A Humane Approach to Dealing with the Coronavirus

In These Times web editor and writer Miles Kampf-Lassin wrote about the intersection of coronavirus and social policies during last night’s democratic debate between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders:

The crisis shows not just the callousness of the current system but the potential for radical change. Pushed by necessity, governments have been responding with measures socialists have long called for: Cities such as Miami and New York are halting evictions. Others like Detroit are reversing their water shutoff policies. Even Trump has announced that those with student loans administered by the government will see their interest fees waived during the crisis.

These policy changes reveal that government has always had the power, and the ability, to protect the most vulnerable residents—it’s just previously chosen not to pursue them. But with the virus becoming a clear and present danger, Americans are realizing more and more that the function of our government must be to provide safety and care for its people. According to a new Morning Consult poll, 41% of adults now say that the outbreak has made them more likely to “support universal healthcare proposals, where all Americans would get their health insurance from the government.”

Joe Biden continually sought to downplay the necessary action of every major crisis that is unfolding in the United States and the world; climate, public health, inequality, fascism.

I will shout it from the rooftops of our quarantined, locked-down country with the capital as the new epicenter of this virus; there is no going back to a pre-crises world. This is the new normal. Let’s rise to the challenge and act accordingly.

Playing Against A Stacked Deck

“The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.” — D.H. Lawrence from his Studies in Classic American Literature

A thing I’ve noticed on Twitter, besides the obvious Bernie Bro myth and especially after the Super and Mini Tuesdays, is the disgust by some liberals when those on the socialist left say they will withhold their vote for Biden in the future. I’d like to unpack this a bit. To be very clear, I don’t know what I will do if Joe Biden is the democratic nominee. I’m not saying yes to voting, and I’m not saying no. What I want to do is try to explain why some on the left need to withhold their vote come November.

For the last few months, from afar in my corner of Galicia, I’ve watched with resignation as the American media and the DNC elites have manipulated public opinion against Bernie Sanders, while scaring everyday voters into believing Joe Biden is the one to take on Donald Trump.

I will call out my own biases before I get into everything. The nation, now more than ever with the omnipresent coronavirus and its lethality, needs:

  • Universal healthcare in the form of Medicare for All, guaranteeing free-at-the-point-of-service to anyone and everyone residing in the United States. This is even more obvious with the pandemic. There is nothing radical about universal healthcare and would only align us with most major industrialized countries.
  • Climate action in the form of A Green New Deal. This is a no-brainer. Anyone who squawks about how we will pay for it is either engaging in a bad-faith argument, does not understand the consequences are already being seen and experienced around the world and even in poorer communities than their own, or does not value human life and a thriving biosphere for future generations. Or they’re billionaires who will blast off to Mars or somewhere else before it gets really dire.
  • The further democratization and progression of American social, civic, and political life. Here is my catch-all for making the country more equitable to all, in the form of stronger unions, better wages, more police accountability, tuition-free college, cancelling student debt, dismantling the carceral state, abolishing ICE, etc.

Many people believe Trump is an existential threat to the world. Words like fascist, white supremacist, or nationalist are used. I use them. In a sense, I believe all are valid and true. Closing the border to vulnerable immigrants, whose own countries were destabilized by our own government (some from the Obama administration) is odious. Given the impending climate catastrophe, there will be even more refugees and the world needs to move beyond the conventional paradigm of the nation state to accommodate these issues.

But I will call out bullshit when I see it. Joe Biden will not return us to normal. If he even wins the nomination at all (the political and nepotistic baggage of Hunter Biden and his post at a Ukrainian firm has more implications than Hilary Clinton’s emails), his obvious cognitive decline in the last four years is a huge liability. His continued contempt for the working class and millennials is antagonistic. Plus, back to normal is actually pretty terrible for many people. Largely, white democratic moderates were thrilled during the eight years of the Obama regime. I was one of them for many years. I voted for him twice. But politics was de-emphasized for many who saw him as a decent man. Let’s remember Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, the bombing of a handful of Muslim countries,

If you’re reading this, you might have found this through Micro.blog or Twitter. There is a large concentration of white moderate technologists on those sites. Perhaps you consider yourself on the left. Perhaps you think we’re out of our minds. Well, maybe. But here it is: there is no normal anymore. We are facing a choice that has global ramifications for better or worse. We cannot go back to centrism or rely on elites to dictate what is politically possible. The future is unwritten and remains in our hands.

This is not a post villifying the electorate for turning on Bernie Sanders. I get we’re all shell-shocked from four years of Trump. But I have seen, again from afar and from interactions with friends and family back home, how utterly manufactured this democratic primary process has been. Matrix fans might call it the red pill. But reading Marx, understanding our historical antecedents, and marinating in independent left media gives more perspective than the neutral horse-race mentality of the bought, billionaire-funded mainstream media.

So if you’re still reading, thank you. If you’re asking us in good faith why some would ever abstain and not “Vote Blue no matter who”, hopefully I can add another voice to that. Let me walk you through why the socialist left feels so dispossessed of any real power, and why a possible demonstration of our collective leverage might be to withhold our vote in strategic situations. Again, I am not trying to advocate this particular thought. I don’t know what I will do. Harm reduction voting might need to take place as well. There’s still a lot of primary to go, and everything is very much on unstable ground in these times.

Democratic Elite Consolidation before and after South Carolina

With the Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada primaries, there was already something strange going on. They scrapped the last major poll of the Des Moines Register before the caucus, apparently due to a complaint from the Buttigieg campaign. Some reporters who had seen results said Bernie was in first with his largest lead. That is not insignificant.

Then there is the night of the Iowa caucus. Pete Buttigieg declared himself the winner without any of votes being counted. Some, not me, will explain this away by saying the Buttigieg campaign had favorable internal data. Okay, but if it was so good, why not wait? Regimes in other countries have been toppled for less. Bolivia comes to mind. And it was wrong anyways. Bernie Sanders, in both the first caucus vote and the re-alignment, received more of the popular vote than Pete.

So why did he do this? Media narrative, I assume. Iowa is not a delegate-rich state nor is it representative of the democratic demographics of the country at-large, so the narrative driven by the media is super important going forward into the New Hampshire primary. For people paying attention, earned media is huge for momentum in these early states. In a crowded primary race, it was important.

How about the Iowa app, created to facilitate precinct captains and the Iowa Democrats to count votes and do strange (I’d argue unnecessary) delegate math? It was created by the mysterious tech startup Shadow and their think thank ACRONYM. I won’t get into the details about this. More ink has been spilled elsewhere and I’ll link to some at the bottom of each section. Regardless, ACRONYM’s founder Tara McGowan’s husband worked for the Buttigieg campaign in Iowa. Conflict of interest? Yes. Also, linked to the app/think tank are the Pod Save America crew. Google it. They waved it off with some phony outrage on the episode after Iowa. But my question, since the beginning, is this: Will anyone be truly held accountable? America basically caught the Iowa Democrats fixing or manufacturing results.

Despite the numerous irregularities of all that went down, Troy Price, the former head of the Iowa Democrats said the party would not re-evaluate the false delegate math. As of today, Sanders has over 2,000 more votes, 1 less state delegate equivalents, and oddly, 2 actual delegates less than Buttigieg. That’s a head scratcher.

You can say all these things are unfortunate circumstances or you can it for what is is; an attempt to rig the Iowa caucus in favor of someone who toes the Democratic Party line more than Bernie Sanders. It’s not a tinfoil hat scenario. It’s Occam’s Razor.

The democratic endorsements pushed Joe Biden into the spotlight.

  • Pete Buttigieg came in 2nd in both Iowa and New Hampshire and 3rd in Nevada. But after South Carolina, he drops out and the next day throws his support behind Biden. This is the guy who said Joe Biden was not right for the times and that a new generation needed to take up the mantle.
  • Beto O’Rourke called Joe Biden a return to the past. Suddenly, at exactly the necessary time (you know, when Bernie Sanders was looking to run away with the contest), Beto endorses Biden. Hmm.
  • Amy Klobuchar endorses Joe Biden.
  • Kamala Harris, who called Joe Biden out in an earlier debate on his racist, segregationist opposition to school busing, endorses him as well.

Biden was practically written off before the South Carolina primary. Conventional wisdom was that Biden just loses primaries. He has for all the previous presidential primaries. Obama picked him to assuage white voters for his own run in 2008. It was strategic.

And here’s a thing that annoys me to no end. Like Hilary, Biden is a manufactured avatar of a ‘good politician’. Collectively, we whitewash the horrible shit they have done as politicians. You know who hasn’t engaged in support of toppling the Honduran government or opposed busing or wrote the crime bill that has left countless black boys and men behind bars so much so that our prison population exceeds China’s? Bernie Sanders. Enough said.

Joe Biden has baggage. His brother, his son, himself. These are all liabilities that will absolutely be weaponized by Trump. Indeed, he’s already started. Can we just side-step this whole mess and vote for the policies who most of the democratic electorate agree with (minus the DNC)?

I decided to cut this short and not bother with links. You can find all of this easily. I might take this down at some point. But here it is. I would love to hear any comments or criticisms in the comments.

The White Moderate: ‘The Greatest Threat to Freedom’

I‘m writing something about what’s at stake all of us this year in US electoral politics, but these words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 16 April 1963 in a Birmingham jail cell feel very apt, considering that the Democratic National Committee seems hellbent on preserving its elite hegemony.

I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

Prescient? No, Dr. King was diagnosing the white moderate in his own time, it just so happens the white moderate has not evolved one iota since then.

And if that offends you, maybe take a step back; read a history book, see what’s happening in the country. Leave your middle-class bubble, or your ideological comfort zone, and recognize there is injustice and urgency everywhere.

The Nevada caucus is tonight and the collective party leaders of DNC, some of the moderate candidates, the NV Democratic Party, and other superdelegate have thus far:

  1. Signaled they prefer a brokered convention in Milwaukee to stop the current democratic front-runner Bernie Sanders
  2. Required caucus volunteers to sign NDAs to silence them post-caucus, just as Elizabeth Warren went after Michael Bloomberg for his myriad NDAs protecting himself from sexual harassment claims (accused by more women than Trump, by the way)
  3. The Washington Post releasing an article the day before the Nevada caucus alleging Vladimir Putin is helping Bernie Sanders’ campaign
  4. Democratic apparatchiks comfortable with a former republican Bloomberg’s bid to buy the nomination.

We’re at a crossroads and I’m not sure the white moderate sees it very clearly. They are comfortable in their material conditions, handcuffed to believing what is politically possible are limited to empty gestures which Nancy Pelosi deploys in front of Trump or the cameras, ignoring the complicity of establishment democrats in Trump’s massive military spending, among other things. Let’s learn a little about the world and understand that the democratic majority of this country is hurting. Let’s learn from Europe, South America, and everywhere else and get into the streets to demand what we need to thrive.

Dr. King’s socialism is often erased by moderates, but he saw our impediments to racial and economic justice back then, just as Bernie Sanders and his movement see it clearly today. Of course, income equality is even starker today than in the 1960s.

Let’s see what happens in Nevada. But white moderates should educate themselves on what’s really happening behind the curtain of their incrementalist dreams. White moderates should listen to the scientists, that tell us incrementalism is not feasible for planetary survival. Not anymore, not ever.

Trump is odious, but the enemies to a democratic, multiracial, ecological society don’t end with him.

I’ll finish with another MLK quote.

If America does not use her vast resources of wealth to end poverty and make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life, she, too, will go to hell.

Bernie Sanders and the movement are demanding un-radical things, but the white moderate has blocked all attempts for the last fifty years.

  • A living biosphere
  • Political power for the working class
  • Universal healthcare
  • The rich to pay their fair share in taxes
  • Student debt cancellation

Let’s see if they try to stop us in Nevada.Thanks for reading, seriously.

Bernie Is Running, Thank God

Bernie Sanders finally announced his run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Even in a crowded field, I think he is the right person for the task of taking down Trump.

Meagan Day had a good article on his announcement and why we should support Sanders over at Jacobin:

Some progressive voters may want to gravitate toward another candidate in the crowded field. But don’t be fooled — if you seek economic and social justice, you should support Bernie Sanders for president.

Why? Because there’s a class war raging, and Sanders is the only one running who sees it, and who wants to build working-class forces to fight back.

Day also addresses this liberal desire to endorse someone plays more identity politics:

In a race where progressivism is in vogue, his platform will be hard to run against without changing the conversation. Other candidates and their proxies will argue that Sanders can’t represent the interests of women and people of color because he’s an old white guy. But whatever the importance of symbolic representation, the social-democratic reforms Sanders proposes would do incomparably more to materially transform the lives of hundreds of millions of ordinary women and people of color.

Yes, he’s old and white. He’s also been using the same language on class, corruption, and inequality for decades. We don’t need a symbol; we need a movement. With Bernie, the vestiges of 2016 and the enthusiasm around bold progressive ideas of this election cycle can leverage his campaign to be that movement’s electoral foundation. In a video announcing his run, he asks for one million volunteers. I think the Democratic Socialists of America will endorse him sometime, and there are ~50,000 members with real grassroots organizing power.

Go, Bernie, Go.

Beto, Bernie, and 2020

Remember when we had a likable president? Those were the days, right? I voted for Obama, twice. And there were many things that the populace and media glossed over during his presidency. However, I never got the feeling the executive branch didn’t have a handle on things. Now, we have something else entirely. These last two years have been very strange.

Politics, right? Lots of people want to ignore it all. It’s exhausting. As we spent a few days in Galicia recently, the importance or pointlessness of politics came up in conversation. I vacillate between these points of view. Some days, I feel like ignoring it all, like many people do. If we paid less attention to these big egos who so desperately seek attention, wouldn’t things change?

Other days, I get a sense that the only real way to solve these big problems is through politics. It’s the twenty-first century and our industrialized society has left us with the responsibility of uniting to save our planet than at any other point of human history. I’m thinking an Independence Day scenario, where instead of aliens it’s CO2 emissions.

But if I internalize the second stance today, I need to throw my voice into the ether. Can we not elect another Barack Obama?

Branko Marcetic points out in his article for Jacobin about why Beto O’Rourke shouldn’t run for president:

If the Democratic Party ever wants to actually wield national power, instead of simply enacting change through easily repealable executive orders, then it has to win governorships, congressional seats, statehouses, and more all over the country.

We can’t just elect a young, telegenic American. There needs to be a reawakening to ideology and big ideas like a Green New Deal, Medicaid for All, and free tuition. Kate Aronoff’s article in the Intercept on what a Green New Deal would be like really encapsulates this vision.

So, Bernie? Honestly, I don’t know. He’s older, but there aren’t many potential Democratic candidates that are so single-mindedly focused on economic issues concerning the country.

The United States can sink or swim after the rampant corruption of the Trump presidency. Let’s get ourselves ready for the future.