Auto Bailout Controversy: ‘Gotcha’ Politics vs Building Trust

In Sunday’s Democratic presidential debate, just two days before Michigan’s primary takes place, Hillary Clinton dropped a ‘gotcha’ bomb on Bernie Sanders, saying Sanders “was against the auto bailout.” (Clinton is also running ads on Michigan radio making the same accusation.) From the transcript of the debate:

CLINTON: Well — well, I’ll tell you something else that Senator Sanders was against. He was against the auto bailout. In January of 2009, President-Elect Obama asked everybody in the Congress to vote for the bailout.

The money was there, and had to be released in order to save the American auto industry and four million jobs, and to begin the restructuring. We had the best year that the auto industry has had in a long time. I voted to save the auto industry.


He voted against the money that ended up saving the auto industry. I think that is a pretty big difference.

Sanders’ reply was cut off:

SANDERS: Well, I — If you are talking about the Wall Street bailout, where some of your friends destroyed this economy…

CLINTON: You know…

SANDERS: … through — excuse me, I’m talking.

Sanders recovered from the interruption and tried again:

Your story is for — voting for every disastrous trade agreement, and voting for corporate America. Did I vote against the Wall Street bailout?

When billionaires on Wall Street destroyed this economy, they went to Congress and they said, “please, we’ll be good boys, bail us out.” You know what I said? I said, “let the billionaires themselves bail out Wall Street.” It shouldn’t be the middle class of this country.



There was another interruption as Sanders tried to respond, then:

SANDERS: Wait a minute. Wait. Could I finish? You’ll have your turn, all right?

But ultimately, if you look at our records, I stood up to corporate America time and time again. I went to Mexico. I saw the lives of people who were working in American factories and making $0.25 an hour.

I understood that these trade agreements were going to destroy the middle class of this country. I led the fight against us (sic). That is one of the major differences that we have.

Clinton dropped a ‘gotcha’ bomb, saying two days before the Michigan primary that Sanders is against auto companies and workers, and then as Sanders tried to respond he was strategically interrupted, preventing him from effectively correcting the record.

So What Are The Facts?

In December of 2008 there was a bill to specifically help the auto industry. H.R. 7321 (110th): Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act was a $14 billion plan that passed the House but was filibustered by Senate Republicans.

Sanders supported that bill and voted to break the filibuster. From Vermont Public Radio:

Senator Bernie Sanders voted against the $700 billion bail out of the financial services industry but he says this package is different:

(Sanders) “The problem is if you don’t act in the midst of a growing recession what does it mean to create a situation where millions of more people become unemployed and that could spread and I have serious concerns about that I think it would be a terrible idea to add millions more to the unemployment rolls.”

Then, in January 2009 the auto rescue funds were folded into part of the huge, $700 billion “Wall Street bailout” bill. The Washington Post writes in, “The Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders clash over the auto bailout, explained“:

Clinton and Sanders were both in the Senate at the time, and contrary to what Clinton implied Sunday, both supported the idea of an auto bailout.

… Sanders argued that letting the auto industry go under was too big of a risk for middle-class workers — it could lower wages across all sectors of the economy and have a ripple effect on states like Vermont that were fairly far removed from the auto industry.

… But Sanders was vehemently against the larger $700 billion bailout to prop up the banks. (As evidenced by his presidential campaign, Sanders is no fan of Wall Street.) So he voted against the bank bailout.

The bank bailout was so big it had to be doled out in portions. In January 2009, Senate Republicans tried to block the Treasury Department from releasing the second half of the money, some of which was designated for the auto industry. Sanders, based on his opposition to the Wall Street bailout, voted against releasing that money as well.

At the time of this January Wall Street bailout vote the public had been learning about Wall Street’s huge bonuses even as bailouts were required. Headlines were informing the public that “Banks That Got $188 Billion in Bailout Money This Year Paid Out $1.6 Billion to Top Execs Last Year” and “75% Of Latest Bank Of America Bailout Used To Pay Merrill Lynch Bonuses.”

This second Wall Street bailout vote, which contained auto bailout money, occurred in the context of a public upset (to say the least) about huge bonuses for the banksters who had crashed the economy, and Sanders opposed it. The Detroit Free Press, in “Explaining Hillary Clinton’s, Bernie Sanders’ votes on the auto bailout,” explains this complicated second vote further:

The $82 billion that helped finance the bankruptcy of General Motors, Chrysler, their finance subsidiaries — GMAC and Chrysler Financial — and a handful of large suppliers were part of a much larger Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) that covered more than $700 billion that went to bail out the largest banks, and AIG, the insurance giant that has issued credit default swaps that came due when the banks could not cover their losses on mortgage-backed securities.

In short, a Senator or congressman could not vote to rescue GM and Chrysler without voting to provide the money to keep the nation’s largest investment banks from failing.

Sen. Clinton voted yes. Sen. Sanders voted no.

Politico summarized: “Sanders was supportive of the bill that would have bailed out the auto companies. So while Sanders might not have voted for the bill that ultimately provided funds to the auto industry, he did support bailing out the automakers.”

But two days before the Michigan primary Clinton turned Sanders’ opposition to the Wall Street bailout into a Sanders vote “against the auto bailout.”


Some in the media mistakenly reported that Sanders replied talking about Wall Street instead of responding about the auto bailout, thinking these were separate bills. For example, Richard Wolffe at The Guardian, “Sanders, standing in Flint, had no answer for the vote – other than to retreat into his corner opposing Wall Street’s bailout.”

But overall the media has tried to correct the record. Media reactions to Clinton’s gambit range from calling it a “gamble” to “somewhat disingenuous” to “twisted” to “quite a stretch.”

Michigan’s Michael Moore, known for the 1989 “Roger and Me” documentary about General Motors and Flint, even tweeted that “Hillary lied.

Sanders’ Reaction

Initially the Sanders campaign tweeted, “From the @WashingtonPost: “Sanders is actually on the record as supporting the auto bailout. He even voted for it.”

Later the campaign issued a statement, “Clinton’s Claims on Auto Industry ‘Not True’”

One day before Michigan Democrats go to the polls, Bernie Sanders on Monday campaigned for president in Michigan and set the record straight on Hillary Clinton’s dishonest distortion of his record on an automobile industry rescue package.

… used a Sunday night debate in Flint, Michigan, to disingenuously mischaracterize Sanders record on the auto industry. In fact, Sanders voted for the carmaker bailout.

… “It is absolutely untrue to say I voted against helping the automobile industry and workers,” Sanders told the Grand Rapids, Michigan, television station.

… Sanders said, Clinton “went out of her way to mischaracterize” his record of support for auto workers. “There was one vote in the United States Senate to support the automobile industry and, of course, I voted for it. To say otherwise is simply not telling the truth,” he said.

… To read more on Sanders’ record of supporting the auto bailout, click here.

Gotcha Politics

Clinton’s last-minute, misleading accusation is a tactic known as “Gotcha politics.” This is a tactic where a politician attempts to lure or entrap an opponent by use of a supposed fact, gaffe, mistake or statement that makes it appear the opponent is a hypocrite or untrustworthy. Then the politician “pounces,” hence the term “gotcha.” It is often used just before an election so the opponent has little time to respond with the correct facts. The tactic depends on voters not receiving accurate information in time.

The debate was Sunday. Tuesday is the Michigan primary. This leaves little time for Sanders to explain the reality of Clinton’s “Sanders is against autos and auto workers” implication. This likely means it will cause votes that might have gone to Sanders in the primary to instead go to Clinton, or to just stay home. As the Washington Post explanation puts it, “[I]t seems like she’s willing to take the gamble that fact checkers may call her out for her tactic Sunday — but that voters won’t.”

Is There A Cost?

This kind of “90’s-style” politics is a “scorched earth” tactic, leaving little goodwill in its wake. In the short term it might gain votes, even win a primary, but those votes bring with them longer-term costs.

Over time, as the fact-checking of Clinton’s “gotcha” accusation unfolds, Clinton risks increasing voters’ perception that she has a “trust” problem. Winning a primary with a tactic that risks increasing voter perception that she can’t be trusted could cost her.

Worse, many voters are tired of this “old-style” politics of misleading voters in order to gain votes at any cost. They prefer to hear accurate information and real policy discussion that addresses the country’s real problems. This is part of the reason Sanders’ campaign is drawing such enthusiasm. Gaining votes by accusing Sanders of something being “against” auto companies and workers could cause many Sanders voters to decide not to support Clinton if she becomes the party’s nominee for president.

‘Gotcha’ politics doesn’t just harm the candidate using it in the longer term, it also breeds public cynicism about the political system in general. Clinton supporter Lanny Davis wrote a 2006 book, “Scandal: How ‘Gotcha’ Politics Is Destroying America.” The book’s Amazon description explains, “Davis tells us how this poisonous atmosphere is damaging not just politics but American society as a whole.”

The stakes are very high in this election, and if Clinton is the nominee she is going to need goodwill – and all the votes she can get. Isn’t there a higher road with lower risks that Clinton can follow in this campaign?


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Is Clinton Bought By Wall Street? There Is A Test For That

Secretary Hillary Clinton has accepted millions in “speaking fees” and campaign contributions from interest groups – most notably Wall Street firms – that she will be in a position to help or hurt as president. She promises that the money will not influence her if she takes office, but voters are understandably skeptical.

Voters have been betrayed again and again by people who have become known as “corporate Democrats.” These politicians made promises to help regular working people, then turned on them after elections and enacted policies that boost the monied interests – especially Wall Street and giant corporations – at the expense of the rest of the country.

What can Clinton do to overcome the resulting voter skepticism? Are there concrete things she can do and commitments she can make now that can reassure voters that she will be able to represent the other 99 percent of us once in office? Are there ways she can show the public that she means what she says when she claims to be as “progressive” as her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders?

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Privatization Causes Poverty, Senate Cafeteria Workers’ Story Continues

Our government has been on a privatization binge for some time. Things that We the People used to just do federally or through state and local governments were closed down and private corporations were hired to do those things instead. This “saved money” because the well-paid public workers were laid off, losing their benefits and seniority, and new workers were hired at the lowest possible wages with few or no benefits.

Of course, this “cost savings” meant that the tax base eroded, the old and replacement workers often had to go on public assistance, property values plunged as the homes of the old workers were foreclosed and the new workers couldn’t afford to buy, schools were strapped as more low-income kids came in, and all the other ways that the transition to a low-wage economy has ended up costing all of us.

But who’s counting?

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Sanders Vows To Kill TPP If Elected. Will Clinton?

As the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “free-trade” agreement was signed in New Zealand by representatives of the 12 participating countries, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders strongly voiced his opposition and committed to doing what he can to kill the deal if he is elected president.

Rival Hillary Clinton has also stated opposition to the TPP, but will she also vow to kill it if elected?

Sanders Vows To Kill TPP

Saying that TPP follows in the footsteps of failed trade agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA, and Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with China, Sanders promised to “fundamentally rewrite our trade policies to benefit working families, not just the CEOs of large, multinational corporations.”

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What Do You Mean ‘Sanders Might Be Another George McGovern’?

George McGovern was the Democratic nominee against incumbent Richard Nixon in the 1972 election. He lost in a landslide. Just as the events of the 1980s shaped the current economic environment, the 1970s “Nixonian” politics of division shaped the current political environment. Did Democrats learn the right lessons from that election?

That’s the core question being asked as “establishment” Democrats worry that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders would be “too far to the left” to compete against the Republican nominee in a general election.

McGovern, son of a poor pastor who was a war hero and eventually a U.S. senator for South Dakota, had a reputation as a decent man who sided with the people. He campaigned on ending the Vietnam War, cutting military spending, helping economically distressed Americans and confronting Republican lawbreaking.

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Is The Sanders Campaign “Going Negative?

The Clinton campaign is accusing the Sanders campaign of “going negative.” It’s all over the news. Did Sanders really “go negative”? Or is this Clinton accusation just an attempt to “muddy the waters” as Clinton’s attacks on Sanders’ health care plans backfire?

In The News: Clinton Campaign Says Sanders “Going Negative”

The Clinton campaign has accused the Sanders campaign of “going negative.” Here are a few examples of what’s going on in the news:

ABC: Clinton Campaign Accuses Bernie Sanders of Breaking Pledge Not to Go ‘Negative’,

The Clinton campaign held an abruptly scheduled conference call with reporters this afternoon to respond to the ad.

“We were very surprised today to see that Bernie Sanders had launched a negative television advertisement against Hillary,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said.

“This ad does something that Bernie said he wouldn’t do,” campaign pollster Joel Benenson added, referring to how the Vermont Senator has said he will not run negative campaign ads.

Similar story in The Guardian: Clinton campaign ‘surprised’ over Bernie Sanders’s new ‘negative’ TV ad

The Hill: Clinton campaign decries Sanders’s ‘negative ad’

What Are They All Talking About?

Here is what they’re talking about. The Sanders campaign is running this ad.

Negative? You might have to play that ad a few times to even get what the Clinton people are upset about. MSNBC explains what it is, in, New Sanders ad takes aim at Clinton’s Wall Street donors,

In what is by far his most toughest TV ad yet, Bernie Sanders took a not-so-subtle swipe at rival Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street donations in a new spot that will soon be broadcast in Iowa and New Hampshire.

“There are two Democratic visions for regulating Wall Street,” Sanders says, looking straight at the camera. “One says it’s okay to take millions from big banks and then tell them what to do.”

“My plan: break up the big banks, close the tax loopholes, and make them pay their fair share. Then we can expand health care to all and provide universal college education,” he continues. “Will they like me? No. Will they begin to play by the rules when I’m president? You better believe it.

The Clinton campaign is upset that the Sanders ad refers to the millions of dollars Clinton has received from Wall Street firms for “speaking fees” in the last several years.

That is the basis for the accusation that Sanders is “going negative.” The Clinton campaign is complaining that it is out-of-bounds to say Clinton has received millions of dollars in “speaking fees” from the companies she will be responsible for regulating if she becomes President. They are upset over the implication that this is a conflict of interest.

Clinton Healthcare Accusations Backfiring

These attacks on the Sanders campaign come just as an earlier attack appears to be backfiring. Over the last week the Clinton campaign has made a number of accusations over Sanders’ “Medicare-for-All” single-payer universal health care plan. Because it combines all current healthcare programs (Obamacare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program known as “CHIP”, etc.) into a single Medicare-style plan they said it “dismantles” those programs. They said it will “strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance.”

The Clinton campaign has even gone so far as to accuse Sanders of lying, saying Sanders “can’t level with the American people” about his healthcare plan because it means there will be taxes to pay for it even though almost all of the public will have more money in their pocket at the end of the day because it eliminates premiums, co-pays and deductibles, as well as ends the necessity for employers to provide health insurance.

The Clinton accusations appear to have backfired on Clinton because 81% of Democrats favor the idea (and 58% of the public-at-large). There is widespread outrage at the Clinton campaign for “attacking” an idea so favored by so many.

In a Thursday Clinton interview on the Rachel Maddow show, Maddow confronted Clinton on thsee accusations, saying, “He’s a very well respected figure. Your campaign is essentially fighting with him now in a way that is casting aspersions on his character, calling him dishonest.” Maddow pointed out the Clinton campaign has said Sanders “has not done what he has promised,” and “has shifted answers.”

Muddying The Waters?

In the middle of this controversy it appears that the Clinton campaign is trying to turn things around and “muddy the waters” by accusing the Sanders campaign of being the ones who are “going negative.” CNN sums it up, in Bernie Sanders grapples with promise not to go negative against Hillary Clinton

[A]s the race for the Democratic nomination gets tighter and nastier, Sanders’ campaign is confronting that promise when it considers how to respond to attacks from the Clinton campaign, walking the fine line between drawing contrasts with the former secretary of state and outright attacking her.

Old-Style Politics VS A New Politics Of Issues

The Sanders campaign has brought a new style of campaigning to our country’s politics. Sanders is campaigning entirely on issues. He refuses to play along with the corporate media’s politics-as-entertainment style of covering the “horse race” aspect of campaigns. He does not get involved with personality discussions, etc, always reverting to his “message.” This is winning him converts.

The Clinton campaign is a perfection of an older style of politics. They are raising tremendous amounts of campaign cash, they have a “SuperPAC” that is raising a tremendous amount more, they have built up a solid “machine” in the states, they are racking up “top-down” endorsements, and doing what they can to bring a sense of “inevitability” to her nomination.

These are contrasting styles, and it is not clear which is the best approach to winning a campaign in the modern United States with its entrenched corporate media fixated on entertainment-style coverage. The Clinton campaign might just be doing what it takes to win an election. This may be especially the case as the election draws near and the less-informed voters, with little time or inclination to study the many issues involved, look for the kinds of queues on who to trust and who will deliver.

On the other hand, we might be entering a new era when people are “fed up,” are paying more attention, studying the issues and seeing through the old-style manipulations that have defined our country’s political process for so long.

With the Republicans looking more and more like they are going to nominate Donald Trump, and with Ted Cruz running second it is vitally important to Democrats, the country and the world to win the November election.

So will that take the old-style politics, or will the new issues-oriented politics take over? We will see between now and November and we had better be right.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Clinton’s Pre-Iowa Assault On Sanders’ Medicare-For-All Plan

As the Iowa caucuses draw near and as Bernie Sanders closes in on Hillary Clinton in the polls, Clinton has started “attacking” (media word) Sanders’ proposals for providing universal health care through a Medicare-for-All plan.

The corporate media largely covers the horse-race aspect of this as an entertainment item. Here is a look at the substance of Clinton’s assertions.

Medicare For All

Sanders has proposed replacing “Obamacare,” the Affordable Care Act mandate to purchase insurance from private companies, with a Medicare-for-All, “single-payer,” “universal heath care” plan. In other words, he proposes to extend (and expand) the current Medicare system to cover every American so they can stop having to locate and purchase private insurance policies. Sanders’ plan would also end the need for other government health programs, including Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Medicare for All is very popular, especially among Democrats. The December 2015 Kaiser Health Tracking poll found that 58 percent of Americans support it (34 percent strongly), with 81 percent of Democrats and 6 in 10 independents saying they favor the idea. “This is compared to 34 percent who say they oppose it, including 25 percent who strongly oppose it,” the poll said. Among Republicans, 63 percent say they oppose it.

Proposing Medicare for All is not just the right policy for the country, it is very smart politics.

Clinton Attacks

Clinton claims that Sanders’ plan would require a big tax hike. Politico reports this claim, in “Clinton hits Sanders on middle class tax hikes“:

“Bernie Sanders has called for a roughly 9-percent tax hike on middle-class families just to cover his health-care plan,” said Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon, referring to legislation Sanders introduced in 2013, “and simple math dictates he’ll need to tax workers even more to pay for the rest of his at least $18-20 trillion agenda. If you are truly concerned about raising incomes for middle-class families, the last thing you should do is cut their take-home pay right off the bat by raising their taxes.”

More recently, Clinton’s daughter Chelsea claimed that Sanders’ Medicare-for-All plan would “dismantle Medicare” and “strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance.” (Clinton later stood by her daughter’s statement.) The Huffington Post reported:

“Sen. Sanders wants to dismantle Obamacare, dismantle the [Children’s Health Insurance Program], dismantle Medicare, and dismantle private insurance,” she said, according to an account from NBC News. “I worry if we give Republicans Democratic permission to do that, we’ll go back to an era – before we had the Affordable Care Act – that would strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance.”

The Clinton campaign also said that Sanders’ plan would “send health insurance to the states, turning over your and my health insurance to governors” including Republican governors like Iowa’s Terry Branstad. “I don’t believe number one we should be starting over. We had enough of a fight to get to the Affordable Care Act. So I don’t want to rip it up and start over,” Clinton said.

Sanders Campaign’s Response

Sanders campaign spokeswoman Ariana Jones responded:

“It is time for the United States to join the rest of the industrialized world and provide health care as a right to every man, woman, and child. A Medicare-For-All plan will save the average middle-class family $5,000 a year. Further, the Clinton campaign is wrong. Our plan will be implemented in every state in the union regardless of who is governor.”

Sanders himself explained his health care plan and his strategic thinking behind it in an interview Wednesday with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. The claim of $5,000 a year in savings for average middle-class families refers to the plan’s elimination of ever-increasing private insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles that people currently have to pay under Obamacare. People would end up paying less and in many cases much less – an average of $5,000 each year. Companies would also no longer have to provide health insurance coverage for employees.

On the claim that Sanders’ has a “$18-20 trillion agenda,” switching to Medicare for All would replace the current costs of Medicaid, CHIP, Obamacare and other healthcare programs. Sanders’ plan would actually cost fewer trillions in the future than continuing the current system. The large “trillions” figure is misleading because it does not take into account the cost of the current system of Medicare for people over 65, Medicaid, CHIP, current Obamacare subsidies and other government health programs that would be replaced by Sanders’ plan. Left alone these would add up to more than Sanders’ plan.

Since Sanders’ plan also removes private-company profits from the system, this “Sanders agenda” amount is actually lower than the cost of continuing with the current system. (It also includes Sanders’ plans to repair the country’s infrastructure, cut college costs, and the rest of his proposals. Note that Sanders has outlined specific revenue sources to cover the costs of the proposals.)

The claim that Sanders’ plan would “strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance” is perhaps the most misleading and disingenuous claim of all. People would not be “stripped” of their insurance; everyone would get Medicare instead so people would not need “insurance.” Clinton’s “strip” wording here implies that millions of people would lose health care, when in fact they would only lose the need to pay insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles.


Sanders responded to this respectfully, saying, “As much as I admire Chelsea Clinton, she didn’t read the plan.”

Old-Style Politics

Clinton’s accusations over Sanders’ Medicare-for-All proposal are not based on the actual policy proposals. They misrepresent the positions and are misleading at best. Some call this “blatantly dishonest.”

“Muddying the waters” by implying that “millions and millions and millions” of people will be “stripped” of their insurance, when the proposal actually replaces insurance is the kind of politics-of-the-past that people have rejected, even come to despise. Telling people they will have to pay a “tax” when the proposal actually reduces the amounts people will pay out of their pocket is misleading at best.

These accusations come out of an old style of politicking that is void of substance and depends on manipulation of people’s understanding of issues. Misleading people by misrepresenting the policy positions in this way borders on a character attack instead of contrasting policy positions. It is a politics of personality versus the politics of issues that Sanders is popularizing.

Here is Clinton in 2008, talking about Democrats who attack proposals for universal health care, as Clinton has done to Sanders’ plan this year:


Sanders is campaigning on what the country should be doing. Clinton is now campaigning on why she should be president instead of on what she would do as president. She is trying to turn people against Sanders instead of winning them over to her. She is using misrepresentations and deceptions, not serious and constructive policy disputes. This should be rejected by voters.

Worse, misrepresenting Sanders’ positions in this way risks reinforcing voter apprehension about Clinton’s “trustability” as well as about the entire political process. At a time when voters crave honesty, Clinton’s attack reinforces arguments that Sanders offers an “authenticity” and consistency that Clinton does not. Clinton should return to offering policies to solve the country’s actual and important problems and stop trying to turn voters against opponents and the process itself.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Dem Debate Schedule Is Allowing GOP To Frame Election Narrative

There’s just no way around it: the Democrats are intentionally hiding their presidential candidates from the public.

The last Democratic presidential debate was buried on a Saturday night up against the opening of Star Wars. Naturally it drew a fraction of earlier Republican debate audiences – and even of the earlier Democratic debates. The next debate is scheduled, astonishingly, on a Sunday night, January 17, the middle day of a three-day weekend. But just in case that might still draw an audience, it is also up against NFL playoff games. What is going on?

Partly as a result of this scheduling, Republican presidential candidates and their campaign proposals dominate the news and therefore the public’s attention. But the Republican candidates are not addressing the country’s many problems or offering serious proposals for solving them. Banning certain religions? Even more tax cuts for the rich and their corporations? Unleashing oil companies? More guns? What?

Meanwhile Democrats, with superior candidates and serious proposals for actually addressing our problems, are barely part of the national discussion. Is the pubic hearing about the need for infrastructure investment? No. Is the public hearing about the need to expand Social Security? No. These are winning proposals, but the debate schedule is keeping the public from hearing them. It’s as if the leadership of the Democratic party wants to lose the coming election.

John Nichols at The Nation sums it up well, in “Resolution for 2016: Let’s Have Lots More Presidential Debates“:

That’s bad for the Democratic Party and its candidates. It’s also bad for a body politic that requires more than the junk-food diet offered up by Donald Trump and most of his fellow contenders for the Republican presidential nod.

What is going on? Why are the Democrats hiding their presidential candidates and potentially sabotaging their 2016 election prospects?

Democrats should demand that the Democratic National Committee schedule several more debates and schedule them at times when most people can and will watch.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Does Clinton Really Oppose TPP? There Is A Test For That

Many people have come to believe politicians say what they need to say to win, and then turn on them. If Hillary Clinton wants to win the Democratic nomination and inspire people to vote for her in the general election, she must find ways to overcome this voter skepticism.

There is one test that, if she passes it, could convince voters that Clinton is on their side. It involves what Clinton does over the next few months to prove that she meant it when she came out in opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal a few weeks ago.

Politics In 2016 Will Be Different

Politics is different this time. Voters feel betrayed by the politicians they have supported in the past. Just look at what is happening on the right. The conventional candidates like “Jeb!” Bush are polling at 3 percent or so – or just dropping out of the race. The candidates who have never held office and do not exhibit any qualifications whatsoever for governing – Donald Trump and Ben Carson – are way ahead.

On the Democratic side the problem is, as always, voter turnout. Working people – wages stagnant or falling and employers putting the squeeze on in hundreds of imaginative ways – have figured out that they’ve been sold out by “establishment” politicians who have helped “rig the game” against them. And they are fed up.

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The Dem Debate Was Good For The Country. Let’s Have More Of Them

In contrast to the Republican clown shows they call debates, last Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate was serious and focused on policy. It let the public know that there are still adults at work trying to help deal with the country’s real problems. It helped the country move forward.

Tuesday’s debate gave the public a positive, optimistic presentation of the Democratic Party and its progressive message and how this gives hope for a positive direction for the country. For those worried about the debates helping one candidate or another one, polls tell us the debate lowered the “unfavorable ratings” of both Clinton and Sanders.

But the Democratic Party leadership still seems to want to try to limit the Democratic candidates from public exposure. Last Tuesday’s debate was on a pay TV channel (my cable/internet/phone monopoly rent-seeking bill is closing in on $200+ a month) – not a very aware move for a party that supposedly wants to represent and get votes from low-income Americans – and still 15 million Americans tuned in. Even with that audience, this viewer-suppression strategy worked; that’s almost 10 million fewer than the first Republican debate.

While Republicans chose a Republican-right TV channel with Republican-friendly moderators, the Democratic debate was on a Republican-lite channel with semi-hostile moderators. (“Will you say anything to get elected?” “You honeymooned in the Soviet Union.” “The current top prosecutor in Baltimore, also a Democrat, blames your zero tolerance policies for sowing the seeds of unrest.”)

The next debate will take place November 14 – a weekend evening that many suspect was chosen so younger members of the potential audience will be out on dates, out at the clubs, at movies, and so on. (At least it will be on a broadcast network so people can tune in without paying.) The one after that, December 19, is also on a weekend evening, but on top of that it is also on the last Christmas shopping weekend. The one after that is on a Sunday night.

Not everyone pays attention to these things so far before an election. But those who do can see this for what it is. One candidate has a big lead early on, the other has low name recognition. It looks like people at the top are helping the leading candidate “sit on” that lead and “run out the clock.” Some also think that the same people do not want the other candidate’s “message” to be heard widely because it threatens entrenched interests.

What’s in it for those helping rig this primary process? Washington politics now runs on exchanges of promises – jobs, favors, and the like. We don’t know if or what the chair of the Democratic National Committee was promised to protect Clinton’s lead and keep the public from hearing Sanders’ message. If this is what happened, it might show Clinton to be just the kind of savvy D.C. power-politics player who really can get things done. Maybe the country needs someone like that right now. Maybe, maybe not. Or maybe it is an unfortunate sign that a Clinton administration will be another pay-to-play corruption operation, people inside doing favors for the powerful. Maybe the public is sick of this kind of corruption.

The first debate was great for the country, the party – and Clinton. So how about we stop the nonsense and schedule plenty of debates, in prime time on weekdays, and let the country know that there is something available besides Trump and obstruction.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

“A Senator is needed but missing.”

Jan 6, 2001, African-American members of the House try to object to disenfranchisement of minorities in 2000 election:

In hindsight it might be a good time to bring this up again, maybe ask some of the Democratic senators who were present at the time why they did not join with African-American members of the House.

Here is a list of Democratic senators at that time:

Robert Byrd (D-WV)
Ted Kennedy (D-MA)
Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
Ernest Hollings (D-SC)
Joe Biden (D-DE)
Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Paul Sarbanes (D-MD)
Max Baucus (D-MT)
Carl Levin (D-MI)
Chris Dodd (D-CT)
Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
John Kerry (D-MA)
Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
John Breaux (D-LA)
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Tom Daschle (D-SD)
Harry Reid (D-NV)
Bob Graham (D-FL)
Kent Conrad (D-ND)
Herb Kohl (D-WI)
Joe Lieberman (D-CT)
Daniel Akaka (D-HI)
Paul Wellstone[7] (D-MN)
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO)
Russ Feingold (D-WI)
Patty Murray (D-WA)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Richard Durbin (D-IL)
Robert Torricelli[5] (D-NJ)
Tim Johnson (D-SD)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Max Cleland[5] (D-GA)
Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
Evan Bayh (D-IN)
John Edwards (D-NC)
Zell Miller (D-GA)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Tom Carper (D-DE)
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Ben Nelson (D-NE)
Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
Jon Corzine (D-NJ)
Jean Carnahan[5] (D-MO)
Mark Dayton (D-MN)

Can Biden Run For President With TPP Around His Neck?

Vice President Joe Biden is considering a run for president. But Biden is currently working behind the scenes to push the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which most (if not all) core Democratic-aligned groups will likely oppose. Can Biden run for president as a Democrat after pushing TPP on us?

While TPP is being negotiated in secret, some parts of it have leaked. This limited information indicates that TPP is another “NAFTA-style” corporate-dominated agreement, designed to elevate corporations above government, limit the ability of citizens to make laws and regulations that protect them from corporate harms and scams, and to force wages down so a few executives and “investors” can pocket the wage differential.

Autos And Parts, For Example

One (only one) example of the “NAFTA-style” damage that TPP might do is a provision that actually weakens the limited protections NAFTA granted to auto and parts manufacturers.

Under NAFTA, auto companies and parts suppliers in countries in the agreement were given a level of tariff-free status through “content requirements.” But, according to leaks, in TPP the U.S. is actually pushing for lowered content requirements for cars and auto parts. (I explained the details in “TPP Terms Are Even Worse For U.S. Than NAFTA?“) This means China can get that business through Japan, which will force layoffs of workers and closures of factories. This is just one example of how TPP is actually even worse for American (and Canadian and Mexican) workers than NAFTA was.

Celeste Drake of the AFL-CIO explains further, in “Do U.S. Workers Really Have to Rely on Canadian and Mexican Negotiators to Look Out for Our Jobs?“:

Last month, Canadian and Mexican officials did the math and said no deal! They objected to these low standards, with Mexico’s Minister of the Economy explaining, “What you can accuse me of” is advocating for “the interests of my country.”

Why aren’t the United States’ own negotiators doing the same? If the reported deal is accurate, it would wipe out jobs throughout the U.S. supply chain. Even with a far higher regional value content rule, U.S. jobs are still at risk to other TPP countries, including Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam. But the lower the regional value content required by the TPP, the more auto sector jobs U.S. workers stand to lose.

Another example (one of many) of TPP’s probable damage is Nike vs New Balance. Nike pioneered outsourcing, now making its shoes in ultra-low-wage countries like Vietnam. Meanwhile New Balance is still trying to make some of its shoes in the U.S. TPP will lower the tariff on shoes brought in from Vietnam, rewarding Nike for outsourcing, and killing off New Balance’s ability to make shoes in the U.S., forcing layoffs and factory closures.

Biden Active In Pushing TPP

Biden does not just happen to be in an administration that is pushing TPP; he is working hard to push TPP himself.

For example, Biden met with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in New York Tuesday to encourage him to help wrap up TPP this week. Japan Times has the story, in “Abe, Biden agree to work together to conclude TPP talks possibly this week“:

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden agreed Tuesday that the two countries will cooperate to conclude talks on a Pacific free trade initiative this week, both governments said.

Biden and Abe agreed that their negotiating teams for the Trans-Pacific Partnership would work closely together “with the goal of resolving the limited number of outstanding issues at the upcoming ministers meeting in Atlanta,” according to the White House.

… A Japanese official who attended the meeting quoted Biden as saying that the 12 countries engaged in TPP talks should strike a deal on this opportunity.

Biden Lining Up With Republicans, Wall Street And Corporate America Against Democrats, Labor And Progressives

TPP is still secret, and until the agreement is public the opposition is unable to organize — which is the point of the secrecy. But we know from leaks that TPP is likely to draw at least the same opposition as Fast Track did. This is a summary of which groups were on which side of Fast Track:

Some of the groups that lined up in favor of Fast Track and are almost certain to support TPP: (This is the side Joe Biden is standing on.)

● Republicans in the House and Senate.
● Wall Street.
● Giant multinational corporations.
● Billionaires and CEOs.
● The Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable and other corporate lobbying organizations representing giant corporations against the rest of us.
● Right-wing “free market” outfits like Cato Institute (formerly named the Koch Foundation).

There was a large coalition organized against Fast Track and likely to oppose TPP (and Biden):
● Most Democrats in the House and Senate.
● All of organized labor — every labor union in the US opposed Fast Track and are likely to oppose TPP – and Biden.
● Almost every identifiable progressive-aligned organization, including:
● Human rights groups, and anti-slavery/trafficking activists,
● Environmental groups,
● LGBT groups,
● Faith groups,
● Consumer groups,
● Food-safety groups, and many, many others aligned with causes progressives, labor and public-interest groups feel are important.

All of these groups will actively oppose Biden if he runs for President with TPP around his neck.

Can Biden Run As A Democrat After Pushing TPP?

There are some things that a candidate in the Democratic primaries just can’t do. A Democrat can’t be for cutting Social Security or Medicare when “the base” wants candidates who are in favor of expanding it. A Democrat can’t be in favor of cutting taxes for the billionaires and corporations.

A Democrat can’t be in favor of doing things that hurt the environment and increase the threat of climate change, such as building the Keystone Pipeline.

Those are some of the third rails for the kind of Democrats who are active, informed and vote in primaries. But in the next year – assuming TPP is even half as bad for 99 percent of us that leaks have indicated it is – TPP will be the third rail of all third rails. The one thing certain to kill the chances of being nominated as the Democratic presidential candidate is not being out there on the front lines fighting tooth and nail to stop TPP. Because of this, Joe Biden is not a Democrat who can run for president in 2016 and win the nomination.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.