Thursday, April 28, 2016

What's the Big Idea?

Dear friends of Bernie,

We’re doing fine.  We’re doing just fine.  We really are. 

The Powers that Be, the billionaire class and their flaks and agents, are doing their best to stop us.  Their message is "Clinton is Inevitable!" "Resistance is Futile!  Give Up and Go Home!" 

They seem to actually believe that because Clinton won a few primaries they’ve got us beat, and we’ll sober up and admit it, or at least Bernie will.  They seem to actually believe we’ll slink back into line and get with the program.

They think they’ve got us beat, but they don’t.  Every day this campaign goes on in any corner of this country, more people are thinking and talking about Bernie’s ideas, and every day we continue is a win, because this revolution belongs to us all.  It belongs to the people of Indiana who vote next week.  It belongs to the people of Puerto Rico and California who vote in June.  Every phone call we make, every Bernie Journey, every dollar we donate helps build it.  And we owe it to them to give them their turn!

They think they’ve got us beat, but they can’t beat us, because you can’t kill an idea, and once an idea is loose and in people’s hearts there’s no stopping it.  

There’s a Big Idea they’ve been trying to keep bottled up ever since most of us can remember.  Like Aladdin’s genie, it’s out of the bottle now and no one can put it back!  And it changes everything!
Thanks to Sanders Campaign millions of people are now talking about the whole spectrum of issues that confront us.  But none of it by itself is new.  So what’s this Big Idea?

It’s not the idea of massive job creation through public works and projects.  There are people alive today who remember that’s what Franklin Roosevelt did, plenty who’ve been saying we need to do it again.
It’s not the idea of making healthcare a human right, available to everyone rich or poor.  Harry Truman tried to get that past Congress in 1948, and folks have been fighting for it ever since.

It’s not the idea that the billionaire class has corrupted and bought our political system and that we need campaign reform, that we need to get Big Money out of politics. People have been saying that, fighting for that for years.

Nor is it the understanding that the super-rich, the billionaires, have rigged the whole economy so they’re getting richer and richer while the rest of us get screwed. or the idea of breaking up the big banks, freeing our young people from student debt or equal pay for women.  

It’s not the idea of banning private prisons, or ending the war on drugs, ending police violence against people of color, immigration reform or bringing our jobs home from Mexico and China. Nor the idea of ending foreign tax havens, taxing financial transactions or making the millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share. 

It’s not even the idea of bringing everyone together to fight for all of these once, although that’s getting closer.  So what’s this Big Idea that ties this all together? 

It turns out we all knew most or all of the things Bernie’s talking about already.  Bernie didn’t suddenly come along and start preaching the truth and suddenly the scales fell from everyone’s eyes.  Bernie is telling us things we all already knew were true!  

And we already knew that the Networks, the news media were manipulating us and creating illusions, but most of us believed the final illusion: that of all those other lazy stupid people out there watching TV and believing it all.  And so we played it safe and didn’t speak out.

The Big Idea:  we’re all in this together, we all know what’s up, and if we come together, speak out, stand up for each other, and stand together to confront the billionaire class and demand our country back, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish!  

This idea, with your help, is spreading like wildfire across the land!  We're in an Emperor’s New Clothes moment, when everyone starts speaking what everyone already knew was true but were afraid to say.
So courage my friends!  Let’s keep organizing and carry on!   

This is only the first stage of our revolution, and it’s far from over!  A lot can happen between now and July, but win or lose it’s not over then either.  This is just the beginning!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Can Bernie win in poor urban neighborhoods?

Do city folk, Black folk, Latinos love Hillary and reject Bernie?  

I've been out canvassing in working-class neighborhoods in Hartford and Woonsocket, and I saw no sign of this.  I can tell you, Bernie's problem is not folks who love Hillary or dislike Bernie, but that Bernie's supporters have not been out organizing in those urban neighborhoods - and the media is still giving him short shrift.  As Cornell West famously observed, the problem is that Black voters don't know Brother Bernie.

The voters I met who know about Bernie and have really listened to his message are often passionate about supporting him and about getting their friends and relations out to vote for him too.  I saw no distinction here between Black, brown or white voters, young, medium or old, Anglo or Latino.  But there were far too many in these neighborhoods who didn't know him, and even, shockingly, who didn't know his name.

I didn't meet any genuinely enthusiastic Hillary supporters this weekend, but did meet some whose  support for her was firm.  Most appeared to be making a calculation - it's time for a woman, or they have to vote for Hillary because they're Democrats (what?), or they have to vote for Hillary to stop Trump. (!?) Few had really listened to and considered Bernie.

Among white voters in these mixed working-class neighborhoods I heard a lot more support for Trump than for Hillary - just how much I'm not certain because who support Trump seem reluctant - or even ashamed - to admit it. Those I asked told me they didn't hear about Bernie until this year - when the media finally ended its Bernie Blackout - by which time they had already committed to Trump.  Some expressed bitterness toward less-deserving Spanish-speaking neighbors who are doing better than themselves.  Many fell back on the position that all politicians are crooks so why not support one who's at least honest about it!

If Bernie doesn't get the nomination we face a very dangerous political crisis, and we still have a huge organizing drive ahead of us either way.  But the organized expression of the real views needs and feelings of the working people has become legitimate, and a cloud has lifted from the minds and hearts of millions.  However difficult our circumstances may become, we have made a big step forward and there is no going back.  

What happened in New York? Or, does Bernie really have a Black People Problem Part I


After the New York Primary: Analysis from a Bernie Volunteer

by Chris Horton
chris horton
What I heard on the phone calls to New York State was heartening, even amazing.   We saturated New York State in an absolutely unprecedented national volunteer phone-bank operation – our goal was 2 million calls on Saturday and Sunday and we hit 3 million – and huge numbers of doors were knocked by volunteers, including many from Worcester County.  Bernie supporters in New York were lit up!
Hillary won (or captured) New York State, 58%-42%. I’ll admit to being very disappointed, but not discouraged. The New York State Democratic Primary was rigged against us from the start. 
  • Polls in most of Upstate New York where Bernie was expected to run strongest opened at 12 Noon, while polls in New York City and suburbs, Buffalo and a few other cities opened at 6am.
  • Only registered Democrats could vote in the primary. Voters registered in another party or no party needed to have changed their registration by last October (!), long before many voters had even heard of Bernie thanks to the corporate media blackout!
  • Hundreds of thousands of people (over 100,000 just in Brooklyn!) reported their voter registrations changed without their permission or lost.
Bernie won big in Upstate New York, winning in every county except Erie (Buffalo), Monroe County (Rochester) and Onondaga County (Syracuse) and nearly broke even in those, losing Erie County by less than 1000 votes. He won in Albany County and every other upstate county, rural or urban, some by nearly 3 to 1! Three cheers for the many Worcester volunteers who travelled to Albany and Poughkeepsie to knock on doors! (See
The Sanders Campaign is alive and well, … But there’s still the disastrous issue of the urban Black and Latino vote.
Looking at the election results of New York City precincts, nearly every Black-majority precinct and most of the Latino-majority precincts were won by Clinton. This is important,  but this is where the corporate media stops. Luckily, the Times also provides a breakdown of precincts by income (  I spent some time scanning over these, comparing them to the results by race and ethnicity.
  • -Not surprisingly, precincts with average income over $100,000 nearly all went to Hilary, the wealthiest, such as Central Park East and lower Park Ave., by margins of nearly 10 to 1.
  • Precincts with incomes under $50,000 – including nearly all the Black and Latino precincts – overwhelmingly went for Clinton, with a few clusters of white- and Latino-majority and a very few Black-majority precincts that went for Sanders.
  • Bernie showed considerable strength in precincts with incomes between $50K and $100K – roughly, the stable but struggling working class – winning about half. Most of his wins in Black and Latino majority precincts were in this income group.
So how do we account for Clinton’s strength among the urban poor – black, brown, Latino and white?  This is critical for us to understand if our Political Revolution is to build a coalition strong enough to confront the billionaire class.  
Here are some of my thoughts:
The people of the Bronx, Harlem, northern Brooklyn, eastern Queens – and Main South, Quinsigamond Village and South Worcester – are already organized in
  • Churches and other religious institutions and charities
  • Grant-funded movements around anti-foreclosure work, ex-prisoners rights and criminal justice reform, immigrant rights, anti-repression, civil rights, public safety and health, education, job training, welfare rights and many more.
  • Union-sponsored low-wage organizing through SEIU, the AFL/CIO and Jobs with Justice, such as Fight for 15.
  • Small businesses and their customers, everything from bars and taverns to black-market distribution systems.
  • Clubs and lodges.
  • Schools and parents groups.
  • the system of elected officeholders providing constituent services – mostly fixing problems, a kind of institutionalized corruption – and their campaign organizations, 
  • many who would have been active in a movement like the Sanders Campaign in bygone eras now work for government and government-funded agencies.
Some of these groups are already working and fighting for Bernie’s program – but won’t touch the Sanders Campaign. Their struggles need to continue – with our support – regardless, but we have to solve the problem of drawing them into the political revolution. They, or at least their members and activists, naturally align with us, but nearly all are blocked from supporting it by:
  • tax laws forbidding political activity by non-profits and churches.
  • laws forbidding political activity by government employees and government-funded agencies.
  • the unspoken but very real agendas of foundations and their wealthy donors, and of wealthy board members.
  • the institutional ties, relationships and commitments of political and labor leaders.
  • the blind-spots of many top leaders who live in other communities and don’t share their members’ experiences.
  • fear of being targeted by police, regulators and inspectors of all sorts.
These constraints are widely internalized as the belief that politics is dirty and divisive – fed by the media’s constant pushing of hot-button issues – and a widespread belief that only local efforts can make a difference.
Of all the ways poor communities are organized, perhaps the one least walled off by these barriers may be small businesses such as variety and liquor stores, auto repair and tire shops, barber and beauty shops and more. Their owners are independent-minded, deeply connected to their communities and often opinion leaders.  It’s certainly worth exploring.
This tension, this disastrous division in the progressive forces in the US at this critical moment of political and economic crisis, must be solved, and quickly, because only a political revolution with Black, Latino and working class leadership can fully take hold, last and win!
Back to the bright side: my calls to New York voters, as with my calls into Wisconsin two weeks ago, uncovered truly remarkable evidence of a self-organization process underway, such as we would expect in the early stages of a revolution.  Whenever I spoke to someone who said they had voted for Bernie or definitely would, I asked them if they had any friends, family or relations who they knew wanted to vote for Bernie, who might possibly forget until too late, who maybe could use a reminder call.  Most, regardless of their age, apparent ethnicity or what part of the state they lived in, insisted that they had already talked to all their family and friends and were confident they felt strongly enough to be sure they would vote.  Some said they had all gone to vote together!  Some said their friends had called them to remind them!
We need to continue working toward knitting this process together into a movement that can endure and continue despite the inevitable setbacks we will face, confident in the power of a united and determined people!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Why talk to Trump supporters?

To a poster who said don't bother to talk with "these people" because "you can't fix stupid":

I talk with "these people" every chance I get. They may be acting stupid but they aren't stupid. If you dig enough to get it out of them, they see many the same things we do.  

Back in June (2015) almost anyone with calluses on their hands, anyone who had to work for a living, was ready to listen about Bernie. Six months later many are Trump supporters and others are too disgusted with politics to even think about it. That didn't happen because they're stupid. They didn't suddenly become stupid since June. 

And the thing of it is, almost every single Trump supporter I've talked with for 15 minutes or more has come around to admitting their reasons for supporting him make no sense. Then one after another they say, defiantly, "But I'm voting for him anyway!"  

No, there's something else going on. I believe it's that folks are angry and afraid, and totally fed up with a system which is manipulating us, lying to us and ignoring our interests and views. Those of us who see the possibility of successfully joining with others to overcome the resistance of the billionaire class and advance our own best interests are gravitating to Bernie and Warren. Those who feel hopeless about that, because for whatever reason they don't understand the power we could have if we all get together, are gathering behind Trump to vent their anger and bitterness. 

But their anger is our anger, and we have a right to it. Most of them belong with us. Bernie's question to us is "are you ready for a fight?" They too are answering yes, only they're letting Trump convince them their fight is with the rest of us!  

Our real fight is not with Trump's followers, and we must not get suckered into one sooner than absolutely necessary. Our fight is with Trump and his billionaire buddies.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Looking through our rose-colored rear-view mirrors Bill Clinton’s years in the White House can look good, yet his policies helped pave the way to the depression we find ourselves in today. He is a leader of the "Moderate Democrats" (or more properly "Corporate Democrats") - fueled by corporate cash - who led the Party away from its New Deal and working-class roots 
Bill greased the way for NAFTA and GATT, the first of the terrible trade pacts that enabled shipping our industry overseas to low wage countries. He oversaw tax cuts for the rich and the "welfare reform" that helped double the rate of extreme poverty. His repeal of the Glass Steagall Act set the stage for the mortgage loan conspiracy that crashed the world economy. 

For why Glass Steagall matters, see 

Now Bill's coming to Worcester to promote his wife, the former "Goldwater Girl" whose debut in national politics was famously botching the Health Care Reform he’d promised us. Anyone remember how she negotiated a fabulously complicated deal with the insurance and drug companies, pushing aside anything that smacked of Medicare for All? Or how they then stabbed her in the back with a huge ad blitz and massive last-minute lobbying? Remember "Harry and Louise"?  

Yet for over 20 years Hillary has continued taking their money. 

Thankfully, the American people are basically done with her kind of politics. I am disheartened however that so many of our Democratic officeholders continue to support her and to suggest that Good Democrats have a duty to follow her over the cliff. I shudder to think we could end up with a choice between her and Trump in November.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Hate speech, racism, superstition, bigotry and love.

Most folk who engage in racist and hate speech say they don't see it, and they really don't! Racists and haters are people who say things that are mean and hurtful and not true, but they're "only telling the truth." Thus, in their minds, the rest of us are trying to suppress the truth and deprive them of their right to speak it! 
Hate speech and racism are like superstition. Like our racisim, our superstitions are invisible to ourselves so long as we hold that what we believe is the truth. It's all those other people that are superstitious, because they believe things we can see to be untrue! 

Some of us *used to be* superstitious, but we got over it and we're not superstitious any more. Because if we didn't believe our beliefs were the truth, we wouldn't believe them anymore, now would we? 

Standards are like that too. Each of us has our standards, the things we hold to be good, right, the best way. Some folks come close to our standards, but no one's standards could be better or higher than ours, because if we accepted that, then those would *be* our standards!

There's always someone whose standards are different from ours *and therefore lower*. Sometimes a lot lower. If we don't meet *their* standards, so what? Their standards are wrong! We have churches and clubs where we can get together and agree on standards, and then gossip with each other about all the other members of our club who don't live up to our standards! 

We can however recognize we don't live up to our own standards - and beat ourselves up for it- which somehow makes it seem fairer to beat up other folk for not living up to our standards.

Like our own racism, all of this is invisible to us. It all begins with the assumption that the world revolves around us. We all started there as little children, and despite all the hard knocks and blows of life it's baked into us; it never really goes away. 

The only way out of this trap is to accept - on logical grounds - that we're not so different, that we too are superstitious narrow-minded self-righteous bigots in someone else's eyes, and then really try to walk in their shoes, hear what they are saying and see ourselves as they see us. 

What makes that possible is love. Sometimes tough, hard angry love, but the love that comes from never forgetting that the person I can't stand - even that scum-sucking billionaire banker who thinks he owns the world and has the God-given right to destroy it if he doesn't get his way - is just like me inside. 

As humans, we have to have beliefs and standards, but with love we can keep reaching for the ones that will draw us together in our common humanity, in a community of solidarity. 

Which is just what it will take if we - our species - are to survive!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Pew Study shows 90% of Us Say We're Middle Class

90% of us may say we're Middle Class, but what on average is our answer to the question What percent of Americans (i.e. everybody else) is Middle Class? 

We were deliberately sold a bill of goods on "middle class" in the '50's and '60's in a very high powered campaign (which I am old enough to remember) involving thousands of colleges and universities, think tanks and thousands of newspaper editors. We're all middle class Americans now, except for those low-life scum next door or down the street who don't uphold our standards, or who are poorer or browner or speak worse English than us. 

So how come so many of us are living paycheck to paycheck, driven by the fear of homelessness or an old age of poverty? How come we have to try harder and harder just to stay where we are, or take out a second mortgage just to fix the roof or fix our car? 

Middle class used to mean managers, professionals, small business owners, medium-size farmers and academics. They shifted it to mean "wanting and trying to live a decent settled life with high standards of behavior and a decent income." 

When I was a child, many of us were proud of being Working Class. When I was in college I saw how they were pushing hard on the idea that Working Class = Lower Class = Loser. 

The truth is that at least 80% of us were and are Working Class - it may be 90% now. People who have to work for a paycheck to live, but we're the ones who built this country and made it great, and "without our brains and labor not a single wheel would turn." 

This may be part of why we're so confused and divided. We are living in a Middle Class fantasy, and suffering because there's such a clash between our ideas and our reality.