July 16 Marks 20 Years Of Seeing the Forest

What a long, strange trip it’s been.

First post, July 16, 2002, Ralph Nader is a Scab:

In the union movement we learned the hard way that the only way to fight the moneyed interests is to stick together. It’s called SOLIDARITY. It’s what “union” MEANS.

When unions are in a fight the members stick together, and those crossing the lines are called “scabs”.

In the 2000 election it was the usual fragile Democratic coalition fighting the usual moneyed interests. Ralph Nader broke the solidarity, divided the coalition, and lost us the election. Ralph Nader is a scab.

No one was “taught a lesson” by people voting for a 3rd party to “teach the Democrats a lesson.” We got Bush and death and corruption and destruction. OBVIOUSLY “the Democrats” did not learn the lesson.

Vote for the right person in primaries! Get the bad Democrats out. Then show up and vote for the Democrat in the general. No matter what. Otherwise the fascists win.

How To Fix The World

I have come to believe it is a waste of time to discuss “policy” anymore. Billionaires and corporations control the legislative and administrative branches. And that’s that. Period.

We can’t get anything through the Congress, no matter what. The Executive branch lives in a neoliberal mindset. The agencies are controlled by lobbyists. (Once in a while something can happen, but if we fix corruption, we fix all of it.)

Activists should put 100% of effort into fixing this. Fix money in politics and corruption. Nothing we advocate can happen otherwise. Everything we fight for will happen if these are fixed – because the public wants the same things. (That’s why we do what we do.)

There really is no other fight.

Dem “Establishment” Lucrative Losers

The Democratic party “establishment”… The elderly “centrist” leadership, the high-paid consultants, the fundraisers, the lobbying class…

For all their “practicality” about turning to the right to win elections, obviously the only winning election strategy is showing voters they’re on their side. But the “conventional wisdom” and advice to candidates is rarely to do that.

It’s all about the money. Raising enough money for candidates requires backing off from anything that smells like it might be “to the left,” which means helping actual working people. (Also known as “the voters.”)

The “practical” belief that only lots of money (showing donors whose side they are on) can win elections has cost Democrats so many local and national seats over the years. And it has cost the country & planet almost everything. But you have to admit it has been a lucrative practice for a lot of top Dems.

It is difficult to get top Dems to understand something, when their lucrative payoffs depend on their not understanding it.

Democrats PLEASE Sell The Soup

New poll: The public overwhelmingly supports Democratic POLICIES, and at the same time Republicans have the biggest lead in the “generic ballot” EVER.

How can that be?

For a while I had a software “evangelist” job where I would go out to small startup companies full of engineers that were developing software products for an operating system, and try to help them become real companies. These “companies” were small groups of programmers who had come up with a product. I’d explain the need for investment capital, a good Board, etc…

But mostly I had to explain marketing.

Engineers always believed that if they made a great product they would do really well. People will flock to their product because it was better. They never, ever understood that people wouldn’t do that. I had to introduce them to the idea that they are not their customers. That the ways people get information are not the ways THEY got information. This was almost impossible to get across to people who in their own lives researched everything about technology and understood what they wanted and how to find it…

One of my formative moments was when I was visiting a software store to see how things were going. I say a guy pick up two competing software products, weighing them in his left and right hands. He bought the heavier one.

Dems really have to learn that the public doesn’t hear a list of product features, they hear the benefits. Sell the soup (h/t Anat), not the ingredients. AND SELL THE SOUP don’t just think people will hear about your soup because it tastes better. And seeing something about it in the NY Times does not mean people in Oklahoma are hearing about it.

The reason Campbell’s dominates supermarket soup shelves is because Campbell’s PAYS stores to put more of their product in front of the customer.

Democrats have for DECADES refused to invest in communication. (Remember the whole thing around creating Air America?) “Conservatives” have put literally billions into communication since the 70’s. They have developed a huge propaganda apparatus. Part of that has been the research, training and hiring that now means the public hears almost no Democratic-supporting voices ANYWHERE.

The Bipartisan Mistake

Joe Biden’s agenda – if it survives at all – was massively watered down by the insistence on negotiating a “bipartisan infrastructure bill.” This is the same thing that happened to Obama’s health care bill.

– Negotiating with bad-faith Republicans wasted months
– The result was ridiculous and requires the reconciliation bill to restore essential components
– The reconciliation bill is being watered down by corporate interests paying some Democrats
– The reconciliation bill might even be killed by these corporate interests

What is it about Democrats that causes them to instinctively require Republican permission to get anything done?

This time they’re fucking around with the last remaining effort to do something to contain the climate crisis.

Always Say “Jim Crow Filibuster” or “Racist Filibuster”

Always use the phrase “Jim Crow Filibuster” or “Racist Filibuster.” This takes away the cover of pretending the filibuster is a “norm” or “tradition” as an excuse for not killing it.

Senators like Manchin should not be asked if they support “ending the filibuster,” they should be asked if they support “keeping the racist filibuster.”

The Senate filibuster has a racist past and present. End it so America can move forward.

The nature of the filibuster, its rules and norms, is hardly an iron-clad tradition. It has changed and adapted greatly over the years since it first became popular in the civil rights era. But what hasn’t changed is its enduring connection to racism. The filibuster has always stood in the way of racial progress, whether employed by Southern Democrats of the Jim Crow era or the Republican Party today after a major shift in the party’s stance on racial equality. When you understand the filibuster’s racist past, it becomes clear that it has a racist present as well — and that we need to get rid of it.

Call it what it is, don’t let them take cover under “tradition.”

Don’t Nuke The Filibuster – Reform It

Dems should reform the filibuster to make it into what the public thinks it already is.

Currently there is a Senate rule that effectively means legislation is not allowed to pass unless it gets 60 votes. This is called the filibuster rule. It has allowed Republicans to obstruct everything that government can do to make people’s lives better for more than a decade.

But if you ask “regular” people what a filibuster is (I don’t mean people on Twitter or who obsessively follow the news, I mean regular, busy people) they will almost universally answer that a filibuster means senators talking all day and all night. They have no idea that there is a rule that effectively requires 60 votes for anything to pass.

The 1939 movie “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” led to public belief that a filibuster involves a senator talking until he or she can’t stand up anymore when they believe something being done is just wrong. They would go on as long as they could. This dramatic act gets news, and alerts the public to pay attention. It gives supporters time to rally their forces. Then the public can contact their senators and let them know if they should go ahead or stop.

Reform The Filibuster

In stead if “nuking” the filibuster Democrats should ask for filibuster reform. Get rid of the ridiculous rule that allows every bill to be blocked if it can’t get 60 votes. Return to a rule that allows a senator to talk and talk and give the public time to rally. Bring back this system that protects the minority, but in a way that makes it a rare, dramatic event. It is the rarity of the event that gives it its value.

It is not a “nuclear option” to change the rules to what the public thinks the rules already are.

It’s Intimidation, Not “Moderation”

The Nation has a great piece by By Guy T. Saperstein and Joe Cirincione, titled, Americans Want Jobs, Not War. It describes how to talk about war spending in ways that move the public toward progressive positions. Please read it.

Dems “Afraid” of how they will “Appear”.

One early line stood out to me, “Democrats are afraid of appearing weak on defense.”

This line says so much about our national discourse. We are so used to hearing it. Democrats do things because they are afraid of how things they do and say will “appear.” They don’t want to “be seen as” holding certain positions that trigger a certain response.

Just how does that “appearance” reach the public? Through our nation’s information channels. Think about this. In a supposed democracy members of the country’s majority party are “afraid” of how they will be “made to appear” if they do not conform to certain positions.

It’s Intimidation

Let’s call this what it is: it is intimidation. They are intimidated.

Instead of providing the public with objective information to help citizens govern themselves in a democracy, our nation’s information channels are structured to enforce a system of allowable do’s and don’ts. The dominance of the right-wing/lobbyist intimidation machine is so pervasive that we no longer understand it could be different.

“Imagine If A Democrat Did That”

Every time a Democrat says, “I don’t want to be seen as” not being supportive of our troops we are acknowledging that we are living in an environment of intimidation. Every time Republicans do something and we all say, “Imagine if a Democrat had said/done this,” we are acknowledging an intimidation machine. But we are not saying the words

“If a Democrat did this” really means our information sources are intimidated into making a big bru-ha about anything a Democrat does and ignoring when a Republican does it because careers and reputations are destroyed. And therefore the targets of this are intimidated as well.

A “moderate” Democrat is simply a Democrat who gives an appropriate nod to being intimidated and therefore controlled by the corporate/right intimidation machine.

There Are No Real Republican “Deficit Hawks.” Here’s Why.

Democrats are making a terrible mistake fighting the Republican tax cuts by saying they add to the deficit, that they will “blow a hole in the budget,” etc.

Why are Democrats saying this? They are using the “increase deficits” line because they think they can appeal to a few “deficit hawk” Republicans who spent the Obama years complaining about government sending and “deficits.”

It is a mistake for Democrats to think they can “get Republican votes” by mouthing Republican deficit-fear rhetoric without understanding the strategy behind their rhetoric.

Strategy: Republicans Create Deficits, Stoke Deficit Fear, Then Campaign Against Government Spending

Here’s the thing. There are no real Republican “deficit hawks.” Republicans stoke deficit fear, and then say they are opposed to budget deficits. But they always, always increase deficits. On purpose. There’s a reason.

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Why She Lost

I don’t think anyone can point to any particular reason “why she lost.” I think it was ALL the reasons, and it shows why we have to be on top of ALL of them.

Voter suppression, coherent message telling voters how their lives will be better, authenticity so they know you mean it, listening to and appealing to all components and regions of the traditional Dem coalition, outreach to new voters, keeping the other side from rigging things like voting machines and voter registration lists and illegal donations and activities and interference like Russia and Comey, and then delivering for your constituencies in order to help the constituencies AND the next candidate who runs. (Thanks, Obama.)

When you look at the record the Clinton campaign and Obama admin and Democratic party apparatus failed on all of those counts and still got more votes. Imagine the landslide if they’d actually been on top of all of that.

For some Reason The Public Thinks Politicians Side With Corporations

For some reason, the public thinks politicians side with corporations. Imagine that. and they’re looking for politicians who do not.

The LA Timesreports on focus groups with voters, seeing what they think today, in These voters in Arizona are fed up with Democrats, Republicans and, most of all, Trump,

More than two dozen voters gathered in Phoenix this week delivered a bipartisan broadside against President Trump, Republicans and Democrats, dismissing the political class as serving its wealthy benefactors and abandoning everyday Americans.

… The questions largely revolved around views of Trump and Republican efforts to pass healthcare and tax reform measures. Yet in the process, participants voiced strikingly little support for Democrats nor any enthusiasm about using their vote to cast out Republicans next year.

“Democrats are doing something badly wrong,” said one Democratic-leaning voter, saying the party “should have done a better job” last year. “Democrats are flailing.”

“I think the government is totally corrupt,” said an independent voter who leaned toward Democrats in elections but disparaged both sides.

Republicans see Trump and Republicans siding with corporations. Imagine that.

Asked whether Trump sided with regular people or big corporations, nine of 10 in the Republican group said he sided with corporations. All 10 said Republicans in Congress sided with corporations. Two said Democrats sided with ordinary people. Sentiments were not dramatically different in other groups.

“They’re all the same; they’re all puppets,” said one Trump voter.

People saw government bailing out Wall Street and corporations instead of We the People, and aren’t happy,

“People in Arizona and Ohio, all these other groups in other places in the country, thought after the crash that Wall Street and big corporations were made whole again, and they were left behind,” said Patrick McHugh, the executive director of Priorities, who observed the focus groups.

“Trump made a lot of promises to address those issues. He’s now president…. He’s now responsible for fulfilling those promises.”

So people somehow sense that government sides with corporations. People might be uninformed and misinformed, but they by and large aren’t stupid. They can see what’s going on and want something done about it.

Apart from the obvious racism, Trump campaigned on an economic message. There were people who will tell you they “took a chance” and supported Trump because he promised to “drain the swamp” of corruption in government. He said he was already wealthy so he wouldn’t take bribes. He got a lot of votes from people who were fed up.

If there was a consistent criticism of Hillary Clinton it was that she was beholden to corporations, especially Wall Street, and that her paid speeches and supposed support for TPP proved it.

Lots of people supported Bernie Sanders because he obviously was not in the pocket of corporations.

Many Green voters are Greens instead of Democrats because they believe the party has sold out to corporate interests.

I wonder if there is a lesson from this?

Progressives Should Focus On Russia

Too many on the “left” say progressives should not be focusing on the Russian interference in our democracy. They say it is just an excuse to allow the failure of Clinton and Democratic leadership to offer the public good policies that help people instead of just helping corporations and the rich slide. Some even say it is just old 1950s-style “red-baiting.”

Criticism of Russia is not related to previous pre-1990s criticisms of communism or socialism. Russia is not that. Today it is a kletocracy run by one guy and a bunch of oligarchs, sort of the perfect Koch/Thiel/Trump/corporate state that Republicans are trying to bring about here.

They Did It

The Trump campaign did do this and the Republican Party is running cover for it, just so they can continue to loot us with tax cuts for the rich and taking away the things our government does to make our lives better.

Its better for progressives if the spectrum of power goes from the left to centrist Dems, instead of from centrist Dems to the far right as it does now. Using Russia to get lots of Rs out of power and move that spectrum left only helps us obtain an environment in which Medicare-for-All, free college and university, allowing everyone to vote, restoring taxation and regulation on corporations, breaking up monopolies, bringing racial and gender justice, ending privatization, finally fighting climate change and all the other things needed to heal the country and planet are possible to achieve.

We need the public to understand that conservative/Republican/corporate rule is anti-democracy and not legitimate. Focusing on Russia helps us get there.

The Russia Story Isn’t Going Away

It’s not like the Russia story is going to drop from the news, allowing other things to be discussed. So ride the wave instead of fighting the tide.

The Russia story actually gives us an opportunity to talk about good policies instead of policies that hurt the country, by tying that discussion to Russian efforts to hurt us. All the talk about Russia gives us the opportunity to tie Republican anti-government policies to the ways Russia hoped to benefit from their interference in our democracy. Russia helped put them there in an effort to hurt the country and Republican policies hurt the country.

The Russia story delegitimizes Republicans by exposing their lack of legitimacy. (Along with voter suppression, gerrymandering and other ways they are not legitimately in power.) The more they and their policies are delegitimized the more progressive policies fill the vacuum.

Note how Medicare-for-All is being widely discussed, even while the Russia story dominates.

All the talk about Russian interference in democracy offers us a chance to remind people of what democracy means. erference in our democracy.