When Bernie Sanders Throws His Mighty Shield…

 

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I just returned from visiting Nydia,  my amazing inamorata, in Brazil for a couple of months where, among other more psychologically healthy activities, we spent a great deal of time tracking the American election. Last week, as we sat eating airport food, drearily counting the minutes before I had to depart, I noticed the latest of many Captain America t-shirts I’d seen worn by Brazilians during the visit.

I told Nyd I was heartened to see the shirts, and the popularity of the character, who I see as a true symbol of the American ideal, not the jingoistic symbol of American imperialism seen by some. And I credited that popularity to the Marvel films, and Chris Evans’s very human, very decent, very noble portrayal of Steve Rogers. Captain America isn’t propagandistic, he’s aspirational.

“Captain America is Bernie Sanders,” I told her. “They’re both old guys from Brooklyn with superhuman stamina, dedicated to New Deal policies, still fighting to protect the weak from the powerful, unflinching in their belief in the American dream.”

Later, back home in the states, I saw author Catherynne Valente tweet, “Clinton is Black Widow (troubled past, does the right thing eventually) Sanders is Hulk, always angry, no one is Cap.” I have a lot of respect for Ms. Valente, but I disagree.

First off, Clinton ain’t much like the Black Widow. She lacks the Widow’s metaphorical agility as a campaigner, and when she takes aim at her opponent, her shots almost always miss or ricochet back and hit her. I’ll grant she has a “troubled past,” if you really want to undersell the problems with Clinton’s record, but that very record shows she actually doesn’t really do the right thing eventually unless it’s politically expedient or she has to because she’s forced to “walk back” a stance or action because of political damage. She does have a great deal of “red in her ledger,” blood on her hands, in places like Haiti and Iraq and Libya and Honduras, places that have suffered terribly because of Hillary (and Bill) Clinton’s ruthless political calculus. But the Widow owns up to her acts, and, in The Winter Soldier, even released the transcripts records to the internet, taking full responsibility for her misdeeds and working to redeem herself for them.

Hillary won’t even share the content of a few speeches she made to Wall Street, much less acknowledge the terrible human impact of her decisions over the years.

And Bernie as the Hulk? No. The Hulk’s anger is unreasoning, destructive rage. Bernie is angry, yes, as he should be, but he is not destructive. He is protective, nurturing, and constructive. And he is anything but unreasoning; just watch the video of him speaking to the students at evangelical Liberty University, where he engages them with respect and gets respect in return though their philosophies are radically opposed.

I’d say Donald Trump is the Hulk, but he lacks the Hulk’s dignity and compassion. Hell, he lacks the Hulk’s intellect.

But no, Bernie is definitely Captain America.

One of the best pieces I’ve ever read on Captain America is by Steven Attewell, and in it he addresses Steve Rogers’s political identity:

“Steve Rogers isn’t a jingoistic conservative asshole…Unlike many other patriotic characters who derive their virtues from the American heartlands, Steve Rogers grew up in the cosmopolitan multi-cultural world of New York City. He came of age in New York City at a time when the New Deal was in full swing, Fiorello LaGuardia was mayor, the American Labor Party was a major force in city politics, labor unions were on the move, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade was organizing to fight fascism in Spain in the name of the Popular Front, and a militant anti-racist movement was growing that equated segregation at home with Nazism abroad that will eventually feed into the ‘Double V’ campaign.

“Then he became a fine arts student. To be an artist in New York City in the 1930s was to be surrounded by the ‘Cultural Front.’ We’re talking the WPA Arts and Theater Projects, Diego Rivera painting socialist murals in Rockefeller Center, Orson Welles turning Julius Caesar into an anti-fascist play and running an all-black Macbeth and ‘The Cradle Will Rock,’ Paul Robeson was a major star, and so on. You couldn’t really be an artist and have escaped left-wing politics. And if a poor kid like Steve Rogers was going to college as a fine arts student, odds are very good that he was going to the City College of New York at a time when an 80% Jewish student body is organizing student trade unions, anti-fascist rallies, and the ‘New York Intellectuals’ were busily debating Trotskyism vs. Stalinism vs. Norman Thomas Socialism vs. the New Deal in the dining halls and study carrels.

“And this Steve Rogers, who’s been exposed to all of what New York City has to offer, becomes an explicit anti-fascist. In the fall of 1940, over a year before Pearl Harbor, he first volunteers to join the army to fight the Nazis specifically. This isn’t an apolitical patriotism forged out of a sense that the U.S has been attacked; rather, Steve Rogers had come to believe that Nazism posed an existential threat to the America he believed in. New Deal America.

“Captain America didn’t ‘share 40’s values’ – a reductive label assuming that everyone alive in 1940 was either a racial bigot, a misogynist, a homophobe, and an unthinking militarist, and handily ignores the people of color, women, gays, and left-wing activists who were hard at work to change American society for the better – he exemplified from the beginning the ideal that America could be. Thus Steve Rogers led the Invaders (a multispecies and multinational Allied superhero force) into Europe to fight fascism, he fought with Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos, a racially integrated fighting force from the beginning, and fought with the French Resistance rather than snidely repeating anachronistic cheese-eating surrender monkey jokes.

“Thus when Captain America is unfrozen in the 1960s, he’s not freaked out by the changes in racial progress – instead, he forms an instant partnership with one of the first black superheroes, the Falcon, who movie audiences just met for the first time, and the two of them go toe to toe against an insane imposter Captain America who’s obsessed about communists under the bed. The analogy cannot be more pointed: the real Captain America stands for racial equality and civil liberties, the Captain America who believes that the government needs to ‘smash’ reds by any means necessary is a fraud. In the 1980s, Steve Rogers runs into a childhood friend, Arnold Roth, who happens to be gay – and Steve Rogers defends his friend from bigoted violence, because Steve Rogers is a good man.

“In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, when Steve Rogers is unfrozen in the ice in 2011, he’s not here to be startled by our progressive values. He’s here to judge us for falling short of his – and that’s the entire crux of the plot of Winter Soldier. When Steve Rogers wakes up in post ‘New York’ America and sees SHIELD preparing a giant fleet of sniper drones that’s going to be used to cull the human race based on meta-data that supposedly predicts the bad things people might do in the future, he immediately calls this out as inherently incompatible with the Constitution and the ideals that Steve Rogers fought and essentially died for. He puts his faith on ordinary soldiers and rank-and-file officers to do what’s right, not the corrupt or blinded authorities personified respectively by Robert Redford and Samuel L. Jackson. And his solution to SHIELD/HYDRA’s plan for world domination through mass murder is not only to sacrifice himself to save the world (again), but also to release all of SHIELD’s secrets to the world.”

Did I say that Bernie Sanders is Captain America? Bernie Sanders is Captain America.

 

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A few years ago, writer J. Michael Straczynski put these words in Steve Rogers’s dialogue balloon:

“Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world: No, YOU move.”

That is exactly what Bernie Sanders is doing. He’s telling the Democratic establishment and the GOP and the media and the big money special interests, No, YOU move.

And the people of America are hearing him. And they’re starting to plant their feet as well.

(NOTE: A while back, I had a really interesting discussion about Captain America and his place in America’s political psyche. I posted it here.)

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Art by Danny Kelly

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Maybe It’s Not The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. Maybe It’s Just Your Candidate.

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I’m still seeing many people clinging to the argument that a lot of the stuff we see online that is critical of Hillary Clinton is either from sinister right-wing operatives or from gullible left-wingers who have been tricked by those operatives into not supporting the party-ordained candidate. Someone just posted a mini-rant (inspired by a New York Times piece) about Republicans posting anti-Hillary tweets so that liberals will repost them and be turned against Hillary…

Wait, what?

If the liberals are reposting these insidious tweets, they’re doing so because they agree with them already. They’re not being hypnotized by the totemic power of 140 well-chosen characters to achieve a sudden right-wing epiphany that Clinton doesn’t represent their views. If a GOP agent provocateur tweets “I love chocolate,” even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if some chocolate-loving Democrats agreed and retweeted.

Are there right-wing operatives out there in social media trying to manipulate voters? Of course. There are also confirmed accounts of the Clinton campaign using Karl Rovian tactics like push polls to try to dishonestly manipulate Democratic voters into believing false things about Bernie Sanders and his policies. That was the same tactic Rove used for Bush in South Carolina when the pollsters were telling racist voters John McCain had a little black baby. The Clinton camp and its surrogates have also, for months, tried tactics varying from implying that Bernie Sanders is just like Hugo Chavez, the ex- strongman dictator of Venezuela, to having the candidate herself lie straight in voters’ faces over and over again that Sanders plans to completely abolish Obamacare and then start all over on the healthcare issue. That simple lie — used constantly, the classic political “Big Lie” — has gone mostly unchallenged by the media and has misled many voters into thinking that their coverage is in danger if they vote for the guy who is actually trying to get them better, more affordable coverage.

This is, of course, the same Hillary whose campaign in 2008 released a picture of Barack Obama wearing traditional Kenyan garments, including a turban, in order to frighten voters into thinking he was a muslim, as well as resorting to other underhanded tactics designed to capitalize on white people’s base ignorance and xenophobia about foreigners and black people in general.

Which is worse? Republicans dishonestly trying to manipulate Democrats, or Democratic politicians cynically lying to manipulate their own voters?

How about when you see a liberal friend criticizing Hillary, or supporting Bernie, just give them the benefit of a doubt. Maybe, like you, they’ve come to their decision on their own terms, according to their own experience and values, and they have reached different conclusions than you have. Respect them, and engage them, and change their minds by reasonable sharing of information and ideas if you can. But stop projecting all this nonsense that if people disagree with you, it’s the Republicans’ fault.

Mostly, it’s Hillary Clinton’s fault.

In Matters of Principle, Stand Like a Rock: A Plea To Your Better Angels

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Beautiful.

This is why I support Bernie Sanders. He’s a Hail Mary pass against all the entropy and corruption and business-as-usual. His roots are in New Deal America, and his roots are strong. He is running because he wants better for us, for ALL of us, and for our children, and he is willing, has always been willing, to fight like hell to get it for us. He represents a nearly impossibly rare opportunity to do great things, to reach for goals that elevate us as a people, to work for an America that truly belongs to us all.

A vote for Bernie is a vote for our people, our land, our country.

Please vote.

In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.
Thomas Jefferson

Dear Progressives, It’s Time To Stand Up!

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Dear progressives,

Time to put your money where your mouth is. Bernie can’t rely on Wall Street and Walmart; he needs us.

When he entered the race, only political junkies knew who he was. Even in the fall, nearly half of Democrats polled didn’t really know who he was. Now he’s tied one primary so tightly you’d need a quantum microscope to see the actual result, lost one by a handful of points, and won one by the largest numbers in history, all against a candidate who started the race as one of the most recognized politicians on the planet, a candidate with the full force of not only her own family’s political machine behind her but the Democratic establishment as well.

Nevada was a speedbump. The actual delegate numbers are what counts, and in that the race continues to be a dead heat with Clinton only a single delegate ahead. Nationally, Bernie polls either within single percentage points of her or (in the latest national polls) actually ahead of her by as much as 6% (a milestone he reached earlier than Obama did).

While the media and the establishment tell you that Bernie Sanders is “slipping” in the delegate race (as the NYT put it a few days ago) and his campaign is floundering, this is the actual situation.

They will show you delegate totals which put Hillary Clinton hundreds of delegates ahead of Sanders, and which don’t even give you the actual numbers for the pledged delegates gained through each primary in which they are almost tied with 52 and 51 respectively. Those extra delegates are superdelegates who have said that they will vote a certain way, but who will not vote until the end of July and can change their minds at any time. Those votes DO NOT COUNT until they are cast, and by that time they will amount to a very small segment of the total. Unless the race is still a tight one at that time, their impact won’t even matter.

Also, again: they can change their minds, and that is what usually happens as the race shifts. Most superdelegates will honor the popular vote out of some sense of decorum and honor and utter democracy. So if Bernie Sanders manages to outpace Hillary Clinton in the long fight — which he stands a very good chance of doing, if the voters don’t allow themselves to be disheartened and disillusioned by a media that is actively providing them inaccurate information on behalf of the establishment candidate — many of those superdelegates will actually vote for him.

At this point in 2008, Hillary Clinton also allegedly had more superdelegate votes than Barack Obama. How’d that work out for her?

As people learn more about Bernie Sanders, they start to support him. His likeability and trustworthiness scores in the polls are in the 80-90% range, while Hillary Clinton’s hover down around 10%.

Ten. Percent.

People don’t trust her, even many people who are voting for her because “I love Bernie, but she has a better chance of winning.” And do you really think a candidate who 90% of the population doesn’t think they can trust is going to do well in the general? The polls indicate no: according to the latest polls, Bernie Sanders beats all possible GOP opponents by a much safer margin than Hillary Clinton does, and she actually loses to some of them.

And you know what? Clinton won Iowa and Nevada in a couple of disastrously sloppy caucuses, and the caucus system provided her her narrow victories. But the actual popular vote in all three states so far, the actual number of voters voting one way or the other, broke 55% for Bernie to 45% for Hillary. The caucus system, anti-democratic by nature, hides the fact that more people actually voted for Sanders so far in this race.

Simply put, Bernie is our best chance to win in November by every current objective metric. Our best chance against the theocracy and rampant greed and fascism offered up by the entire Republican party.

So stay in the fight. Spread the word. Feel the freakin’ Bern. VOTE, for fuck’s sake. And contribute. I just donated again, for the fifth time.

David is facing the Wall Street Goliath, and stones for his sling are damned expensive.

Bernieguthrie

This Is Me Snarkily Telling You About The Democratic Town Hall Tonight On CNN!

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Not seeing much about this, so in case you didn’t know, it’s TONIGHT (2/23/16).

It will be moderated by Chris Cuomo, who lives in Clinton’s toy chest and comes scurrying out if she throws him snacks. He will act like she’s the Beatles and he’s a teenybopper in 1964. He will also very aggressively grill Bernie on how sinisterly socialist he is and ask why Bernie has the gall to think he should continue his campaign even though Hillary has such a huge lead in the delegate race (she has 51 delegates, Bernie only has 51 as well).

Bernie will go first, allowing Hillary the last word and strategic advantage of being able to tailor her answers to address things he says, because that’s the tradition in these things now. Establishments gonna establishment.

Two Ads, Two Visions: Hillary vs. Bernie

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I could write some stuff about the current state of the presidential race, and I no doubt will soon. But for now, I just want to show a couple of new ads from the two Democratic candidates. They should both like that since they, naturally, want as many people to see them as possible.

We’ll start with Hillary’s:

Well, all right then. Going negative, misrepresenting the scope of your opponent’s views and goals, and…attacking him for his impassioned attacks on Wall Street? That’s a good tack to take in post-Bush, post-economic-crash America.

Here’s Bernie’s:

Now this ad is really about Bernie’s single issue: us.

This is what the two campaigns want from us. Hillary wants us to not like Bernie, to avoid thinking we need to do all that much about Wall Street, and, well, to stop liking Bernie, pleeeease

Bernie wants us to come together as a family, to look out for each other, and to together make this country what it’s supposed to be.

Right here we see the “pragmatic” approach of doing anything necessary (including trashing your opponent) to advance your personal career goals versus the “idealistic” approach of appealing to people’s better angels to bring us together to do the work to make an actual difference in the world.

I know which side I’m on.

A Special Place In Hell: Hillary Clinton vs. The Women Who Don’t Support Her

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Gloria Steinem looking for boys, 1996

“There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”

Thus spake Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State to Bill Clinton, with Hillary Clinton laughing gleefully by her side. The “women who don’t help each other” she was talking about were the very, very many women supporting Senator Bernie Sanders for the presidency instead of Mrs. Clinton. Essentially, Albright’s (and presumably Hillary’s) message was that if a woman dares to not vote for Clinton, she can go to hell.

Meanwhile, Gloria Steinem made comments on behalf of Clinton in which she said that the main reason young women are supporting Bernie Sanders is to meet boys. How disappointing it is to hear that sort of condescending bullshit from one of the guiding lights of feminism. In a single breath, she denies the political agency of millions of women to make their own informed decisions, and infantilizes them as acting emotionally rather than rationally simply because they aren’t falling in line and showing the proper obeisance to her candidate.

After an online shitstorm of outrage over her comments, Steinem is backpedaling in a clumsy bit of damage control and trying to play it off as a joke. But this isn’t the first time she’s made such condescending (matronizing?) comments about women who don’t support Hillary. A while back, she implied that women weren’t supporting Clinton because when they looked at the Clintons, it subconsciously reminded them of issues they had in their own marriages and that made them uncomfortable.

So, to Gloria Steinem, if you’re a woman and you don’t support her friend Hillary, it absolutely must be because you’re either immature and horny (if you’re one of the women under 45 who support Bernie Sanders 2:1) or driven to neurotic distraction by your marital difficulties (presumably if you’re a woman old enough to be assumed immune to your glandular drives). It can’t possibly be because you’re intelligent and have looked at the candidates, their policies, and their comportment as leaders and come to your own rational conclusions.

It’s an odd form of empowerment that demands obeisance and subservience.

Mother Jones recently ran an article titled “That Time Bernie Sanders Said He Was a Bigger Feminist Than His Female Opponent,” referring to the 1986 gubernatorial election in which Sanders was running against the incumbent, Madeleine Kunin. The writer plays on the reflexive outrage of such male presumption, and Sanders lost that race, but ironically ten years later in a congressional race against another female candidate:

“…feminist writer Gloria Steinem traveled to Vermont to endorse Sanders, joking that she’d come to make the congressman ‘an honorary woman.’ Another speaker, a female state senator, emphasized Sanders’ feminist credentials. ‘As we know, to be a feminist a person does not have to be a woman,’ she said. ‘A feminist is a person who challenges the power structure of this country…Bernie Sanders is that kind of feminist.'”

That senator, her decisions no doubt driven by neurosis or puberty, is surely going to hell.

Recently, I saw a woman post this in a discussion on Facebook:

“Don’t let anybody – ANYBODY – tell you not to vote based on gender. We’ve elected presidents of this country for 250 years based on gender. The white men (and women with Stockholm Syndrome) telling you otherwise, are guilty of supporting yet another white man because, whether they are conscious of their internalized biases or not, they aren’t truly ready for a women in charge. It is clear as day that Hillary is vastly more qualified for the job. Period. Truth be told: there will never be the ‘right’ women for these people.”

Now, first thing, I’m not going to tell you not to vote based on gender, or whatever other criteria you choose. That’s your right, and frankly, all things being equal, I’d vote for the female candidate in a heartbeat because I do, genuinely, think having a woman president is a damned important milestone we need to hit, and soon. If I thought, based on their records and policy and what I’ve been able to gauge of their character, that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton were roughly equivalent, the gender factor would probably be the factor that swung me to vote for Hillary. But I don’t see them as equal at all, so I can’t commit to her just because she’s sort of okay in the usual corporate Democrat way, and also a woman.

And that’s me. You may be different, that’s fine, that’s the very nature of our sort-of-in-a-way democratic system. You decide based on what you want to decide on, I’ll do likewise, and we’ll argue about it and then settle it at the polls.

But read that quote up there again. This is, actually, from a professional writer,* a very smart woman, but a woman so blinded by her own viewpoint that she’s not even capable of granting respect to other women who decide to support the opposing candidate based on whatever criteria they decide. If you don’t support Hillary as a male voter, plainly that’s just sexism, of course, but if you’re a woman and don’t support her, it’s because you’re a victim of Stockholm Syndrome and “internalized biases” you’re not conscious of. If you aren’t willing to support the woman candidate JUST BECAUSE, then she is willing to deny you the very agency of your own thoughts and observations and decisions.

I find that fairly despicable.

Vote how you want. If gender is the only thing that matters to you, knock yourself out. But really, do you have to be such an asshole about it?

*( WHOOPS: I was wrong, she’s not a writer. She’s — get this — an actual Wall Street executive who used to be with Morgan Stanley. Consider the source…?)

Then there’s this, from the very smart and gifted Rebecca Traister in an article in Elle:
“[Hillary’s]…been tepid in her support of abortion rights; she has cozied up to Wall Street and big banks, drawing huge speaking fees and donations from the financial institutions that the next president should aggressively regulate. In the Senate, she deployed dismaying rhetoric against immigration rights, once describing herself as ‘adamantly against illegal immigrants,’ and it took her…way too long to support gay marriage.”
Yet the entire article is about how Traister, despite huge reservations about Hillary, will vote for Hillary anyway because Hillary is a woman.

I’m sympathetic. I look forward to seeing the first female POTUS, too, and as a white guy I’m forced to admit that such a milestone is by definition much more important to many women than it is to me. That doesn’t mean, however, that it is not important to me, nor that I am a misogynist for not supporting Clinton (an accusation I’ve suffered through already from devout Clinton supporters). What it means is that I’m aware of the big flaws in Clinton that the writer herself acknowledges, as well as others, and I’m able to rationally compare what she has to offer to what Bernie Sanders has to offer.

Again, if I were doing a “Plus-side/Minus-side” chart of the two candidates, I’d put “Is a woman” on the plus side for Hillary, and “Is a white guy” on the minus side for Bernie just because I do want our culture to hit that milestone. Unfortunately for Hillary, my chart wouldn’t stop there, though it seems to for many of her supporters.

“There will be sexism, veiled and direct, from the right and the left,” Traister writes. “Democratic women will feel screwed by their friends all over again, as I did in August when I saw a poll showing Clinton ahead of her Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders by a mere 6 points with the party’s men and 44 points with its women: a 38-percentage-point gender gap that seemed to speak volumes about how much men on the left care about women’s leadership…”

I’d say that it speaks more to the fact of how much some women on the left care more about having a woman in office than they do about actual policy. Yet even with women, Clinton isn’t an overwhelming choice: her support among Democratic women, which was nearly universal when she started this campaign, has plummeted to ridiculous levels; twice as many women under 45 support Bernie Sanders as support her, and even a third of women her own age support him. So the strong majority of Democratic women clearly aren’t ignoring matters of candidate history and policy in the name of gender, and it’s a lot harder to accuse them of veiled misogyny. (Which is why they’re resorting to accusations of neurosis and immaturity.)

There’s a woman in my Facebook feed who I don’t know personally but whose work as a writer I have great respect for, and I see her post often about how great Hillary is, about how progressive she is, about how naive it is to think that Bernie (or anybody) can stand up to the wonderful Hillary Clinton. But, for me, everything she posts is tainted by the first comment on the matter I saw her post in which she showed anger at Sanders supporters and said something to the effect of “If these assholes keep us from getting a woman president and we just get another fucking white guy, I’m going to kick some asses.”

I support Bernie Sanders not just because he has been an unmatched progressive warrior for decades, not just because he is a man of unflinching integrity, not just because he stands solidly against the corrupt power of huge corporations and Wall Street rather than coddling them and taking their money, not just because he doesn’t coldly calculate every stance he takes based on polling and focus groups, not just because he’s not the safe choice of entrenched party power, and most definitely not at all because he’s a man. I support Bernie Sanders because I see in him an opportunity all-too-rare to actually make a huge difference in our government and our country. An opportunity for positive change on a New Deal scale.

Fortunately, more and more of my fellow voters, men and women, are seeing that in him too. Some may proclaim they’ll see us in hell…I see it more as we’re trying to get to America.