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Monday, May 02, 2016

HILLARY VS. DONALD - THE WINNER IS...THE OLIGARCHY !!






BLECH

05.02.16 1:00 AM ET

Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump? The Winner Is…the Oligarchy

The real winners in election 2016 are going to be the new-economy oligarchs who are among Clinton’s biggest donors.
This presidential election may have been driven by populist fever in both parties, but at the end, the campaign has left the nation’s oligarchs in better position than ever. As Bernie Sanders now marches to his own inevitable defeat, leaving the real winners those oligarchs—notably in tech, media, urban real estate and on Wall Street—who are among Hillary Clinton’s most reliable supporters.
With either Ted Cruz, or , more likely, Donald Trump, as the GOP nominee, the emerging post-industrial ruling class will have little to no reason to even consider breaking with the Democrats. It’s already clear that companies such as Facebook consider it their duty to stop Trump, and there is a growing tendency among social media firms, including Twitter, to censor unpopular right-wing views.
Clinton, by outlasting Sanders, has done the oligarchs’ dirty work for them. As Greg Ferenstein, who has been surveying Internet billionaires in the Bay Area, notes, the tech elite—much like media and Wall Street—have no sympathy for Sanders’s social democracy. After all, it’s much harder to become a mega-billionaire if tax rates for the wealthy soar; much better to show your commitment to things like gender equality, gay rights, climate change from the comfort of San Francisco or Manhattan luxury apartments or soaking in the hot tub in Malibu, Boulder, the Hamptons, or Los Altos hills.
Clinton occasionally apes Sanders’s revolutionary rhetoric in decrying Wall Street and inequality, but this is hard to take too seriously. She and her husband, notes TheGuardian, take advantage of the same Delaware tax shelters favored by the ultra rich, including Donald Trump.
Clinton angrily denounced the use of tax shelters revealed in the Panama Papers as “outrageous.” Yet the papers revealed that many key supporters of the Clinton Foundation—including Canadian mining magnate Frank Giusta and financier Sandy Weill—have all indulged in the much-dissed practice of hiding money overseas.
For decades, the Clintons have built their family political enterprise on contributions from the global ultra-rich; between their campaigns and the foundations, the couple has raised, according to The Washington Post, a cool $3 billion, at least a small portion of it coming from Donald Trump. The outrageous foundation fundraising, not to mention her famous Wall Street 20-minute-for-$250,000 speeches, should dissuade anyone from believing Clinton stands as a traditional populist.
A look at Clinton’s finances should tell us all we need to know. When Sanders attacked her for her Wall Street backers, she made a point of saying she had gotten more support from the teacher’s unions (who are arguably less heinous). Her campaign has now received more money (barely) from individuals in the securities and investment industry than in unionized teachers; the finance sector has forked over $21 million to the former Secretary the State, making it the largest source of her donations.
And this gap will likely grow as financiers reject Cruz, whose right-wing gold standard views can’t be popular on Wall Street, and Trump, who is totally unpredictable, something big money people generally do not like. With Jeb Bush out of the race, Clinton has emerged as the clear favorite of the financial moguls, with the exception of outliers like Carl Icahn, who have lined up behind Trump.
Clinton’s biggest individual backers also include a lot of entertainment and media figures. NBC Universal, News Corporation, Turner Broadcasting and Thomson Reuters are amongmore than a dozen media organizations that have made charitable contributions to the Clinton Foundation in recent years, the foundation’s records show.
Overall, four of her top 10 supporters in terms of contributions come from entertainment: Haim Saban, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams—while seven of the top 20 come from the world of hedge funds and investment banks. In April she raised a cool $15 million at two parties, one in San Francisco, the other in Los Angeles, hosted by George and Amal Clooney.
Clinton’s support base parallels the very changes in wealth accumulation that I spelled out recently in the Beast. Over the last three decades, an increasing share of billionaires have come from finance, tech and media. Oil, agribusiness and manufacturing may be backing the GOP, but these are all losing their market share of the nation’s billionaires.
Of course many younger people in entertainment have preferred Sanders by a huge margin, but some of their pop heroines—Lena Dunham, Demi Lovato, Katy Petty—have dutifully performed for Clinton, reflecting her stranglehold over the Hollywood establishment.
But the most important players in Clinton’s new gentry come from the tech world. Bill Clinton opened this spigot up in 1992, impressing such longtime Republicans as Hewlett Packard’s John Young and then-Apple President John Sculley enough to get their endorsements.
President Obama has deepened these ties, raising $2.4 million for his 2008 campaign and nearly $3.5 million dollars in his 2012 campaign. Tech companies, notably Google, have enjoyed extraordinary influence under Obama, particularly on crucial regulatory issues on telecommunication.
As in entertainment, many rank and file tech workers prefer Sanders, but Clinton has almost universal support among their bosses. Virtually all the leading tech titans—Google’s Eric Schmidt , Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, venture capitalist John Doerr, Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs, Box CEO Aaron Levie, and Tesla founder Elon Musk and Salesforce.com’s Marc Benioff—have embraced Clinton.
What does all this money mean? Rather than act an avatar of change, like Sanders or even the unpredictable Trump, Clinton will likely govern as the emissary of our new economic elite. She seems certain to side, more than even President Obama, with patrons such as Google and Apple. For all her hawkish image, Clinton has not sided with the FBI or many senators in both parties in trying to rein in the tech firms’ reluctance to help in the investigation of the San Bernardino Islamist shooters.
The new oligarchy also does not have to worry much about too much financial scrutiny under a Hillary regime. After all, Bill Clinton pushed financial deregulation as much as any free-market Republican, and it was under him that Wall Street began to get chummier with the progressives. The late-in-the-day reforms on executive pay recently advanced by the Obama Administration will likely be subject to some delay or obfuscation. Capital gains rates—arguably among the biggest drivers of inequality and particularly tech fortunes—and tax shelters will likely remain untouched.
Clinton’s progressivism will be strongest on issues around gender, race and sexual orientation—that conveniently don’t threaten the financial interests of oligarchy. Green politics also works fine with many moguls, both in Silicon Valley and Wall Street, assubsidies and incentives for renewable fuels have provided pathways to even greater wealth.
Progressive reforms on immigration—likely imposed by executive order—will further help the tech oligarchs, who increasingly depend on H-1B visa holders, while filling the tap with a reliable supply of cheap service workers. As long as cheap technocoolies are included in reforms, Hillary, who has studiously avoided the H-1B issue, will seek to please both the oligarchs and the minority advocacy groups.
Less well served, one can assume, will be the very middle- and working-class voters who have tended toward both Trump and Sanders. Indeed they will find themselves with little protections against the “gig” economy, notably Uber, which has already gained close ties to the party by hiring top Obama aides, including former campaign manager David Plouffe. Cab drivers and hotel workers who may see their jobs threatened by the “gig” tech firms should not expect as much help from a Clinton Administration as they might have gotten from Sanders.
Even worse off will be those who work in energy development. Clinton has already crowedabout wiping out coal jobs, perhaps sensing that places like West Virginia, Wyoming, and Montana appear permanently lost to the Democrats.
The confluence of power that underpins Clinton’s campaign should worry Americans of all political persuasions. The merging of the White House with fund-raising mania of Clintons threatens the integrity of all our institutions. Marrying media and money power should be particularly troubling. As the progressive site Common Dreams asks : “You May Hate Donald Trump. But Do You Want Facebook to Rig the Election Against Him?”
Of course, it is conceivable that Trump or Cruz could still pull an upset, but given their horrific negatives, even worse than Hillary’s, this seems unlikely. Instead next January will likely see a melding of influence, money and power not seen in the past century, as Clinton consolidates both near unanimous support of our emergent ruling class, and the media that they largely control. Rather than a right or left wing upheaval, this election will end up less a celebration of populism than the ultimate triumph of oligarchy.
Joel Kotkin is Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and executive director of The Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His new book is The Human City: Urbanism for the Rest of Us (Agate:2016).

Thursday, April 28, 2016

PEAK OIL DEMAND

MY TAKE:
   Great story below if your interested in the world of energy and politics. The day I was born the headline on the LIFE mag. edition that  day read ARABIAN OIL - American Enterprise in the Desert!  It's been pretty much the story line ever since to some degree hasn't it? Anyway, I hope Mr. Klare's analysis below is right.  Take a few moments to read  his extremely well researched and well written piece below and then leave a comment about it if you'd like. 

Published on
by

The Coming World of "Peak Oil Demand," Not "Peak Oil"

Debacle at Doha and the collapse of the 'Old Oil Order'
Suhail Mohamed al-Mazrouei, the United Arab Emirates' energy minister, center left, walks out of a oil production meeting with Anas al-Saleh, Kuwait's finance minister and acting oil minister, center right, in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday, April 17, 2016. Oil-producing countries are meeting in Qatar to discuss a possible freeze of production to counter low global prices, but Iran's last-minute decision to stay home could dilute the impact of any agreement. (Photo: AP/Jon Gambrell)
Sunday, April 17th was the designated moment.  The world’s leading oil producers were expected to bring fresh discipline to the chaotic petroleum market and spark a return to high prices. Meeting in Doha, the glittering capital of petroleum-rich Qatar, the oil ministers of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), along with such key non-OPEC producers as Russia and Mexico, were scheduled to ratify a draft agreement obliging them to freeze their oil output at current levels. In anticipation of such a deal, oil prices had begun to creep inexorably upward, from $30 per barrel in mid-January to $43 on the eve of the gathering. But far from restoring the old oil order, the meetingended in discord, driving prices down again and revealing deep cracks in the ranks of global energy producers.
It is hard to overstate the significance of the Doha debacle. At the very least, it will perpetuate the low oil prices that have plagued the industry for the past two years, forcing smaller firms into bankruptcy and erasing hundreds of billions of dollars of investments in new production capacity. It may also have obliterated any future prospects for cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC producers in regulating the market. Most of all, however, it demonstrated that the petroleum-fueled world we’ve known these last decades -- with oil demand always thrusting ahead of supply, ensuring steady profits for all major producers -- is no more.  Replacing it is an anemic, possibly even declining, demand for oil that is likely to force suppliers to fight one another for ever-diminishing market shares.
The Road to Doha
Before the Doha gathering, the leaders of the major producing countries expressed confidence that a production freeze would finally halt the devastating slump in oil prices that began in mid-2014. Most of them are heavily dependent on petroleum exports to finance their governments and keep restiveness among their populaces at bay.  Both Russiaand Venezuela, for instance, rely on energy exports for approximately 50% of government income,while for Nigeria it’s more like 75%.  So the plunge in prices had already cut deep into government spending around the world, causing civil unrest and even in some cases political turmoil.


No one expected the April 17th meeting to result in an immediate, dramatic price upturn, but everyone hoped that it would lay the foundation for a steady rise in the coming months. The leaders of these countries were well aware of one thing: to achieve such progress, unity was crucial. Otherwise they were not likely to overcome the various factors that had caused the price collapsein the first place.  Some of these were structural and embedded deep in the way the industry had been organized; some were the product of their own feckless responses to the crisis.
On the structural side, global demand for energy had, in recent years, ceased to rise quickly enough to soak up all the crude oil pouring onto the market, thanks in part to new supplies from Iraq and especially from the expanding shale fields of the United States. This oversupply triggered the initial 2014 price drop when Brent crude -- the international benchmark blend -- went from a high of $115 on June 19th to $77 on November 26th, the day before a fateful OPEC meeting in Vienna. The next day, OPEC members, led by Saudi Arabia, failed to agree on either production cuts or a freeze, and the price of oil went into freefall.
The failure of that November meeting has been widely attributed to the Saudis’ desire to kill off new output elsewhere -- especially shale production in the United States -- and to restore their historic dominance of the global oil market. Many analysts were also convinced that Riyadh was seeking to punish regional rivals Iran and Russia for their support of the Assad regime in Syria (which the Saudis seek to topple).
The rejection, in other words, was meant to fulfill two tasks at the same time: blunt or wipe out the challenge posed by North American shale producersand undermine two economically shaky energy powers that opposed Saudi goals in the Middle East by depriving them of much needed oil revenues. Because Saudi Arabia could produce oil so much more cheaply than other countries -- for as little as $3 per barrel -- and because it could draw upon hundreds of billions of dollars in sovereign wealth funds to meet any budget shortfalls of its own, its leaders believed it more capable of weathering any price downturn than its rivals. Today, however, that rosy prediction is looking grimmer as the Saudi royals beginto feel the pinch of low oil prices, and find themselves cutting back on the benefits they had been passing on to an ever-growing, potentially restive population while still financing a costly, inconclusive, and increasingly disastrous war in Yemen.
Many energy analysts became convinced that Doha would prove the decisive moment when Riyadh would finally be amenable to a production freeze.  Just days before the conference, participants expressed growing confidencethat such a plan would indeed be adopted. After all, preliminary negotiations between Russia, Venezuela, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia had produced a draft document that most participants assumed was essentially ready for signature. The only sticking point: the nature of Iran’s participation.
The Iranians were, in fact, agreeable to such a freeze, but only after they were allowed to raise their relatively modest daily output to levels achievedin 2012 before the West imposedsanctions in an effort to force Tehran to agree to dismantle its nuclear enrichment program.  Now that those sanctions were, in fact, being lifted as a result of the recently concluded nuclear deal, Tehran was determined to restore the status quo ante. On this, the Saudis balked, having no wish to see their arch-rival obtain added oil revenues.  Still, most observers assumed that, in the end, Riyadh would agree to a formula allowing Iran some increase before a freeze. “There are positive indications an agreement will be reached during this meeting... an initial agreement on freezing production,” said Nawal Al-Fuzaia, Kuwait’s OPEC representative, echoing the views of other Doha participants.
But then something happened. According to people familiar with the sequence of events, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince and key oil strategist, Mohammed bin Salman, calledthe Saudi delegation in Doha at 3:00 a.m. on April 17th and instructed them to spurn a deal that provided leeway of any sort for Iran. When the Iranians -- who chose not to attend the meeting -- signaled that they had no intention of freezing their output to satisfy their rivals, the Saudis rejected the draft agreement it had helped negotiate and the assembly ended in disarray.
Geopolitics to the Fore
Most analysts have since suggested that the Saudi royals simply considered punishing Iranmore important than lowering oil prices.  No matter the cost to them, in other words, they could not bring themselves to help Iran pursue its geopolitical objectives, including giving yet more support to Shiite forces in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon.  Already feeling pressured by Tehran and ever less confident of Washington’s support, they were ready to use any means available to weaken the Iranians, whatever the danger to themselves.
“The failure to reach an agreement in Doha is a reminder that Saudi Arabia is in no mood to do Iran any favors right now and that their ongoing geopolitical conflict cannot be discounted as an element of the current Saudi oil policy,” said Jason Bordoff of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.
Many analysts also pointed to the rising influence of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, entrusted with near-total control of the economy and the military by his aging father, King Salman. As Minister of Defense, the prince has spearheaded the Saudi drive to counter the Iranians in a regional struggle for dominance. Most significantly, he is the main force behind Saudi Arabia’s ongoing intervention in Yemen, aimed at defeating the Houthi rebels, a largely Shia group with loose ties to Iran, and restoring deposed former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. After a year of relentless U.S.-backed airstrikes (including the use of cluster bombs), the Saudi intervention has, in fact, failed to achieve its intended objectives, though it has produced thousands of civilian casualties, provoking fierce condemnation from U.N. officials, and created space for the rise of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Nevertheless, the prince seems determined to keep the conflict going and to counter Iranian influence across the region.
For Prince Mohammed, the oil market has evidently become just another arena for this ongoing struggle. “Under his guidance,” the Financial Times noted in April, “Saudi Arabia’s oil policy appears to be less driven by the price of crude than global politics, particularly Riyadh’s bitter rivalry with post-sanctions Tehran.” This seems to have been the backstory for Riyadh’s last-minute decision to scuttle the talks in Doha. On April 16th, for instance, Prince Mohammed couldn’t have been blunter to Bloomberg, even if he didn’t mention the Iranians by name: “If all major producers don’t freeze production, we will not freeze production.”
With the proposed agreement in tatters, Saudi Arabia is now expected to boost its own output, ensuring that prices will remain bargain-basement low and so deprive Iran of any windfall from its expected increase in exports. The kingdom, Prince Mohammed toldBloomberg, was prepared to immediately raise production from its current 10.2 million barrels per day to 11.5 million barrels and could add another million barrels “if we wanted to” in the next six to nine months. With Iranian and Iraqi oil heading for market in larger quantities, that’s the definition of oversupply.  It would certainly ensure Saudi Arabia’s continued dominance of the market, but it might also wound the kingdom in a major way, if not fatally.
A New Global Reality
No doubt geopolitics played a significant role in the Saudi decision, but that’s hardly the whole story. Overshadowing discussions about a possible production freeze was a new fact of life for the oil industry: the past would be no predictor of the future when it came to global oil demand.  Whatever the Saudis think of the Iranians or vice versa, their industry is being fundamentally transformed, altering relationships among the major producers and eroding their inclination to cooperate.
Until very recently, it was assumed that the demand for oil would continue to expand indefinitely, creating space for multiple producers to enter the market, and for ones already in it to increase their output. Even when supply outran demand and drove prices down, as has periodically occurred, producers could always take solace in the knowledge that, as in the past, demand would eventually rebound, jacking prices up again. Under such circumstances and at such a moment, it was just good sense for individual producers to cooperate in lowering output, knowing that everyone would benefit sooner or later from the inevitable price increase.
But what happens if confidence in the eventual resurgence of demand begins to wither? Then the incentives to cooperate begin to evaporate, too, and it’s every producer for itself in a mad scramble to protect market share. This new reality -- a world in which “peak oil demand,” rather than “peak oil,” will shape the consciousness of major players -- is what the Doha catastrophe foreshadowed.
At the beginning of this century, many energy analysts were convinced that we were at the edge of the arrival of “peak oil”; a peak, that is, in the output of petroleum in which planetary reserves would be exhausted long before the demand for oil disappeared, triggering a global economic crisis. As a result of advances in drilling technology, however, the supply of oil has continued to grow, while demand has unexpectedly begun to stall.  This can be traced both to slowing economic growth globally and to an accelerating “green revolution” in which the planet will be transitioning to non-carbon fuel sources. With most nations now committed to measures aimed at reducing emissions of greenhouse gases under the just-signed Paris climate accord, the demand for oil is likely to experience significant declines in the years ahead. In other words, global oil demand will peak long before supplies begin to run low, creating a monumental challenge for the oil-producing countries.
This is no theoretical construct.  It’s reality itself.  Net consumption of oil in the advanced industrialized nations has already dropped from 50 million barrels per day in 2005 to 45 million barrels in 2014. Further declines are in store as strict fuel efficiency standards for the production of new vehicles and other climate-related measures take effect, the price of solar and wind power continues to fall, and other alternative energy sources come on line. While the demand for oil does continue to rise in the developing world, even there it’s not climbing at rates previously taken for granted. With such countries also beginning to impose tougher constraints on carbon emissions, global consumption is expected to reach a peak and begin an inexorable decline. According to experts Thijs Van de Graaf and Aviel Verbruggen, overall world peak demand could be reached as early as 2020.
In such a world, high-cost oil producers will be driven out of the market and the advantage -- such as it is -- will lie with the lowest-cost ones. Countries that depend on petroleum exports for a large share of their revenues will come under increasing pressure to move away from excessive reliance on oil. This may have been another consideration in the Saudi decision at Doha. In the months leading up to the April meeting, senior Saudi officials dropped hints that they were beginning to plan for a post-petroleum era and that Deputy Crown Prince bin Salman would play a key role in overseeing the transition.
On April 1st, the prince himself indicated that steps were underway to begin this process. As part of the effort, he announced, he was planning an initial public offering of shares in state-owned Saudi Aramco, the world’s number one oil producer, and would transfer the proceeds, an estimated $2 trillion, to its Public Investment Fund (PIF). “IPOing Aramco and transferring its shares to PIF will technically make investments the source of Saudi government revenue, not oil,” the prince pointed out. “What is left now is to diversify investments. So within 20 years, we will be an economy or state that doesn’t depend mainly on oil.”
For a country that more than any other has rested its claim to wealth and power on the production and sale of petroleum, this is a revolutionary statement. If Saudi Arabia says it is ready to begin a move away from reliance on petroleum, we are indeed entering a new world in which, among other things, the titans of oil production will no longer hold sway over our lives as they have in the past.
This, in fact, appears to be the outlook adopted by Prince Mohammed in the wake of the Doha debacle.  In announcing the kingdom’s new economic blueprint on April 25th, hevowed to liberate the country from its “addiction” to oil.”  This will not, of course, be easy to achieve, given the kingdom’s heavy reliance on oil revenues and lack of plausible alternatives.  The 30-year-old prince could also face opposition from within the royal family to his audacious moves (as well as his blundering ones in Yemen and possibly elsewhere).  Whatever the fate of the Saudi royals, however, if predictions of a future peak in world oil demand prove accurate, the debacle in Doha will be seen as marking the beginning of the end of the old oil order.
Michael T. Klare is the Five College Professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. His newest book, The Race for What's Left: The Global Scramble for the World's Last Resources, has just recently been published.  His other books include: Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy andBlood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependence on Imported Petroleum. A documentary version of that book is available from the Media Education Foundation.

Friday, April 22, 2016

TIME FOR A NEW PROGRESSIVE PARTY?

Bernie’s most valuable lesson: The Democratic Party does not represent the values of progressive Americans

Sanders has laid bare for all to see the hypocrisy & political expediency that drives the Democratic establishment


Bernie's most valuable lesson: The Democratic Party does not represent the values of progressive AmericansDemocratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a campaign rally at Penn State University, Tuesday, April 19, 2016 in State College, Pa. (AP Photo/)(Credit: AP/Mary Altaffer)
Over the past year, the insurgent political campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders has revealed quite a bit about the reasoning of partisan Democrats, and thus separated the progressives from the liberals. As a populist candidate who has refused support from Super PACs and big monied interests, Sanders has shined a light on the unpleasant reality that the Democratic party — and its likely presidential nominee — is almost as reliant on funding from billionaires and Wall Street as the detested Republican party is.
Now, when it comes to criticizing Republicans, progressives and establishment Democrats generally see eye to eye. The Republican party is shamelessly anti-democratic and under the thumb of special interests; there is no debate about that. However, the other major party in American politics, while less shameless, is certainly no paragon of virtue. This has become increasingly evident as the 2016 primaries have progressed — and many Democrats are furious that the Sanders campaign has exposed this truth.
In recent weeks, the Sanders campaign has been increasingly vocal about the Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s many troubling positions and her ties to Wall Street and other industries. Sanders has criticized Clinton’s high-prices speeches for Goldman Sachs (for which she has flatly refused to release the transcripts), the $15 million raised from Wall Street by one of her Super PACs, and the fact that top donors throughout her career have been individuals working at banks like Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan Chase.
Clinton and her supporters have defended these connections with a simple retort: You can’t prove quid pro quo. International Business Times reporter David Sirota recently mocked this argument on Twitter: “Logic I learned from Clinton: nobody should worry [about] oil cash going to the climate-denying GOP, unless theres proof of a clear quid pro quo.”
If the quid pro quo defense sounds familiar, it’s because it is the exact same reasoning that right-wing Supreme Court justices make when striking down campaign finance laws, as in the 2014 case, McCutcheon v. FEC, which eliminated limits on how much an individual can donate to national parties over a two year period. Justice John Roberts wrote in the decision:
“Any regulation must instead target what we have called ‘quid pro quo’ corruption or its appearance. That Latin phrase captures the notion of a direct exchange of an official act for money.”
Of course, when it comes to climate change-denying Republicans, Clinton and her supporters realize that the influence of big money corrupts and is a threat to democracy. In fact, Clinton makes the point herself:
“We have to end the flood of secret, unaccountable money that is distorting our elections, corrupting our political system, and drowning out the voices of too many everyday Americans. Our democracy should be about expanding the franchise, not charging an entrance fee.”
As with money in politics, Democrats rightly condemn Republicans for voter disenfranchisement. But at Tuesday’s primaries in New York — one of the bluest states in America — franchise was not expanded, but narrowed, and many partisan Democrats quickly dismissed concerns about possible voter suppression as bitterness from Sanders supporters after Clinton won a decisive victory. Almost 30 percent of New York’s registered voters, including Erica Garner, a Sanders surrogate and the daughter of Eric Garner, could not participate in the primaries because they were not registered with either of the two major parties, and missed the deadline to switch six months earlier (the longest such deadline in the country).
Moreover, over 125,000 registered Democrats in Brooklyn were purged from the rolls, which has led to an investigation by the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Not surprisingly, New York had the second lowest voter turnout this season, behind only Louisiana. Many Clinton partisans were snidely dismissive of any doubts or inquiries about voter disenfranchisement. “So many liberals minimizing voter suppression in New York out of hatred for the candidate hurt by it,” remarked journalist Rania Khalek.
This is yet another case of partisan Democrats forgoing principles in the name of party and politician. Sanders has done a great service in exposing some vexing truths about the modern Democratic party: Namely, that it doesn’t always practice what it preaches, and that it is more conservative and reactionary than most conservative parties around the world (e.g. the UK’s Conservative Party). Still, many Democrats will continue to wear partisan blinders and excuse their “team” because it is less repugnant than the other team. This is nothing new. Democrats who once strongly condemned the counterterrorism policies of the Bush administration became curiously silent after Obama expanded many of them, like the devastating and counterproductive drone program. As Jeremy Scahill writes in his book “Dirty Wars”:
“Within weeks assuming office in early 2009, Obama would send a clear message that he intended to keep intact many of the most aggressive counterterrorism policies of the Bush era. Among these were targeted killings, warrantees wiretapping, the use of secret prisons, a crackdown on habeas corpus rights for prisoners, indefinite detention, CIA rendition flights, drone bombings, the deployment of mercenaries in US wars and reliance on the ‘State Secrets Privilege.’ In some cases, Obama would expand Bush-era programs he had once blasted as hallmarks of an unaccountable executive branch… Obama would guarantee that many of those policies would become entrenched, bipartisan institutions in US national security policy for many years to come.”
Had another Republican expanded these draconian programs (like assassinating American citizens), liberals would have been outraged. Instead, the Obama administration expanded them, and liberals have been meekly compliant. The Obama administration has also used the Espionage Act against whistleblowers more than all previous administrations combined (going back to its passage in 1917) and deported more immigrants than any other administration (about 23 percent more than the Bush administration). While liberals are outraged by Donald Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric, they are virtually silent about Obama’s anti-immigrant actions.
How much will partisan Democrats be willing to forgive a Hillary Clinton administration? Many neoconservatives have already admitted that they prefer Clinton over Trump. At this rate, Clinton could fulfill most of Trump’s reactionary platform and still find widespread support among the Democratic faithful.
Earlier this week, the Clinton campaign accused Sanders “of trying to convince the next generation of progressives that the Democratic party is corrupt.” But do progressives really need to be persuaded that the Democratic Party is part of a corrupt political system, or that it is more reactionary than progressive on many issues? This is self-evident, and the Democratic party has done an excellent job over the past few decades making that case itself. The question is: how long will Democratic voters remain blindly loyal to their party?
Conor Lynch is a writer and journalist living in New York City. His work has appeared on Salon, AlterNet, Counterpunch and openDemocracy. Follow him on Twitter: @dilgentbureauct.