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Elizabeth Warren looks to rejuvenate her campaign in sixth Democratic debate

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren will look to rejuvenate her presidential campaign in a primary debate tonight largely overshadowed by the impeachment proceedings against President Trump, political observers say.

After climbing steadily in the polls through most of the year, Warren now finds herself in a slump nationally and in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire. She’s been battered over the rollout of her “Medicare for All” plan and has been battling moderate South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg — who has risen amid her fall — over health care and campaign transparency.

“It’s a really important debate for her,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “It’s an inflection-point debate because she really needs something to jump-start her polling in early states and also her fundraising.”

Paleologos said Warren will have to decide whether to engage Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden, the leading moderates in the field who will flank the Massachusetts senator onstage in Los Angeles. Or she may choose to finally go after fellow U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and make her play for his portion of the progressive base.

Warren could also have to watch out for U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, another moderate foil who is building momentum in Iowa and remains the second highest-polling woman in the race, Paleologos said.

But Democratic strategist Tony Cignoli said Warren needs to focus less on attacking her rivals and more on making her case to early state voters.

“Going after the other candidates, that’s just not working this cycle. People who are in the Democratic Party are looking for the candidate that’s going to give them a real feeling of ‘I can make a difference in your life,’ ” Cignoli said. “She’s got the real ability to do that, but she’s got to get back on track.”

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang and billionaire Tom Steyer round out the field of seven candidates set to debate tonight in a contest nearly derailed by a labor dispute and dogged by concerns it includes just one candidate of color, Yang, out of the most diverse primary field in United States history.

And impeachment has hung over it all.

“They’ve got to change the subject,” said pollster John Zogby. “They need to talk about infrastructure, the minimum wage and health care for all — and hammer on that.”

The PBS NewsHour/Politico debate goes live at 8 p.m. on PBS stations and CNN.

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Trump, White House fume as House debates impeachment

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and his administration fumed Wednesday as the House prepared to vote to impeach him, and they prepared in turn for “war” over the move. Aides and allies said the anger stems from Trump’s fear that impeachment will stain his legacy.

“SUCH ATROCIOUS LIES BY THE RADICAL LEFT, DO NOTHING DEMOCRATS. THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!” Trump wrote, shortly after the White House said in a statement that he was “working all day” but might “catch some of the proceedings between meetings.”

“Can you believe that I will be impeached today by the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, AND I DID NOTHING WRONG! A terrible Thing. Read the Transcripts. This should never happen to another President again. Say a PRAYER!” Trump wrote in another, one of more than 30 tweets and retweets from his account by early afternoon on Wednesday.

The president spent most of the morning in the residence, according to a White House official. Upstairs in the White House, the televisions were tuned to cable news, which were all carrying the impeachment proceedings live.

“We are all mad,” a White House official told NBC News, describing the president’s reaction as one of “disbelief” that the process had reached this point, and his team as being “angry this is happening.” But officials were quick to add that the president is ready for the fight ahead, describing the White House as battle-tested at this point.

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The White House is readying for the fight to move into the Senate, too: White House counsel Pat Cipollone would likely still lead the effort, but the White House is also considering adding other voices to the fray.

Four sources familiar with the administration’s thinking told NBC News that several high-profile GOP lawmakers are being considered to be part of the team that would defend the president in a Senate trial: Republican Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Mark Meadows of North Carolina, John Ratcliffe of Texas, and Mike Johnson of Louisiana. One official said the situation is “fluid,” with no decisions having been made.

While the Senate isn’t expected to call formal witnesses, one source said the White House is considering trying to have House Republicans such as Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., serve as witnesses in some capacity to speak about the closed-door testimony and documents they’ve considered.

Trump made his feelings on impeachment clear in Tuesday’s six-page letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, accusing Democrats of a “coup” — a document officials said he was likely to draw from in appearances later in the day.

Despite the president’s statement Tuesday that he did not plan to watch the impeachment debate, a senior administration official acknowledged as Wednesday began that Trump was likely to keep tabs on the proceedings.

While there are tangible political perks to be had — namely the fundraising dollars the campaign said it was expecting in the wake of the vote — aides and allies have long said that Trump is keenly aware of the stain impeachment leaves on his presidency. (White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway argued to reporters Wednesday that Trump thinks it’s a stain on Democrats, not himself.)

Senior campaign officials said they expected donors to contribute in blockbuster numbers on Wednesday and Thursday, in response to both the impeachment debate and campaign appeals with subject lines such as “Impeachment War.”

And they expressed satisfaction with the solid House Republican opposition to impeachment, denying it the bipartisan label attached to similar action in the past.

Download the NBC News app for alerts and full coverage of the impeachment inquiry

The White House planned to respond in real time to the impeachment proceedings throughout the day, a senior administration official said as debate began. Trump campaign officials said the president was well positioned to go to battle with his critics following progress on a trade deal with China, a new North American trade agreement and paid family leave for government employees.

Trump himself did not add any events to his schedule to address the vote, and didn’t speak to reporters on his way to a campaign rally on Wednesday afternoon.

The president’s most in-depth rebuttal was anticipated to take place later in the evening at that rally, where he was expected to draw from his letter to Pelosi in his remarks to supporters, with Vice President Mike Pence in attendance.

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Trump Just Gave the Israel Lobby What It’s Been Asking For. Here’s Why That’s So Dangerous.

The president’s new executive order is an alarming escalation of his anti-Semitism–and his attacks against Palestinian rights campaigners.

There’s nothing wrong with fighting anti-Semitism. Indeed that is necessary. But that’s not the purpose here.

This article first appeared on Electronic Intifada.

Just days after U.S. President Donald Trump spewed vicious anti-Semitic rhetoric, Israel lobby groups are celebrating his executive order taking aim at supporters of Palestinian rights.

Israel and its most extreme defenders are not bothered by the president’s anti-Jewish rhetoric as long as it comes wrapped in unquestioning support for Israel.

Trump’s order, which he signed Wednesday, is evidence of that support. It is also a dangerous escalation of the attack on basic free speech rights.

Initial reporting by The New York Times claimed that the order “will effectively interpret Judaism as a race or nationality, not just a religion, to prompt a federal law penalizing colleges and universities deemed to be shirking their responsibility to foster an open climate for minority students.”

Asserting that Jews belong to a separate national grouping has long been a theme of anti-Semitic white supremacist ideology – and it promotes the anti-Jewish smear of “dual loyalty.”

On Wednesday, Jewish Insider published what it says is the text of the actual order.

It is more subtle; it states that “Discrimination against Jews” may give rise to a violation of US civil rights law “when the discrimination is based on an individual’s race, color, or national origin.”

But the core of the order is that it meets the demands of Israel lobby groups who wish to criminalize Palestine solidarity organizing – especially on U.S. college campuses – by conflating criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish bigotry.

It states that it “shall be the policy of the executive branch to enforce Title VI [of the Civil Rights Act] against prohibited forms of discrimination rooted in anti-Semitism.”

There’s nothing wrong with fighting anti-Semitism. Indeed that is necessary. But that’s not the purpose here.

Rather, the president’s order officially adopts language in the so-called State Department definition of anti-Semitism, based on that of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

This controversial definition, promoted by Israel and its lobby, includes claims that it is anti-Semitic to say Israel’s foundation is a “racist endeavor” or “applying double standards” to Israel by requiring from it “behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”

Crucially, the definition claims that “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination” is anti-Semitic. This does define Jews as a “nation.”

It also means the government could claim that is a form of anti-Semitism to call for a single, democratic state in historic Palestine, in which Jews and Palestinians have equal rights – because Israel would no longer exist as a “Jewish state.”

In other words, the definition conflates bigotry against Jews, on the one hand, with criticism of Israel and its racist state ideology Zionism, on the other.

Even the definition’s lead author, former American Jewish Committee executive Kenneth Stern, strongly opposes efforts to enshrine it in legislation or university rule books, arguing that this would unconstitutionally infringe on free speech.

With this executive order, however, Trump has given the Israel lobby a way to circumvent the legislative process while opening the door for accelerated attacks on Palestinians and those who organize for their rights.

The order states that “the inquiry into whether a particular act constitutes discrimination … will require a detailed analysis of the allegations.” In other words, mere accusations of anti-Semitism against critics of Israel on campus are likely to result in lengthy inquisitions by the government.

Regardless of the outcome of such investigations, the prospect of being put through such an ordeal by the government is unpalatable to enough people that it will chill free speech and academic freedom.

“A baldfaced attempt to silence the movement”

For years, lobby groups have pushed U.S. politicians to pass legislation effectively defining criticism of Israel as anti-Jewish bigotry – and therefore identifying all Jews with Israel.

Two bills to this effect were hurried through last year only to stall in Congress over First Amendment concerns – and because of significant organizing by student activists and civil rights groups.

For nearly a decade, as Palestine activism on campuses grew, Zionist groups began filing complaints under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

In these complaints, Israel supporters claimed that universities failed to protect Jewish students by not cracking down on Palestine solidarity activism.

The strategy was pioneered by Kenneth Marcus, who led the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, an Israel lobby group unaffiliated with Brandeis University.

The complaints were eventually thrown out by the Obama administration, citing lack of evidence.

However, Marcus is now in charge of the Office for Civil Rights – the body that investigates such complaints.

Last year, he announced that the Department of Education will apply standards that conflate criticism of Israel and Zionism with anti-Jewish bigotry.

He also re-opened a complaint against Rutgers University that had been thrown out by the US government in 2014.

Marcus has even called for students to be criminally prosecuted for protesting Israel.

Dima Khalidi, director of the civil rights group Palestine Legal, has previously warned that with Marcus leading the Office for Civil Rights, he would “do from the inside of the Department of Education what he has failed to do from the outside.”

On Tuesday, Khalidi called the executive order “a baldfaced attempt to silence the movement for Palestinian rights on college campuses.”

She added that “rather than providing any new protections to Jewish students against the rampant and deadly anti-Semitism of a resurgent white nationalism,” the order “aims to define the contours of what we can say about Palestine and Israel.”

“We won’t abide, and it will be challenged,” Khalidi remarked.

Fear and outrage

On Wednesday, US Congress member Bobby Rush condemned Trump’s move as a way to “stifle the speech of those they [the Trump administration] disagree with.”

The Illinois Democrat added: “What’s worse, is their exploitation of anti-Semitism in order to do so. [Trump] does not care about Jewish safety. Period.”

The Admin. that claims to care so much about free speech on college campuses is now looking to stifle the speech of those they disagree with.

What’s worse, is their exploitation of antisemitism in order to do so. @realDonaldTrump does not care about Jewish safety. Period. https://t.co/wKDj0fpnBM

— Bobby L. Rush (@RepBobbyRush) December 11, 2019

Notably, none of the major Democratic presidential candidates – including Bernie Sanders – has so far weighed in on Trump’s executive order.

Students, activists and civil rights defenders expressed outrage and concern, while warning university administrations not to cave in to intimidation.

“Trump has never cared about stopping antisemitism – this Executive Order is about silencing Palestinians and the people who speak up with them.” @AlissaShira https://t.co/UgjMUi41fk

— Jewish Voice for Peace (@jvplive) December 11, 2019

As we respond to Trump’s antisemitic attempt to redefine Jews as a “nationality we have to remember this is also directed at shutting down Palestinian student activism on college campuses and protecting the Israeli government from critique. We need to resist this together.

— Rebecca Pierce #BlackShabbat (@aptly_engineerd) December 11, 2019

Anti-BDS groups failed to claim Palestine activism was discriminatory because authorities recognized the difference btwn racism & political speech. Now they’re redefining Jewish identity just so they can render that speech as racism. Palestinians are anti-Semites by exec. order. https://t.co/mnlfrC4SYo

— Amjad Iraqi (@aj_iraqi) December 11, 2019

My prediction: This executive order itself will be toothless but universities will be scared or opportunistic enough to clamp down on BDS work themselves. Also, this will fire up the “we’re not antisemitic, we just think Jews should be in their own country ��” crowd (ie fascists)

— Tovarisch (@nwbtcw) December 11, 2019

Israel’s supporters, meanwhile, are hailing the move.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, welcomed the order, telling The New York Times that Jewish students are being marginalized on campuses.

He downplayed concerns that the order would re-classify American Jews, though noted that it adopts the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism:

(2/5) I’ve seen a draft of the EO & I can tell you it:

➡️Protects Jews and other religious minorities from discrimination under Title VI, but does NOT break new ground on identifying Jews as a protected class

➡️Adopts @TheIHRA definition of #antiSemitism

— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) December 11, 2019

AIPAC, a leading Israel lobby group, also praised Trump’s order:

We appreciate @realDonaldTrump‘s decision to give the @usedgov the authority to counter discrimination against Jewish students.

For far too long Jewish students have been targeted, harassed and silenced on campus for supporting the Jewish state.

— AIPAC (@AIPAC) December 11, 2019

Seffi Kogan, an official at the American Jewish Committee, deflected criticism by claiming that it would be entirely appropriate to assert that all Jews are part of a “Jewish nation”:

Fellow Jews:
Let’s set aside the first amendment concerns for a moment (though they are important considerations!).

Let’s set aside how we feel about the President.

I’m a member of the Jewish nation, aren’t you? https://t.co/Czg8PZWW9Q

— Seffi Kogen (@seffikogen) December 11, 2019

And Christians United for Israel – a group whose support for Israel is rooted in a theology that yearns for Jews to be gathered in one place where they will killed in a coming apocalypse – also applauded Trump’s executive order.

Desperation

While civil rights groups and student activists prepare to challenge Trump’s order, it can also be viewed as an indication of the Israel lobby’s desperation.

The legislation that lobby groups hoped to push through Congress has been hampered by relentless resistance.

Students have been at the forefront of Palestinian rights advocacy and expanding the boycott campaign, in spite of sweeping anti-BDS measures passed by state lawmakers and attempts by universities to shut down speech in support of Palestinians.

Activists should not be cowed by threats from university officials, Israel lobby groups or the president. Rather, the executive order and the fight to come validate that the movement for Palestinian rights is a force to be reckoned with.

Thinking about how Trump’s exec order is a direct response to the incredible, principled, strategic, and powerful divestment campaigns that SJP students have been leading on campuses across the country. @NationalSJP and @jvplive students are incredible �� #BDS pic.twitter.com/J1eiGhdyC9

— Maya Edery (@mayaj_30) December 11, 2019

Trump’s exec order is a dangerous move to stifle free speech, but as a founder of two Students for Justice in Palestine chapters, I can say that despite the decade-long threat to shut us down, our movement just keeps getting stronger, larger and more diverse. https://t.co/NanBzCUfpp

— Randa MKW (@randawahbe) December 11, 2019

“As a founder of two Students for Justice in Palestine chapters,” tweeted graduate student and activist Randa Wahbe, “I can say that despite the decade-long threat to shut us down, our movement just keeps getting stronger, larger and more diverse.”


In These Times has been selected to participate in NewsMatch—the largest grassroots fundraising campaign for nonprofit news organizations.

For a limited time, when you make a tax-deductible donation to support our reporting, it will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the NewsMatch fund, doubling your impact.



Nora Barrows-Friedman is Associate Editor of The Electronic Intifada, author of “In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine.”

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House Democrats and Republicans make final arguments as Trump impeachment vote nears

The House of Representatives began debate Wednesday leading up to a vote this evening to impeach President Trump for abusing his office and obstructing Congress, a condemnation that only two other U.S. presidents have faced in the nation’s history.

Despite the historic nature of the vote to charge the president with committing high crimes and misdemeanors, the day’s proceedings lack much suspense: Trump’s fate has been sealed for days, if not weeks, in the Democratic-controlled House. Enough members of the House have publicly said they will vote for impeachment to ensure passage.

The back-to-back votes on two articles of impeachment, slated for about 8 p.m. Eastern, are expected to fall almost entirely along party lines. Several hundred pro-impeachment protesters gathered outside the Capitol on a cold but sunny morning to cheer on the Democrats.

His accusers charge that Trump abused his power when he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son while Trump was withholding a promised White House meeting and critical military aid to the U.S. ally.

Defending Trump, Republicans argue that Trump was skeptical of corruption in Ukraine and say that since most of the U.S. aid ultimately was released, no harm was done.

As the House votes Wednesday evening, Trump is scheduled to take the stage at a campaign rally in Michigan near the home of Rep. Justin Amash, a Republican turned independent who plans to support impeachment — the only non-Democrat who has said he intends to do so.

Trump, who chose not to participate in the formal impeachment hearing, lambasted the proceedings Tuesday in a blistering six-page letter to Pelosi in which he denied any wrongdoing and said impeachment would backfire against Democrats at the polls.

“You are making a mockery of impeachment and you are scarcely concealing your hatred of me, of the Republican Party, and tens of millions of patriotic Americans,” he wrote.

Lawmakers spent Wednesday morning on the House floor making final speeches for and against the impeachment articles.

Most regular business in the House, such as committee hearings, was rescheduled and lawmakers had little to do but wait and observe the debate. Republicans started the day by forcing a vote to adjourn the House, a delay tactic commonly used by the minority party before significant votes. The tactic failed.

Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands) planned to spend some time in the chamber listening to the debate, and said he might answer phone calls “to see what the volume is like” from constituents calling his office.

“It’s just seriousness and waiting,” he said. “I don’t think the outcome’s in question. I think everybody just wants to get there.”

Much of the debate echoed the arguments presented in hours of public hearings and television interviews since Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry on Sept. 24.

Democrats framed the impeachment as a solemn event that the House had to pursue because Trump threatened the nation’s security.

“The question before us comes down to this, should a president be allowed to ask a foreign nation to interfere in an American election?” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.).

Republicans blasted the impeachment effort as a politically motivated retribution for Trump’s election.

“Democrats have been searching for a reason to impeach President Trump since the day he was elected,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.).

There was never much suspense into whether the House would have the votes. Centrist Democrats who for months resisted calls from more progressive Democrats to try to remove Trump from office now say the president’s offenses warrant impeachment.

If the House votes Wednesday as expected, the articles of impeachment would go to the GOP-controlled Senate, where Republicans have shown little appetite for a lengthy trial. That step would get underway in early January.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has signaled it is all but impossible for Democrats to garner the 67 votes needed to convict the president and remove him from office.

Impeachment inquiry

What else you need to know

That would be in keeping with American history. The Senate did not convict President Andrew Johnson in 1868 or President Clinton in 1999 after their impeachments. Wednesday’s vote is slated to take place one day short of 21 years since Clinton faced the same fate in the House.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the majority whip, argued that impeachment is moving politically against the Democrats.

“If they don’t see that, they should,” Thune said. “Let the voters decide the outcome in the next election, which isn’t all that far away.”

Trump is frustrated by the process in the House that’s led to his likely impeachment Wednesday, but he’s also a “realist,” Thune said.

“He knows now that the opportunity to defend himself is in the Senate, hopefully,” he said, “And he’ll soon get that chance.”

In the weeks leading up to the vote, Pelosi has tried to strike a somber, solemn tone, underscoring Democrats’ argument that they pursued impeachment because they believe it is their constitutional duty to do so.

“No Member came to Congress to impeach a President,” she wrote to fellow Democrats on Tuesday night. Their oath of office “makes us Custodians of the Constitution. If we do not act, we will be derelict in our duty.”

While the vast majority of Democrats plan to support the articles of impeachment, there are a few outliers.

Rep. Jared Golden of Maine said he would support the article of impeachment charging abuse of power, but not obstruction of Congress. One Democrat who opposed impeachment, Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, plans to switch parties.

Democrats pledged they would not strong-arm their members to support the articles — and swore that politics played no role in their decision.

“No one raised their hand and swore to defend the polling data,” said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.).

Republicans are expected to be unified. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) anticipated Tuesday that no GOP lawmaker would support the articles.

“The facts are on our side,” he said.

The political fallout of the vote may not be clear until the November 2020 election, in which voters will decide whether Trump will get a second term and whether Democrats will continue to control the House.

The fallout could be particularly noticeable in the congressional districts that flipped from a Republican lawmaker to a Democratic one in the 2018 election.

The White House has already targeted one of those lawmakers, Rep. Gil Cisneros (D-Yorba Linda), for his impeachment vote.

“Instead of working to uplift the middle class as promised, Rep. Gil Cisneros joins Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the coastal elites in support of their baseless impeachment proceedings,” said White House deputy press secretary Steven Groves.

Cisneros — who last week was one of the few Democrats to attend the congressional Christmas party at the White House — said his district is split 50-50 on the issue.

“If I’m going to look at every poll that needs to be done or decide which way the wind is blowing before I take a vote, then maybe I don’t belong here in this job,” Cisneros said in an interview. “I’m doing this for the benefit of our country and protecting our Constitution, and I’ll live with that. I have no regrets at all in supporting the impeachment of the president.”

As debate began in the House, a few hundred protesters gathered in the December chill outside the Capitol building.

The crowd was small compared with some of the protests held Tuesday in support of impeachment from Oregon to New York to Florida.

But their cheers could occasionally be heard inside — and that’s what they were counting on, said Richard and Jill Watson.

The couple from Chevy Chase, Md., was well aware that the House debate would likely lead to impeachment of a president for only the third time in U.S. history, and that the Senate was unlikely to remove him from office.

“It’s extremely important for me to show that I care enough to get out at this sub-freezing moment and protest at the Capitol,” Jill Watson said. “To show [lawmakers] but also for all the friends around the country who aren’t here at ground zero.”

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Don’t Let Liberals Write Off Workers in “Flyover Country”

After twenty years of living on the East Coast, journalist Monica Potts returned to her rural Arkansas hometown. There, a struggle over a local library inspired her widely read New York Times op-ed “In the Land of Self-Defeat.” In it, she laments her childhood friends’ growing insularity, anti–public spiritedness, and anti-tax ideology — even when it hurts them materially.

To Potts, the town of Clinton, Arkansas’s acrimonious fight over a library indicates the futility, and even possible danger, of campaigning on redistributive “big government” policies like Medicare for All and tuition-free higher education in “self-defeating” places like Van Buren County.

“People like my neighbors hate that the government is spending money on those who don’t look like them and don’t live like them,” she writes, “but what I’ve learned since I came home is that they remain opposed even when they themselves stand to benefit.” In other words, there’s no use in trying to help people who have been brainwashed into not wanting any help. Trump’s appeal in these self-flagellating regions is simply “unbeatable.”

But the story Potts tells demonstrates none of these things. Van Buren County, Arkansas, is in economic crisis for reasons beyond its immediate control. The backlash against raising taxes for the library is not the simple result of a backward ideology, but the predictable consequence of the town’s legal duties, bad local politicking, and economic constraints that would be hard for most of the Times’s readership to even imagine.

But Potts’s article is useful for another reason. It highlights the nature of a new American genre: supposed redneck insiders like J. D. Vance in Hillbilly Elegy interpreting foreign lands for those bewildered by Donald Trump’s rise. And, more disturbingly, it demonstrates just how eager liberals are to embrace a newer, more palatable variation of the “culture of poverty” thesis that summarily blames the poor for their own miseries.

As Potts herself explains, Van Buren County, Arkansas, is a “low-income” place. The typical private-sector wage is between $10 and $13 an hour. The median income is well below the national average. The poverty rate is around 22 percent.

But in the early 2000s, as Potts says, the region enjoyed an economic boom thanks to new exploration of the Fayetteville Shale gas fields. Flush with higher tax revenues, the county approved a multimillion-dollar expansion of the library — a project with which Potts’s mother was involved as a member of the library board.

Then, in 2009, on the heels of the financial crisis, the price of shale gas collapsed. Profits shrunk, production slowed, and companies downsized. Gas firms started refusing to pay their taxes, complaining the rates were “unfair,” forcing local authorities to drag them to court to try to recover revenue. Those legal battles continue to this day.

With economic contraction came emigration and declining revenues from property and sales taxes. Worse yet, Arkansas state aid fell. Since the 2008 peak of the gas boom, Van Buren County revenues have shrunk by 20 percent. Hanging over the collective head, in addition to all the regular town expenses, was servicing the outstanding $2.1 million debt accrued to build the new library facility. What to do?

Potts tells us “the library made its own budget cuts, but the savings weren’t enough to cover the shortfall in paying for the building.” But the library didn’t just make inadequate budget cuts. The library board also proposed new expenses. They wanted to hire a new head librarian with an expanded job description at $25 an hour, up from the previous $19 an hour, roughly twice the average wage in the county.

This proposal was highlighted for the public at large in April 2019, when “a local man who operates the Facebook group, Van Buren County Today Unfiltered, posted the agenda for a coming meeting of the Quorum Court, the county’s governing body,” wherein the new job description and raise were discussed.

On Facebook, furor ensued, with indignant denizens invoking themes of government waste and even corruption. This “surprised” Potts, who had “thought people would be supportive.” With “sadness, anger, and frustration,” Potts entered the digital fray, defending the proposed raise on the basis of the candidate having a master’s degree. Her social media efforts came to naught. The library board backed down — the wage rate stayed at $19 an hour.

A few months later, the larger shortfall issue outstanding, friends of the library sought to raise local property taxes to pay the new facility’s debt down. A new round of pushback began. That proposal was scrapped as well. Now the local library lobby is pushing for a sales tax to prevent a downsizing.

Potts could have argued that this controversy shows how America needs to change the conditions in which such local debates happen: we need a radically different federal energy policy, less regressive ways to fund vital social services, and sensible state and federal economic development planning.

Instead, Potts argues that this backlash shows that her childhood neighbors are in wholesale retreat from community life, collectively morphing into miserly Scrooges, turning their backs on the institutions that hold them together. Instead of “pitching in to maintain what they have,” she writes, people “seem determined to get rid of the last institutions trying to help them, to keep people with educations out, and to retreat from community life and concentrate on taking care of themselves and their own families. It’s an attitude that is against taxes, immigrants and government, but also against helping your neighbor.” She does not consider other reasons as to why the library proposals elicited such irate reactions. It’s simply their hopeless pathology.

And then, even more significantly, Potts argues to her Times readers that this local fiasco over a library shows that any proposals for Medicare for All or tuition-free college would simply be rejected out of hand — not only by this community but the entirety of downscale, rural America.

For Potts and her readers, this isn’t just one small town. It’s the “land of self-defeat,” that massive hinterland at the frontier of affluent, metropolitan America. And in a reactionary backwater like that, people just can’t be reasoned with.

Whatever Potts’s own intentions, it’s a quietist conclusion, perfect for anyone looking to write off the unwashed masses, or for excuses not to support broadly redistributive politics. More important, it is an ideal message for a ruling class trying to undercut the stirrings of a rebellion emanating from America’s interior.

Potts says she is telling the story of miserly and insular country folk. In fact, she is actually describing a shrinking town, battered by recession and economic forces beyond its control, rejecting a poorly presented proposal to deepen a subsidy for an arguably poorly planned library expansion.

Potts talks about how, in her hometown, there is a “prevailing sense of scarcity,” how “people here think life here has taken a turn for the worse,” and so are deciding it is time “to go into retreat.”

But since 2009, conditions in Van Buren County have gotten worse. It’s not some delusion induced by “too much Fox News.” Less tax revenue meant times were tougher — materially, objectively, and unavoidably. For those living in booming cities like San Francisco or New York with enormous tax bases and thriving industries, the challenges facing Van Buren are likely hard to imagine. But that doesn’t mean they’re not very real.

Running a small town’s budget is not like running the United States budget. Van Buren County is not free to pursue some sensible Keynesian economic program whereby they spend money and run deficits during downturns to develop a robust and balanced economy and stimulate demand, which will then generate taxes that can pay down yesterday’s debt. Under the law, nearly every local government in the United States is strictly restrained in its fiscal policy. Many must run perfectly balanced budgets, where what is spent annually must be equal to or less than what is raised in local taxes and other income.

So every year, in towns all across America, budget debates are the same: Does the local high school really need a second principal? After all, there are also potholes to be filled. But who should get that construction contract? Will the bidding process be fair, or is corruption afoot? Tellingly, as Van Buren County community members hashed over Potts’s op-ed on Van Buren County Today Unfiltered’s public Facebook page, conversation turned back to the merits of the original library expansion, with someone noting they seem to recall that at the height of the shale gas boom, the county had suspended its competitive bidding process.

Predictably, when the proverbial pie shrinks in periods of recession, these debates are especially rancorous. If there isn’t enough revenue to cover expenses as proposed, what will get cut? Or will you increase the tax burden yet more in the midst of collective hardship? The stakes are high — if the town fails to fix the problem itself, it could be forced to declare bankruptcy, and get put into state receivership, losing its right to self-govern and having austerity unilaterally imposed by the state.

In such moments of retraction, a surefire way to incite public fury and charges of graft is to quietly propose expansion for your interests (and then have that proposal “uncovered” by an internet sleuth) while your neighbors are tightening their belts.

Potts claims that the library conflict turned into a bigger fight “about the county government, what it should pay for, and how and whether people should be taxed at all.” And according to Potts, this local controversy is a simulacrum of national politics. Her upshot is this: “As long as Democrats make promises to make . . . lives better with free college and Medicare for all [which] sound like they include government spending, these voters will turn to Trump again — and it won’t matter how many scandals he’s been tarnished by.”

But while Potts claims this local backlash against raising wages and taxes for the library means residents of Clinton are knee-jerk anti-tax zealots, this is not what she demonstrates. While she quotes library board chairman Phillip Ellis asserting, “I think it’s just antitax anything,” not one of the library critics to whom Potts speaks expresses any general Randian fanaticism against taxes. Instead, the library skeptics talk about feeling their tax dollars are being wasted — a subtle but important distinction, particularly in a country with a threadbare welfare state that leans heavily on unpopular means-tested benefits programs rather than universally available public goods.

Potts’s argument that this library fight illustrates her neighbors’ tax allergy isn’t grounded in evidence she offers, but in an assumption — that the only reason rural voters would oppose this library expansion is because they are opposed to all taxes. But this assumption is flawed. As Vanessa Williamson writes in her recent book Read My Lips: Why Americans Are Proud to Pay Taxes, “surveys show that Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats to agree that taxpaying is a moral responsibility . . . a responsibility that we have to our country as citizens” because “the country has to be taken care of.”

It is entirely plausible that someone could oppose Van Buren County’s local library expansion yet support national, redistributive policies like Medicare for All (M4A) and tuition-free college, because theeconomics and politics of these local versus national proposals are radically different. Libraries are wonderful, but a strong case can be made that the $3 million Van Buren County expansion was a mistake, weighing down a shrinking town with a debt-financed, non-income-generating facility that it didn’t need to begin with.

M4A and tuition-free college, by contrast, are policies that propose to lower the costs of health care and education, boost the economy, and address universal needs in today’s world. This is a distinction even country folk are capable of grasping — if it is explained in good faith, without condescension.

While Potts insists that promotion of such policies is a fool’s errand in her neck of the woods, M4A and tuition-free college are rapidly growing in popularity. Depending on how you ask the question, polling consistently shows that between 55 percent and 70 percent of Americans endorse M4A, and 60 percent support tuition-free college. That’s because these proposals make sense — not just morally, but financially.

And while there is not good data on the geographic distribution of this support, we do know that the key champion of M4A and tuition free college, Bernie Sanders, is beloved across the entire country.

In the 2016 Democratic primary, Bernie Sanders, with his message of political revolution against America’s ruling class, soundly beat Clinton in “flyover country.” Out of the ten most rural states in America (by population density), Sanders won seven. He won the Great Plains, the entire Rocky Mountain region, rural New England, and the Pacific Northwest. He won Michigan and Indiana, proving he can compete in the Rust Belt. And, most portentous of all, he won West Virginia, a bellwether entry point to the South.

This time around, Sanders’s grassroots fundraising performance in America’s peripheries is a powerful indicator of where he stands with the public. In August 2019, the New York Times released a detailed map of the Democratic candidates’ fundraising performance among individual donors. Effectively the entire map was blue, for Sanders, with particularly dense areas of activity in Appalachia. Sanders’s domination of the data was so overwhelming that the Times had to create a second map, one that removed him, so that the other candidates’ smaller, generally more regional donor bases could be viewed at all. In the 206 counties that flipped from Obama in 2008 to Trump in 2016, Sanders is crushing his closest competition in the number of individual donors: 33,185 donors to Warren’s 13,674.

In April 2019, Sanders even entered the lion’s den itself for a Fox News town hall in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a shuttered factory visible in the background. When host Bret Baier asked the audience how many people would really be willing to give up their private health insurance for a M4A system, he was met with an auditorium full of hands shooting up and whoops and hollers.

But Sanders is just one phenomenon evidencing a dawning class consciousness in America’s periphery. In 2018, a surprising strike wave grew in the United States. The backbone straightening was led not by urban, unionized workers, but by non-union schoolteachers in “land of self-defeat” states like West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Arizona. This year, 48,000 General Motors (GM) workers, most within the Rust Belt, went on strike for forty days, the longest auto strike in over a decade, costing GM $2 billion.

One would think the ostensibly progressive Democratic Party establishment and its adjuncts, headquartered in states like New York, California, and Massachusetts, would be delighted about what all this heralds. But one would be wrong.

Instead, the liberal political and pundit class has been, at best, studiously ignoring signs of a gestating working-class consciousness, notoriously avoiding covering Sanders, and giving short shrift to the teachers’ strikes in favor of Russiagate. But at worst, it is deliberately discrediting and demonizing class politics, in particular by elevating a new iteration of the old right-wing “culture of poverty” argument: that social crisis in the American interior is simply the result of self-sabotage and bad values, not material conditions.

This position puts them in league with the likes of Charles Murray, the discredited defender of the notion that race is a biological determinant of intelligence. Murray, approvingly cited by J. D. Vance in Hillbilly Elegy, is one of the main proponents of the idea that poverty has its origins in cultural pathology rather than political economy. When Murray espouses these beliefs, liberals throatily reject it as nonsense. But many are now enthusiastically embracing such culturalist explanations of poverty when they’re applied to the “white working class,” using them to justify shaking off the down-home elements in the Democratic base, and instead courting affluent college-educated Republicans.

Capitalism, and the class antagonism with which it is fraught, has a geography. “Core” regions control, directly or indirectly, the society’s industrial base and financial sector. This is where the surplus value generated by the whole society’s collective labor accumulates. These regions are urban. Firms locate here to find workers, which in turn attracts more workers seeking jobs in higher-wage, value-added sectors. Thus, there is a strong internal consumer base driving development. In short, these are places with money — and in our system, money is the finest distillation of power. New York City is one such region.

“Peripheral” regions serve a different function — they provide raw materials, food, and energy to the core. This can look like monocropped commercial agriculture, aggressive logging, or a big extractive mineral sector like the gas fields in Van Buren County. Often, interests in the core actually own the resources in question — and they want these strategic inputs extracted for cheap. That means enforcing strict labor discipline in peripheral regions: low wages and no unions.

Predictably, it is in the periphery that one sees the most chilling examples of terror used to maintain highly exploitative labor relations, often according to some kind of racialized caste system. These repressive labor regimes are managed by “compradors,” regional elites who collaborate in the economic and political subordination of the periphery and profit wildly from it — think Don Blankenship in West Virginia, or the Al Saud family in Saudi Arabia. But however rich rural compradors get, surplus value continues to flow inexorably into industrial and financial cores.

Instead of developing their own independent industrial base, peripheral economies often become lopsided, corralled into reliance on those extractive sectors that benefit the core, and in which they have a supposed “comparative advantage.” This is sometimes called the “resource curse.” Consequently, peripheral regions become economically dependent on the core, both to buy their exports, and then to send back finished goods.

Peripheral extractive industry is often ecologically destructive. As Marx observed, there is a “metabolic rift” between town and country, as the non-renewable ecological assets of the countryside are extracted and exported to the city. Chronic extraction can turn whole regions into “sacrifice zones,” places that are used up and then abandoned.

But from the perspective of the ruling class, there is something far more dangerous than any of this: the emergence of class-conscious, solidaristic movements in the periphery demanding control over their resources, redistribution of wealth, and political power.

Rebellion at the periphery is always especially distressing for our rulers — after all, workers in the core might join in.

The New York Times tries to disorient its majority-urban readers, reassuring them that if the conditions in peripheral places are deplorable, it is because the people there are deplorable — there is no way such knuckle-draggers would ever support Medicare for All or tuition-free higher education. The solution to the crisis is, therefore, business (and politics) as usual.

The American ruling class is comfortable peddling narratives like this because it believes it can abandon places like Van Buren County to reactionary politics and still beat Trump with some version of a 1990s Democrat, to be voted in by states with large progressive metropolitan regions by some narrow but sufficient margin. It’s a gamble, but one with which elites are comfortable — most would far rather risk a second Trump term than come anywhere near a Sanders presidency.

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US House set for historic Trump impeachment vote

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Media captionA beginner’s guide to impeachment and Trump

Donald Trump is expected to become only the third US president to be impeached by the House of Representatives.

Democratic lawmakers are preparing to approve two impeachment charges against the Republican president.

Mr Trump would then face a Senate trial next month, but members of his party control that chamber and are unlikely to remove him from office.

The president has called the process an “attempted coup” and a “scam”.

In a six-page letter to the Democratic Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, on the eve of the vote, the 45th president of the United States argued he had been treated worse than “those accused in the Salem witch trials”.

Mrs Pelosi described the letter as “really sick”.

As debate got under way in the House, President Trump was due to fly to Battle Creek, Michigan, for a “Merry Christmas” rally along with Vice-President Mike Pence.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters he would be happy to testify and produce documents for a Senate trial of Mr Trump “if that’s appropriate and required by law”.

What has happened in the House so far?

At midday local time (1700 GMT) on Wednesday, members of the House began six hours of debate on the matter. They are expected to vote on both articles of impeachment afterwards.

In her opening remarks Ms Pelosi said it was “tragic” that the president’s “reckless actions” had led to impeachment but said he had left lawmakers with “no choice”.

“The president is an ongoing threat to our national security, and the integrity of our elections, the basis of our democracy,” she said.

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EPA

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Ms Pelosi described Mr Trump as a “threat to national security”

But Republicans hit back. Lawmaker Doug Collins from Georgia said Mr Trump had done “nothing wrong” and that Democrats wanted to impeach him because they were afraid to face him in next year’s election.

“They said we can’t beat him if we don’t impeach him. The American people will see through this,” he said.

Meanwhile Debbie Lesko, a Republican from Arizona, said it was the “most partisan impeachment” in US history.

Surveys suggest the country is split on the process. US political website FiveThirtyEight’s collection of national polls shows just over 47% back impeachment, while 46.4% oppose it.

How will the vote play out?

The vote in the Democratic-controlled House is expected to fall almost entirely along party lines.

Nearly 200 Republicans are united in opposition, except for one lawmaker, Florida’s Francis Rooney, who is retiring and has not ruled out siding with Democrats.

All but a handful of the 233 House Democrats have said they will back impeachment – about 216 votes are needed for the measure to pass by a simple majority in the lower chamber of Congress.

The yeses include most of the 31 Democratic lawmakers who represent districts won by Mr Trump in 2016.

Collin Peterson, of Minnesota, and Jeff Van Drew, of New Jersey, have indicated they will vote no. Mr Van Drew plans to become a Republican.

Jared Golden, of Maine, said he would vote to impeach on one charge, not both.

What are the charges?

The House Judiciary Committee approved two articles of impeachment against Mr Trump last week.

The first is abuse of power. It accuses the president of trying to pressure Ukraine to smear his political rival, Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden.

Mr Trump and his conservative allies have alleged without evidence that while he was US vice-president, Joe Biden encouraged Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor in order to stop him investigating a Ukrainian gas company that employed his son, Hunter Biden, as a board member.

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Media captionTrump could be impeached – how did we get here?

Democrats say Mr Trump dangled $400m of US military aid and the prospect of a coveted White House meeting for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as bargaining chips to prod the US ally into announcing a corruption inquiry into the Bidens.

The second charge is obstructing Congress. Mr Trump, who blocked his aides from testifying, is accused of failing to co-operate with the House impeachment investigation.

The president has denied withholding US aid to benefit himself politically and maintains it was appropriate to ask Ukraine to look into alleged corruption.

Under the US constitution, a president “shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanours”. It is a political process, not a legal one.

What will happen in the Senate?

Once Mr Trump is formally impeached by the House as expected, proceedings will go on to the Republican-controlled Senate for a trial in January.

If two-thirds of senators voted to convict the president, he would be removed from office. But Democrats can only muster 47 votes in the 100-seat upper chamber, and they need 67 to pass the measure.

No-one expects at least 20 of Mr Trump’s fellow Republicans to join with Democrats and end his presidency.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday he was under no obligation to be even-handed in his management of the proceeding.

“I’m not an impartial juror,” the Kentucky senator told reporters. “This is a political process. I’m not impartial about this at all.”

Mr McConnell rebuffed calls from the Senate’s Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, to summon top White House officials for the trial.

What is the precedent?

Two US presidents have been impeached – Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 – but in both cases the Senate did not vote to force them from office.

Richard Nixon resigned the presidency in August 1974 when it became clear he would be impeached and ousted by Congress in the wake of the Watergate scandal.

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Groups of demonstrators in favour of Mr Trump’s impeachment rallied in major cities across the US on Tuesday

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In Charts, How Medicare for All Would Make Most Families Poorer

Under Medicare for All, three quarters of Americans would be worse off financially, according to new research from The Heritage Foundation. 

Here’s the bottom line: Most Americans, even many of those not making much right now, would pay more in new taxes than they would save from no longer paying for private health care.  

That is the reality—but it’s not the story for Medicare for All advocates are telling. Sen. Bernie Sanders promises most people will be better off with Medicare for All, and that’s why it’s worth it to make such a massive change to our health care system. The plan would abolish private coverage and force everyone onto a government-run plan. 

“Are people going to pay more in taxes?” Sanders asked at a Fox News town hall in April. “Yes. But at the end of the day, the overwhelming majority of people are going to end up paying less for health care because they aren’t paying premiums, co-payments, or deductibles.”

Heritage Foundation scholars Ed Haislmaier and one of us, Jamie Hall, took a hard look at this claim, and found that the politicians are promising more than they can deliver. 

In fact, it turns out Medicare for All would cost some working families more than their budget for electricity; others, their gasoline budget; and others, even more than their food budget.

As a result, 73.5% of Americans will have less money in their pockets under Medicare for All. The cost of the new taxes they have to pay will be more than what they save on health care costs.

Households that receive employer-sponsored coverage would be particularly hard hit. Their income after taxes would shrink by an average of $10,554, and 87% of them would be financially worse off.

Even lower-income working families, which currently get health care through government programs like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, would be worse off.  Their average household income after taxes would decline by $5,592 per year.    

That’s because fully paying for these programs requires taxes to go up—a lot.   

Those pushing for Medicare for All have left out some essential details. No legislative sponsor of this plan has offered a way to fully pay for its promises. Instead, Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and have put out plans that don’t fully pay for what they’ve promised to provide, and they dramatically overestimate the revenue that new taxes on the rich could raise. 

Our study uses the same means to pay for government health care as basically every other developed country uses: payroll taxes. 

We ran the numbers and found that Medicare for All would require an additional tax of 21.2 cents on every dollar that every American earns. (Right now, most workers and their employers pay 15.3 cents on the dollar in payroll taxes.) 

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Adding that on top of other existing taxes would mean the average American would see almost half their income taken by the government.

In real life, we know that if Americans faced that kind of tax increase, some would cut back on work hours or quit working altogether. But we decided not to include that speculation in our study.  

Instead, we assumed that all Americans would continue to work just as much as beforehand, while their employers convert current health insurance spending into additional taxable wages.

Under these conditions, here’s how several sample families would fare with Medicare for All.  

Olivia Williams: an unmarried mother of two earning $31,000 a year. She would be worse off by $1,547.

Under Medicare for All, Olivia would lose almost exactly the amount she spends on electricity every year. 

Today, she gets her health coverage through her job, and her children get their coverage through the Child Health Insurance Program. Under Medicare for All, her current health costs go away—but she’ll still lose $1,547, or 5.3% of her disposable income.

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The Suarez’s: a median-income married couple earning about $98,000, with two kids and employer health benefits. They would be worse off by $9,201.  

Today, the Suarez’s get their health coverage from dad’s employer. Under Medicare for All, their health costs go away, but they’d still lose $9,021 or 13.3% of their disposable income—about as much as they spend on food today. 

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The Jones’: a lower-middle-income married couple earning near $50,000, with two kids and employer health benefits. They would be $1,619 worse off.   

Today, the Jones’ get health coverage through mom’s job. Under Medicare for All, their health costs would go away, but they would still lose $1,619, or 4.4%, in disposable income. That’s about as much as they spend today on gasoline.

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John Johnson: a median-income unmarried man without dependents. He would be $3,542 worse off. 

Today, John earns about $41,000 and gets health coverage through this job. Under Medicare for All, his health costs would go away, but he’ll still lose $3,542, or 13% of his disposable income. That’s about as much as he spends today on car insurance and maintenance.

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Less Money for Most People

Medicare for All would make most Americans worse off financially, not better. 

What’s more, Americans would be getting a lower quality product, based on what we’ve seen in other countries with government-run health care.. For example, wait times to receive care in Canada are longer than those in the U.S., and in Britain, morale among doctors is often low, since they face bureaucratic hurdles and larger workloads.

However, the status quo in America is not the solution, either. Costs here are too high and choices are too few—and too many Americans feel that special interests and big government benefit from the current system, rather than them.  

Congress should work toward real solutions that address these concerns at their root causes. But Medicare for All won’t do accomplish that, no matter what its advocates say. It needs to come off the table.

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Seven-time Emmy winner and former Screen Actors Guild president Ed Asner endorses our labor-community campaign





Seven-time Emmy winner and former Screen Actors Guild president Ed Asner endorses our labor-community campaign – Movement For a People’s Party









































Enjoy the latest and greatest from the Movement for a People’s Party in our February Newsletter.

MPP News

● NYC Chapter Meeting – Attend NYC’s first chapter meeting at 6 pm tomorrow, Thursday, February 7. Come to Jefferson Market Library, 425 6th Ave. in Greenwich Village. All are welcome!

● Truthdig – Historian Dr. Paul Street profiles MPP and our rising labor-community coalition with two articles in Truthdig. Read and share: Beyond the 2020 Election Circus, a Workers Rebellion is Brewing and Can a New Political Party Save America from Itself?

● Growing Coalition – Seven-time Emmy winner and former Screen Actors Guild president Ed Asner endorses the Labor Community Campaign for an Independent Party! Asner is a prominent activist and democratic socialist. He joins Oliver Stone, the Labor Education & Arts Project, the South Carolina Labor Party, and hundreds of labor and progressive organizers. Bringing the coalition to fourteen unions and organizations representing more than 100,000 members. Our message spreads peer-to-peer. Please send this endorsement form to fellow progressives and union members. Reply to this email if you have a union, organization or chapter that we should approach to join the coalition.

● Rocket Chat – We’re moving our team messaging platform from Slack to Rocket.Chat, which offers secure communications with end-to-end encryption and a familiar and friendly user interface.

● Black History Month – MPP celebrates Black History Month, a time to recognize the struggles that African Americans have endured since our nation’s founding – and celebrate the rich traditions, scholarship, and accomplishments of African Americans even in the face of adversity.

U.S. Politics

● Medicare for all – After retaking the U.S. House, Democrats scrap HR 676, the Medicare for all bill that built the single-payer movement. In its place Democrats are writing bills that don’t extend universal coverage, keep for-profit institutions, and draw out the implementation time. Pelosi is quietly telling health insurance corporations and donors that the Democratic Party has no intention of passing Medicare for all: the Democratic Party will be “allies to the insurance industry in the fight against single-payer health care.”

● Government Shutdown – The U.S. Government shut down for 35 days, leaving 800,000 federal workers without pay. Airline workers forced an end to the shutdown when they began calling in sick and threatened a nationwide strike. The human toll is enormous, and Trump doubled down on a racist wall of shame in his State of the Union speech.

● Teachers’ Strikes – Catalyzed by years of school privatization, poor funding, and a lack of teacher autonomy, LA teachers went on strike after the Democratic mayor and city council put a privatizing investment banker in charge of restructuring their schools. Galvanized teachers are now going on strike in Denver and Oakland.

● Nancy Pelosi – Pelosi is re-elected speaker of the House after the party threatens to elect an even more corporate speaker if progressives don’t fall in line. The few progressive Democrats in Congress vote for her.

● PayGo – All but three House Democrats vote for PayGo, an austerity rule, on their first day in the majority. PayGo requires all new spending be offset with budget cuts or tax increases, making progressive legislation like Medicare for All, free public college, a Green New Deal, and a federal jobs guarantee impossible to pass.

● DNC Rigs 2020 – Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, and Tulsi Gabbard announce their presidential campaigns as Bernie Sanders prepares to launch his. Following 2016, the Democratic Party has expanded its control over the presidential primaries. Closed primaries will shut out independents, joint fundraising agreements will subordinate the party to establishment campaigns, fake progressive candidates will crowd out Bernie, and the sharp reduction in caucus states will further favor corporate Democrats. The party has also added a loyalty oath, and election officials in New Hampshire have warned that Bernie could be disqualified from the state’s primary. The party has made its intention to cheat working people again crystal clear.

International News

● Venezuelan Coup – Plans for a U.S.-backed coup advanced on Venezuela. Trump, Bolsonaro, Trudeau and other world leaders “officially recognized” Juan Guaidó as president, an unelected opposition leader. Guaidó is demanding the resignation of its democratically-elected president, Nicolas Maduro. Venezuela has vast oil, gold and mineral resources which have made the country a coveted asset for Wall Street and U.S. allies.

● Yellow Vests – A three-month-long, mass protest against France’s neoliberal Macron administration continues. The “Yellow Vests” have spent months marching in the streets, and have utilized tactics such as withdrawing money from their country’s banks simultaneously. This has forced Macron to concede to some of the movement’s demands, but not the wholesale change that protesters seek.

● Bolsonaro’s Brazil – Attacks on leftists, the LGBTQ community, people of color and women have ramped up in Brazil under the new far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro. The administration has outlined a path for clearing the Amazon rainforest, which would accelerate climate change and deal a devastating blow to the global environment.

● Invading Iran – National Security Advisor John Bolton and others in the Trump administration are agitating for war with Iran.

With 80 percent of Americans now living paycheck to paycheck with little to no savings, a precarious nation is at its limits. Within a year, working people will be subjected to another recession and another rigged Democratic primary. The organizing we do today can prepare us to offer a genuine alternative in the face of those immense crises.

Help us get there by starting an MPP chapter in your area. Encourage others to join our efforts by volunteering and signing on to LCCIP, or become a sustaining donor with a small-dollar monthly contribution. You can also join us as an organizing lead in your area or reply to this email to share how you’d like to contribute.

With hope, and a plan,

The Organizing Team
Movement for a People’s Party

Become a sustaining donor with a small-dollar monthly contribution

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Why Naomi Klein Has Been Right

On Fire: The (Burning) Case for the Green New Deal opens with the image of schoolchildren going on strike for the climate, following the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, whose blunt challenges to political leaders around the world have rocketed her to global fame. It’s an opening that reflects the monumental shift in the conversation around climate change over the course of the past year, advanced by young people in particular — from Thunberg’s School Strikes for Climate to the Sunrise Movement’s sit-ins on Capitol Hill to the election of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — and the emergence of the Green New Deal (GND) as a central demand.

Yet rather than digging into the events of the past year or arguing for a particular set of policies or programs, On Fire makes the case for the Green New Deal by tracing the evolution of climate politics over the past decade. Setting the recent surge of GND momentum against ten years of Klein’s reporting — on the BP oil spill, the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline protests, and wildfires in British Columbia — serves as a reminder of how much it has taken to get to this point.

In 2011, Klein was protesting the Keystone XL pipeline at the White House. In October 2013, she wrote about the need for “political revolution” in response to increasingly dire climate science, and chronicled its opening flares — people taking action to stop fracking in England, disrupt oil drilling in Russian waters, and sue tar sands companies for violating indigenous sovereignty. Disruptive action, that is, didn’t start with Sunrise or the United Kingdom’s Extinction Rebellion. Even the pieces that narrate her own alarming encounters with a warming world, like her unsettling account of two weeks spent anxiously vacationing on the British Columbia coast in 2017 while forests to the north burned, always turn in the end to politics — a refreshing change from the proliferating genre of anguished meditations on climate doom.

Amid the many authors publishing books on climate change in recent years, Klein remains the most prominent analyst of climate in relation to capitalism; this collection also serves as a reminder of how long she has been making that case.

Her first major essay on climate change, 2011’s “Capitalism vs. the Climate,” argued that it is not a coincidence that many on the Right deny climate change: conservatives have correctly realized that climate change poses a severe challenge to the principles of capitalism.

For many conservatives, then, climate change appeared to be little more than a “Trojan horse designed to abolish capitalism and replace it with some form of eco-socialism.” Klein argues that conservative deniers were perfectly reasonable: action on climate change will require public investment, wealth redistribution, strict regulation, and a host of other things that conservatives oppose.

She reiterates a similar argument at the start of On Fire, this time with reference not to conservative think tanks but “the specter of ecofascism.” Klein argues that “climate disruption demands a reckoning on the terrain most repellent to conservative minds: wealth redistribution, resource sharing, and reparations.” Instead of denying climate change outright, the Right will now use it as a justification for hardening borders.

An essay on Edward Said, Palestine, and Israel’s “green colonialism” illustrates Klein’s worry more extensively. Israel’s “separation barrier” in the West Bank, she points out, is not only comparable to right-wing chants to “build the wall” — in fact, the existence of the former has fueled the latter.

Paradoxically, the Right is internationalist in its inspirations, if nationalist in its policies. Yet what goes mostly unaddressed is the ongoing transformation of the Right, as the capitalist “globalists” indicted in the original “Capitalism vs. the Climate” essay increasingly come under attack from right populists. The former get relatively short shrift in this book, but they remain formidable opponents. As the age of Exxon-funded climate denial comes to an end, what new tack will corporations seeking to derail a Green New Deal take, and how will they relate to their erstwhile allies of the nationalist right? How will the right populists like Missouri senator Josh Hawley relate to business conservatives like Utah senator Mitt Romney? What challenges, and opportunities, does this realignment present for the Left?

On that note, we could today make a similar observation from the opposite direction. It is not a coincidence that the strongest and most compelling frameworks for tackling climate change are coming from the Left: Ocasio-Cortez, of course; but also Bernie Sanders, whose climate plan recently won him an A rating from Sunrise; Ilhan Omar, who has joined Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez in pushing for a Green New Deal for housing; and Klein herself.

What is often described as Klein’s “prescience” is better understood as her perspective: by following the development of global capitalism and the movements of the international left for the past two decades, Klein has been able to see emerging phenomena more clearly than many mainstream political observers. As Daniel Denvir recently observed about the 1999 World Trade Organization protests, “in Seattle, we saw Green New Deal politics in rudimentary form: that labor and environment united was the only way forward.” We shouldn’t be surprised that our best chronicler of that movement is now at the forefront of the Green New Deal.

In fact, Klein was making the case for the Green New Deal eight years ago: in the wake of Occupy, she argued, “There is a wide-open opportunity to seize the terrain from the right.” That, she argued, would mean “making a persuasive case that the real solutions to the climate crisis are also our best hope of building a fairer and much more enlightened economic system — one that closes deep inequalities, strengthens and transforms the public sphere, generates plentiful, dignified work, and radically reins in corporate power.” In essays throughout the book that span years of writing, Klein repeatedly argues for “integrated solutions” that “radically bring down emissions while tackling structural inequality and making life tangibly better for the majority.”

Yet for the most part, the writing collected in this book focuses less on those who might benefit from the likes of a Green New Deal than on those disproportionately impacted by climate change. In one essay, Klein uses Edward Said’s concept of “othering” to describe how and why certain people and communities come to bear the most significant environmental burdens: as she argues, the “Faustian pact” of industrialism was that “the heaviest risks would be outsourced, offloaded, onto the other.”

Today, she claims, “our fossil fuel-powered economy requires sacrifice zones.” Though the rhetoric is different, such arguments have a long lineage in socialist thought. In the nineteenth century, Friedrich Engels chronicled horrific air and water pollution as part of the condition of the working class in Manchester; socialists today would do well to follow him in seeing environmental justice organizing as an expression of class struggle. The sacrifice zone is a useful concept for connecting the economic language of “externalities” — the pollution and waste that come along with production — to the moral and political critiques made by environmental justice activists. Capitalism happens not just in the factory but in the atmosphere; class struggle, too, is present not only in workplace struggles but in fights over who will bear the costs of capitalist production.

But it is true that connecting those struggles over who pays the costs of our current system to struggles over who might benefit from the future world we hope to build can be challenging. The central movement animating Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate was Blockadia, what she described as a “roving transnational conflict zone” of people determined to stop new fossil-fuel extraction projects. At the time, my most significant critique of This Changes Everything was the seeming mismatch between the strategies and sites of this political movement, which was oriented toward local struggles and stopping environmental harms, and the vision of a better future she laid out at the start of the book, which would require a mass movement oriented toward securing social goods.

But Klein, and climate movements, kept moving.

She was extensively involved in the collection of labor, environmental, and indigenous groups that authored the Leap Manifesto in Canada in 2016, a short but powerful statement outlining a new direction for the Canadian left, an exciting new vision of energy democracy, low-carbon care work, and decarbonization for the public good.

But as Klein details in “The Leap Years,” a 2016 lecture, it was under siege from the start: politicians fixated on its call for an end to fossil-fuel infrastructure went beyond the usual charges of environmental job-killing to decry it as an “existential threat” and a “philosophy of economic nihilism.” Klein is admirably forthcoming about these difficulties. And set in the context of a decade of struggle, the manifesto appears not as a failed project, but as an experiment from which we can and should learn lessons.

For Klein, many of these lessons come in the form of meditations on the values underpinning modern Western life. The problem goes deeper than we tend to think, she argues. For example, Klein analyzes the Leap Manifesto’s failures as stemming from the conditions of Canada’s origins: when European settlers arrived in the New World, it appeared to be a land of limitless bounty — oceans thick with fish, skies clouded by birds, seemingly endless forests of giant trees. Treating this land as if it was inexhaustible, settlers — more specifically, commercial enterprises like the Hudson Bay fur trading company — quickly exhausted it.

Her 2010 piece on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, “A Hole in the World,” similarly sees BP’s boasts of the “deepest well ever drilled” as an extension of the drive to dominate nature that began with the scientific revolution in the sixteenth century. The spill and BP’s failure to contain it thus represented a “crash course in deep ecology” — a reminder that the earth is still alive and uncontrollable.

My concern is that Klein may be too thorough in her diagnosis. Although she is surely right to trace these deeper currents, the leap across centuries in the space of a few pages can have a disorienting effect, and perhaps a demobilizing one. It suggests that the task before us is truly so tremendous — changing everything, beginning with our very understanding of the world — that it can feel impossible to undertake in the span of a few years. If a political project like the Leap Manifesto was doomed by its collision with the ideology that underpinned Canada’s origins, why would the Green New Deal be any more likely to succeed?

At the same time, Klein sometimes seems to suggest that once we change our view of the world — often described in terms of “narratives” or “stories” — changes in the way we live will follow. In order to change our policies, Klein argued in “Capitalism vs. the Climate,” we first must “confront the underlying values of rampant greed and individualism that created the economic crisis,” which in turn means “embodying, in highly visible ways, radically different ways of treating one another and relating to the natural world.”

To say this, Klein argues, is not a matter of “lifestyle” — about what goods we prefer to buy or what we like to eat. (Across essays, Klein forcefully, and refreshingly, rejects the idea of consumer choice as a form of politics, insisting that politics requires collective action.) Yet she has a tendency to describe features of capitalism in terms of culture: we suffer from “a culture of endless taking,” “a culture of grabbing and going,” a “cult of shopping,” and so on.

Interrogating our inherited stories, narratives, mythologies, and values — our ideologies, say — is surely necessary. But new stories alone will not get us out of this mess. I would suggest a different order of operations: we do need to change many aspects of our relationships to the natural world and to one another. But we should not expect those changes to come in advance of changes in the material conditions of our lives, however imperative they may be.

This, in fact, is the premise of the Green New Deal: that we tackle climate change not by changing our values in the abstract, but by changing the material realities that shape them. (I think Klein would agree.) Only when green jobs are an option can people give up environmentally destructive work; only when public transportation is quick, reliable, and affordable can you dispense with a car; only when you can afford to retrofit your home will you do so.

And while the school strikes have done a lot to change the discourse, the fact remains that we have a long way to go in changing those material realities. Thunberg, blunt as ever, recently declared that the strikes have “achieved nothing,” since carbon emissions have yet to budge. Klein’s book is a helpful reminder that it is too soon to tell: movements build over the course not of months but years. Yet Thunberg’s impatience is a helpful spur to take a hard look at our prospects, at where the climate left is building power and where we expect more to come from.

School strikes are stirring, but politicians’ laudatory words for the courageous young people of the world will not be matched with action until real consequences seem likely to result. That will mean bringing other forms of power to bear: from the tenants’ movements driving forward the Green New Deal for Housing legislation currently being championed by Sanders, Omar, and Ocasio-Cortez, to the growing force of canvassers and organizers who have catapulted long-shot candidates to victories, to the power of traditional strikes to withhold labor.

I wish that such movements and their potential to deliver a Green New Deal had gotten more time in this book. But I have no doubt that Klein will be reporting on them — and organizing with them — every step of the way.

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How will Trump take Amazon move? ‘He will think Bezos made this decision to stick it to him.’





Jeff Bezos, who was this year named the world’s richest man, has been increasing his profile in the nation’s capital, even as the president has accelerated his attacks on Amazon. | Cliff Owen/AP photo

Amazon’s move to establish a new headquarters in the Washington area will have one immediate political impact: putting CEO Jeff Bezos more in President Donald Trump’s face than ever.

Bezos’ ownership of The Washington Post, which he bought back in 2013, has enraged Trump, sparking Twitter-fueled allegations from the president that Amazon is dodging taxes, ripping off the U.S. Postal Service and putting traditional retailers out of business.

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But the CEO’s decision to put down corporate roots in the D.C. suburb of Crystal City, Va., injecting some 25,000 jobs into a region Trump has dubbed the “The Swamp,” threatens to stoke the president’s resentment of the tech mogul.

“Anything that makes Bezos more prominent in Washington is going to irritate Trump and he will take it personally,” said Michael D’Antonio, author of the 2015 Trump biography “Never Enough.” D’Antonio added: “He will think Bezos made this decision to stick it to him.”

Amazon had initially been expected to choose one winner for its second headquarters, but on Tuesday, the company announced two: Crystal City and the Long Island City neighborhood in Queens, New York.

Queens has significance for Trump as well. He grew up there before becoming a New York City real estate developer and reality TV host. But it’s Washington — Trump’s current home — where Amazon’s growth plans could produce the most tension with the president.

Bezos, who was this year named the world’s richest man, has been increasing his profile in the nation’s capital, even as Trump has accelerated his attacks on the company.

Just days before Trump’s inauguration, it emerged that Bezos was the anonymous buyer of D.C.’s biggest house, a 27,000-square-foot former textile museum. He’s become a regular at some of Washington’s premier social events, like the Alfalfa Club dinner. And the CEO and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, recently entered the political donor class, giving $10 million to a super PAC that aims to elect military veterans to Congress.

But it’s not just D.C.’s social and political circles that interest Bezos; there’s a business calculus for establishing a bigger, flashier presence in the Washington area. The federal government represents a huge potential market for Amazon’s cloud services business. And the e-commerce giant has a growing list of lobbying priorities in Washington, from delivery drones to online privacy to issues like taxes, trade and immigration.

“Do I think he’s going to come in and say my role with headquarters two in Washington is to change Donald Trump? No. He’s here to do business,” said Bobbie Kilberg, the president of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, which counts Amazon Web Services as a member.

Bezos’ decision to establish a headquarters in greater Washington, however, will cement his status as an immensely powerful player in D.C. — and an unavoidable presence for Trump.

Even before the announcement, Amazon’s interest in the D.C. area was credited with helping to break the longstanding logjam over funding for the region’s ailing Metro system. Now, Amazon’s pledge of thousands of new corporate jobs could be a stimulus for the local job market, at a time when the White House is seeking to cancel automatic pay raises for 1.8 million federal workers.

Bezos’ flood-the-swamp plan comes amid growing Trump animus toward Amazon. The president equates the company with The Washington Post, which he considers part of the “fake news” media that cover him unfairly. He accuses Amazon of using The Post as a lobbyist to avoid taxes and says the company treats the U.S. Postal Service like its “Delivery Boy.”

The Amazon CEO spent months laying low as Trump ramped up his attacks, but at a dinner in Washington in September, he called the president’s anti-media rhetoric bad for democracy.

“What the president should say is, ‘This is right. This is good. I am glad I am getting scrutinized,'” Bezos said at the event hosted by the Economic Club of Washington. “But it’s really dangerous to demonize the media. It’s dangerous to call the media lowlifes. It’s dangerous to say they’re the ‘enemy of the people.'”

It’s unclear how far Trump will take the feud, now that Amazon is coming to his backyard.

In April, the White House unveiled a task force to examine the budget woes of the financially troubled U.S. Postal Service, amid speculation that the president would use it to target Amazon with higher shipping rates. And Trump has repeatedly suggested that Amazon and other major tech companies are ripe for antitrust scrutiny.

Amazon, though, is poised to expand its influence game in D.C. with the headquarters plan. The company is already one of the biggest tech industry spenders in Washington, shelling out $12.8 million for lobbying in 2017 and maintaining a stable of well-connected lobby firms. But having thousands more workers in the area will undoubtedly give it greater leverage in the capital and its many policy debates.

Bezos himself will likely be a more frequent visitor to the area. The Washingtonian magazine has already chronicled the CEO’s emerging profile as a “freewheeling DC socialite.” The story, complete with an image of Bezos looming over the capital’s skyline, raised the idea that he could fill a role once occupied by the late Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, bringing prominent decision-makers and thinkers together for salon-like dinners.

“In an ecosystem where power matters more than money or fame, an invitation to the house of the richest man in the world says something,” said Cathy Merrill Williams, the president and publisher of Washingtonian Media.

Trump and Bezos mixed it up even before the 2016 election, when Trump accused Bezos of using The Washington Post as a tax-dodging “scam,” and the Amazon CEO responded cheekily that Trump had “finally trashed” him. Bezos also proposed to have his space flight company, Blue Origin, offer Trump a seat on one of its rockets in a tweet featuring the tongue-in-cheek hashtag #sendDonaldtospace.

After Trump’s victory, Bezos and other tech executives attended an awkward Trump Tower meeting as they made nice with a president-elect they had not supported during the campaign. Amazon later announced it would add 100,000 new “full-time, full-benefit” U.S. jobs, joining other companies in touting domestic growth plans to please the incoming president — and Trump’s transition team promptly took credit for the pledge. Bezos later participated in the White House innovation office led by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and attended a White House tech gathering last year.

Still, Trump ramped up his Twitter attacks on Amazon. Just days after sitting near Bezos at the June 2017 summit, the president unleashed the first of many volleys at the company, apparently enraged by Washington Post coverage.

Undaunted, Bezos has continued to pursue Amazon’s agenda in Washington, hosting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Seattle and positioning the company as a top contender for a $10 billion Pentagon cloud services contract known as JEDI. Winning that contract would be a huge victory for the company, solidifying its position as the nation’s leading web services provider.

Expanding in Washington, however, could expose Bezos to other kinds of political risk, making him a more tempting target for the company’s critics.

The CEO last month moved to defuse a source of growing liberal outrage about his company, announcing Amazon would increase the minimum wage it pays its thousands of warehouse workers to $15 per hour.

That appeared to be an effort to appease Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who spent months denouncing the working conditions at Amazon’s network of “fulfillment centers” and asking why one of the world’s most valuable companies couldn’t treat its employees better. Sanders had even introduced a bill called the Stop BEZOS Act, which would require large companies like Amazon to compensate the government when their employees use federal assistance programs like food stamps.

While Bezos sought to lower the temperature on that issue, the dust-up could be a sign of things to come for Amazon as questions accumulate about the company’s business and labor practices and its dominance in the online retail market, which is drawing increasing attention among regulators.

“No one wants to be the brightest spot in the greater Washington area, because it’s just a target and you don’t want that target on your back,” said Jim Dinegar, the longtime head of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. “It’s one of the concerns that Amazon has got to have on their list.”