Saturday 29 June 2019

Sanders and Harris would vanquish Trump (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

Bernie Sanders-Kamala Harris ticket would energise the Democratic Party base.

A mandate for systemic change, such as a Bernie Sanders-Kamala Harris Democratic Party ticket for the 2020 US Presidential polls, has the momentum needed to overcome Donald Trump’s many advantages. Although the 45th President of the US is frequently lampooned (mainly for his tweets), the fact is that he has relentlessly sought to fulfil the promises made by him in the 2016 campaign. Some of the methods used are unorthodox, but Trump did not emerge in politics through the conventional political process that almost all leading Republican or Democratic politicians in the US had. Several of the stances adopted by Trump are in reverse gear so far as political correctness is concerned, such as his obvious unconcern about the way the Department of Homeland Security is dealing with even infants who are in their custody as illegal immigrants. About the only member of the inner core of the Trump family who seems not to have led a privileged life from birth is the soft-spoken First Lady. However, Melania Trump has figured in the media in inverse proportion to her headline-generating husband, so that her modest life before becoming the spouse of the New York billionaire seldom gets mentioned. Overall, the present President of the US is a ruthless and brilliant tactician who grasps what needs to be said or done in order to succeed. In such a situation, the Presidential candidate favoured by the Clinton machine within the Democratic Party, Joe Biden, would soon be cut to pieces by Trump. Despite being the first choice of the Clintons, the former Vice-President was shredded just days ago by Kamala Harris, who drew attention to Biden’s past stance in favour of individuals and policies discriminating against the African-American community, which is still suffering from the error President Abraham Lincoln made in choosing a closet segregationist, Andrew Johnson, as his Vice-Presidential candidate in 1864. This “Veep pick” believed in racial supremacy, and sought to reverse moves towards justice for African-Americans soon after taking over as President after the murder of Lincoln. Had an individual closer to Lincoln’s own humanistic views on the subject of race been appointed, John Wilkes Booth may have hesitated in killing Lincoln. Given the thespian’s knowledge of politics, it is safe to assume that Booth knew that Johnson, who would succeed to the White House should President Lincoln die, was the opposite of the latter where matters of racial justice were concerned. It took a century of continuing prejudice and injustice before President Lyndon Johnson enacted the Civil Rights Act and thereby removed several of the discriminatory measures still extant against African-Americans. When compared with India’s affirmative actions in favour of the Dalit community, US moves to reverse the injustice done to African-Americans have been far less pronounced, even after the Johnson reforms. The eight years of President Barack Obama were suffused more with symbolism rather than substance where race relations were concerned, although the major healthcare reforms embodied in Obamacare was carried out in his time. President Trump has sought to roll back elements of Obamacare, while taking measures against Latino migrants that are impossible to succeed despite their cruel nature.
India is a country where the elite celebrates those who have harmed the interests of its people. Henry Kissinger and Bill Clinton (while in office) pursued policies that were hostile to India, and yet both were lionised during visits to India. In the US, it is ironic that the African-American community adores Bill Clinton, the US President who did more than almost any predecessor to empower Wall Street against Main Street, and whose measures resulted in jail for hundreds of thousands of African-Americans for petty misdemeanours conflated by such laws into major crimes. The US has displaced almost every other country in the world in the number if its citizens who are behind bars, often because of the “Three Strikes” Nixon-Clinton doctrine that specifies lengthy jail time for three offenses, no matter how petty. Despite himself having “smoked but not inhaled” marijuana, President Clinton refused to legalise non-toxic variants but instead retained the harsh provisions put in place by Nixon, who seemed to act as though prison was the most appropriate place to send minority groups to. The relative situation of African-Americans improved not at all under Clinton, yet the community seems in thrall to the Clintons. Until very late into the campaign to win the 2009 Democratic Party nomination for that year’s Presidential race, almost all major African-American associations backed Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama. Now, the same entities are supporting Clinton favourite Joe Biden in the race for the party nomination, despite African-Americans Cory Booker and Kamala Harris being in the contest, and Biden having been close in previous years to both policies and personalities opposing racial equality and justice, views and actions that he has yet to express regret for. Of course, the Clintons are diligent in their calculations, and if they find that Biden is likely to lose in the contest for the party nomination, will switch to another candidate who can be expected to follow the dictates of the Clintons in matters of policy and personnel the way Barack Obama did in his first term. What the Clintons wish to avoid is a situation in which those genuinely opposed to Wall Street (principally Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders) get nominated. This despite the fact that in a contest pitting genuine votaries of change against Trump, the latter may lose. President Trump has been venting continously about “socialists” in the Democratic Party. However, Warren, Harris and Sanders may be better described as social democrats rather than as socialists. Given the manner in which Wall Street has been overwhelmingly favoured over Main Street, several million otherwise Democratic voters chose Trump in 2016 because of his proclaimed stance (in contrast to Hillary Clinton) against those involved in the business of “money making money”. Once elected, Trump turned to Wall Street to fill the top economic jobs in his administration, and surrounded himself with billionaires and a few mere millionaires. In 2020, it will be harder to convince those close to penury that Donald Trump is their champion and not a candidate such as Senators Warren, Harris or Sanders.
Given the mood of the US electorate, a Bernie Sanders-Kamala Harris ticket would energise the Democratic Party base the way Trump does his. It would be best for the Democratic nominee to indicate in advance the running mate. What is needed to be avoided is be to follow conventional logic and choose a running mate whose policy prescriptions are substantively different from those of the nominee. What happened after the death of Abraham Lincoln should be a warning that all future Presidential nominees need to heed. Every individual is mortal, and if a Head of State passes on and gets replaced by a person with opposing views on policy, it would be a travesty of the mandate. Joe Biden or Beto O’Rourke are betting that their being close to the Republicans on matters of policy will help secure more “independent” votes. They are wrong. Most voters want real, not cosmetic, change. This time around, what will count is genuine commitment to change from Reagan-Clinton-Bush-Obama-Trump policies that have reduced the relative income of the middle class, added to the number of poor, and vastly expanded the wealth of the handful of hyper-rich people having such outsize representation in Team Trump.

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