Saturday 3 August 2019

Clinton acolytes battle ‘Sanderista’ Democrats (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

Gabbard, Sanders, Warren and Harris are disliked by the Clinton machine, which has remained locked to the billionaire-friendly approach for at least two decades.

NEW YORK: It has happened in all democracies, including in India. A party in opposition comes to power promising a root-and-branch change from the party that was in power, but once in office, rapidly becomes indistinguishable from the party it has replaced. It was Bill Clinton who moved the Democratic Party completely away from the focus on the underprivileged that was the legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Covered in a mist of sweet and misleading nothings, President Clinton both continued with policies that benefited small groups of wealthy donors at the expense of the general public, while adding more such policies of his own. Clinton got laws passed that filled the jails more than any other US President, except perhaps Richard M. Nixon (who himself escaped jail through a Presidential pardon that killed the political career of his successor, Jerry Ford). He did away with the checks to the insatiable greed of the financial industry that had been put in place during the Franklin Roosevelt years, and which no previous President of the US had the temerity to abolish. Mesmerised by his mannerisms and his words, underprivileged US voters saw Bill Clinton as their champion even while the 42nd US President was demonstrating his loyalty to the big donors who kept his campaigns and after he had left office, the Clinton Foundation, filled with cheques. The next Democratic President, Barack Obama, despite his Rooseveltian speeches, spent nearly six of his eight years in office tethered to Clinton personnel and doctrines, managing to free himself to a considerable extent only towards the latter half of his second term. The still powerful Clinton machine, greased and made fighting fit by the billionaires and millionaires it represents, ensured the entry of Donald J. Trump to the White House by taking the Democratic Party nomination away from Bernie Sanders in a no-holds-barred manner overseen by loyalists within the party such as Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, the 2016 Chairperson who was among those who facilitated the neutering of what may be termed the “Sandersistas”, only to watch Trump take office on 20 January 2016. The interests represented by the Clinton machine are comfortable with the present occupant of the White House, which is why they are backing Democratic Party candidates for the nomination to the Presidential contest such as Joe Biden or Beto O’Rourke. Although personally honest and frugal in his lifestyle, Biden has expended decades of his life cosying up to the corporate interests that are so influential in Delaware. In 2016, he declined to fight Hillary Clinton for the nomination, a self-sacrificing stance that won him the support of Bill and Hillary and made him their favourite for the 2020 race.
Among the most telegenic of those battling for the Democratic Party nomination is Tulsi Gabbard, but her time will come only in the 2024 contest and not now. She as well as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris are disliked by the Clinton machine and their ally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has remained locked to the billionaire-friendly approach of the Clintons for at least the past two decades. It is therefore not a surprise that President Trump has a soft corner for her, tweeting to her defence and going after those in the Democratic Party who are unhappy with Speaker Pelosi’s tepid approach to issues concerning social justice. In a manner last seen under Ronald Reagan, who spent nearly a decade publicly opposing Medicare and Medicaid on behalf of the big pharmaceutical and private hospital lobby, Trump has cut back the meagre entitlements given to the poor in the US. The latest such socially regressive step is the taking away of food stamps by the US Department of Agriculture that would deny more than 500,000 poor schoolchildren their midday meals at school. Such meals make for better grades and eventually more productive citizens, but under Trump, only those like him who are smart enough to be born in the home of wealthy parents deserves any consideration. Trump’s “Let the poor starve” approach has an ally in Senator Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader in that august chamber, who is opposed to any public money being spent on those earning less than a hundred thousand dollars a year. The latest move that he is blocking is by several members of both Republican and Democratic Parties to introduce paper ballots in elections. There are more than a few credible reports of electronic interference in voting done through EVMs, and many believe that the best way to prevent such malpractice would be to once again introduce paper ballots, the way countries such as Germany have done. As Russian state actors are accused of being the primary sources of such electronic interference in US elections, McConnell’s resistance to paper ballots has led to him being called “Moscow Mitch” by his political foes.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party moves closer towards choosing its 2020 nominee to challenge Trump. Just as Hillary Clinton was programmed to get defeated by Donald Trump, so will Clinton favourite Joe Biden. The majority of voters in the US are unhappy with the way the institutions of governance in the country are tilted away from ordinary folk and towards the interests of the millionaire and billionaire class. A Sanders-Harris ticket seemed a winner, but the Vermont Senator seems to have lost the momentum that he had in 2016. An interesting development would be if two women were to stand on the Democratic Party ticket: Elizabeth Warren as Presidential candidate and Kamala Harris as her Vice-Presidential pick. There have been umpteen male-male tickets, and voters in the US may respond to a “Ladies Only” ticket, the way they did to the “Southerners Only” Clinton-Gore ticket in 1992. Both Warren and Harris are emphatically outside the Clinton mould, and an administration run by them would change the US comprehensively from what it has been since the days of Ronald Reagan.

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