list of all the ways we are exceptional: very low on the list of nations in terms of providing adequate and affordable health care, education or just about any type of social service for our citizens; at the top of the list of countries incarcerating its own citizens, bombing other nations, enduring and ignoring almost daily violent rampages, selling arms to other nations, and on and on. Yes, we are exceptional, and the Democratic Party deserves a lot of credit for this.

But I didn’t leave Philadelphia completely bummed. It turns out that Bernie had done more than just rock the boat. He had drilled a little hole in the dike and things would never be the same again. Bernie, the grumpy old good-hearted man, was actually a modern-day Dr. Frankenstein who had created a monster. A monster he can no longer control. It has a life of its own.

Bernie’s delegates booed Leon Panetta, the former CIA director who served in the Nixon, Clinton and Obama administrations. They refused to be intimidated or house-trained by the DNC operatives or their thugs. Many of them used their time at the convention, not paying homage to war criminals or corporate capitalism, but plotting the next steps in the revolution. More people under 30 voted for Bernie Sanders than voted for Clinton and Trump together and they are tired of playing by the old rules.

At that outdoor rally I attended in Philadelphia I watched a steady stream of Bernie delegates, young, passionate and angry, get up on the stage and talk honestly to the crowd about their feelings and how they had been shunned and shut out by the party establishment. Some of them said they were going back in to the convention to continue to fight. Others said they had had enough and were going to stay outside and start to organize a new party. All seemed committed to continue the people’s revolution that Bernie had begun.

People supported Bernie because they knew he was right and told the truth. Others supported Hillary because they thought Bernie was “impractical.” But what’s so practical about a Democratic Party that continues to slide relentlessly to the right? What’s so practical about a party that ignores its base and even scorns its progressive wing and the independents it so desperately needs to court?

How about you, ordinary citizen or superdelegate? Will you be voting for the continued militarization of our police and more shooting of unarmed civilians? Endless war in the Mideast? More and more support for Israel’s brutal occupation and apartheid state? More disenfranchisement of poor, black and brown people? Further erosion of our constitutional rights? Corruption and cronyism and corporate control of our government? Are you going to throw your lot in with the counter-revolution or will you help continue the real American revolution? Which side are you on?

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All photos by Tom Boswell©2015. All rights reserved.