* What I learned from the Washington Post today through links in their daily newsletter...
Last year the Burlington chapter of the International Socialist Organization met to decide if they would support Bernie Sanders. They voted "no" because he was running as a Democrat. There were 28 people there at the meeting. They called one another "comrade" — and they praised the consumer advocate Ralph Nader for having the guts to challenge the two-party system back in 2000.
Bernie's home State of Vermont is strewn with dissatisfied card-carrying socialists, who are now denouncing Sanders for perceived sins that date back to the 1970's. Bernie's bitter associates from the past are now coming out to bash him. One reason is because, in this election cycle, Bernie is running as a Democrat.
Bernie said he running within the Democratic party system because the party’s structure makes it easier for him to to get on ballots, into the debates and into the media. But he has said that if he loses in the Democratic primary, he will not run as an Independent and split the Democratic vote.
Consumer advocate Ralph Nader said, that's because Bernie did not want to draw votes away from a Democrat and elect a Republican in the process, just as it happened when Ralph Nader ran in 2000 and George W. Bush ended up beating Al Gore to win in 2000. After that, we got the war in Iraq (that Hillary voted for) and the very rich got big tax cuts.
In 1979, here's what Bernie Sanders allegedly said of the Socialist Eugene V. Debs:
"Throughout his life Debs was hailed by many as a prophet — a Moses — a man who would lead the American working class out of the desert of capitalism and into the promised land of socialism. But Debs rejected that role. He said that if the workers were dependent upon some famous leader, then some other famous leader would come along a few years later and lead them right back into capitalist slavery."
In his stump speeches now, Sanders echoes this sentiment: “This campaign really is not about Bernie Sanders. It’s about transforming America.”
During Obama's 2012 reelection campaign, Bernie Sanders suggested that it would be healthy for someone to challenge Barack Obama in the primary. Again, it was not to topple him, but to force the president to pay attention to the base.
Hillary Clinton attacked Sanders for these statements during the 4th Democratic primary debate:
"Senator Sanders called him weak, disappointing. He even, in 2011, publicly sought someone to run in a primary against President Obama."
Hillary's attack was to put distance between her and Bernie with Obama, who has strong support from African-American voters — which Hillary needs to get elected. If anything, it was a sleazy strategy of pandering on Hillary's part.
Here's what Bernie had actually said when he spoke to WNYC in March 2011:
"I'm not a Democrat. I'm an Independent. But if a progressive Democrat wants to run, I think it would enliven the debate, raise some issues and people have a right to do that. I've been asked whether I am going to do that. I'm not. I don't know who is, but in a democracy, it's not a bad idea to have different voices out there" ... "There are a lot of smart, honest progressive people who I think can be good presidents. And I think one of the reasons President Obama has moved as far to the right as he has is, he thinks he can go all the way — and no one will stand up to him."
During the last debate Bernie Sanders responded to Hillary's misleading claim:
"First of all, set the record right ... In 2008 I did my best to see that he was elected, and in 2012 I worked as hard as I could to see that he was re-elected. He and I are friends. We've worked together on many issues. We have some differences of opinion."
It should also be noted that Obama is not endorsing any of the candidates during the Democratic primary.
One reason for Bernie's challenge was, nearing the end of Obama’s first term, the mood among the party’s liberal/progressive wing was restive. There was anger that Wall Street executives were flourishing during the country’s recession and angst that Obama’s signature health-care legislation did not go as far as many had hoped it would. Cuts to Medicare and Medicaid that the White House was considering as part of negotiations with congressional Republicans infuriated many in the base.
Bernie Sanders had issued a rebuke to Obama in December 2010 when he delivered an 8 1/2 -hour speech on the Senate floor, denouncing a tax-cut deal that the White House had struck with Republican leaders, which unfairly benefited very high income earners and disastrously affected working and middle-class families by degrading tax revenues. (More on that below)
Sanders’s brand of unflinching independence is central to his appeal for many voters today. Those earlier criticisms of Obama elevated his stature on the political left, leading activists to push him to make his own presidential bid — especially since Senator Elizabeth Warren made it clear that she wouldn't run.
Lately Hillary Clinton and her supporters have tried to attack Bernie on his “electability” — even though polls show Bernie is actually MORE electable than Hillary — because not only does he beats more Republican candidates that Hillary does, he also beats them by wider margins than she does.
The Clinton campaign also argued that Sanders is only doing well because many of his supporters do not think "he’s in it to win". Florida attorney John Morgan (a Clinton donor) complained to the AP:
"They didn’t take him seriously enough because they thought they had a gadfly. But the gadfly wasn’t a gadfly — he was a lightning bug. And people have been following that lightning bug all over America."
Since Bernie's incredible rise in the polls, it's only now that Hillary Clinton and her allies have begun describing him as a “socialist” with gusto over the past week. Reading from a teleprompter in Iowa yesterday, the Hillary tried to frame the election as a choice between theory and reality:
"Theory isn’t enough. A president has to deliver in reality. I am not interested in ideas that sound good on paper but will never make it in the real world. I care about making a real difference in your life."
Clinton then argued, dubiously, that Sanders is actually more of an "establishment" candidate than she is, because Bernie has served in Congress more years than she was a New York senator — while also giving speeches to Wall Street bankers for millions of dollars. (Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!!)
More about the Bush Tax Cuts that Bernie was Against Renewing
The 2003 Bush tax cut that lowered the tax rate for multi-billionaires (from 20% to 15% on their capital gains) was done with a Senate tie-breaker by then-Vice President Dick Cheney.
The Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 ("JGTRRA") was passed by Congress on May 23, 2003 and signed into law by President George W. Bush on May 28, 2003.
[But why was "Jobs" included in the title of the bill? Was it so that the public would think they're getting something from the bill too? I've noticed a long time ago that Congress often names bills that have nothing at all to do with the bill itself. It's sneaky and it's an insult to voters.]
Nearly all of the cuts (individual rates, capital gains, dividends, estate tax) mostly benefited upper and very high income earners, and were set to expire after 2010 — but they were renewed for two more years by Obama (They finally expired on January 1, 2013).
The act accelerated certain tax changes passed in the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, so the 2001 and 2003 acts are known together as "The "Bush Tax Cuts". (JGTRRA / Public Law 108–27 108th Congress)
The Senate Vote (Bernie was still in the House at this time):
50 voted NAY for the tax cuts -- 47 Democrats and 2 Republicans and 1 Independent: Chafee (R-RI) Jeffords (I-VT) McCain (R-AZ) Snowe (R-ME)
50 voted YEA for the tax cuts -- 48 Republicans and 2 Democrats: Miller (D-GA) Nelson (D-NE)
1 voted YEA in the tie breaker -- Vice President Dick Cheney
To her credit, while voting WITH Dick Cheney for the war in Iraq, Hillary voted AGAINST him on the Bush tax cuts.