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Tag: bernie sanders

Book Excerpt: The Day Bernie Backed Off From Attacking Biden

Excerpted with permission from The Fighting Soul: On The Road With Bernie Sanders, available here.

I look at September 2019 as a month where I missed something. We began with a trip to New York to do Seth Meyers’s and Dr. Oz’s shows. Why would we go on The Dr. Oz Show? For the same reason we had gone on Joe Rogan’s podcast in August: We could reach a vast audience that wasn’t paying attention to the standard political media. On Dr. Oz, Bernie could talk about Medicare for All and his own physical fitness. While at the time we believed Bernie was uncommonly healthy for his age, he was still 78. Questions would be raised related to his age, and we needed to begin building up the case that he was completely healthy and fit. It turned out to be a spectacular interview, ending with the two of them playing basketball on a makeshift court in the studio. Bernie appeared to be on top of the world.

Yet in retrospect, I should have seen Bernie growing more fatigued. After New York, with the school year starting, we did a series of rallies at colleges and universities in Iowa; this was the kickoff of our campus organizing program in the state. We would then fly to Colorado for a large rally in Denver before heading to Boulder to prep for the third debate, to take place in Houston on September 12. In Iowa, Bernie’s voice was a little hoarse. After the rally in Denver, he had completely blown it out. He sounded terrible.

One of Bernie’s few previous health problems had been a cyst on his vocal cords years before his first run for president. Now he was again experiencing problems with his voice at the worst possible moment. Elizabeth Warren had moved into second place in the polls. She, Joe Biden, and Bernie would all be on the stage together for the first time at the debate in Houston. Not only was his voice a problem, but he seemed to be getting progressively more tired.

During debate prep, the staff had a mission. Because Warren and Biden were polling at one and two, respectively, they would be at the center of the stage. Bernie would be shuffled to the side, an unusual place for him. He needed to put himself at the center of the action. If you want a crowd, pick a fight. There was general agreement among the staff that he should begin the debate with an attack on Biden. He should go after him on an assortment of issues, from his previous advocacy for Social Security cuts, to his vote for the Iraq War, to trade treaties he had backed that had cost our country millions of jobs.

We pitched the strategy to Bernie throughout the day. It was reinforced by two additional staff members who showed up at debate prep to deliver a memo making this point. He seemed to agree with it. Campaign adviser Jeff Weaver wrote an opening statement that we all signed onto. Bernie made some alterations and practiced it several times. While he was behind it, he seemed a bit hesitant. Bernie was very particular about one thing: that the attack not be personal. It would be about policy. At the same time, he knew that he needed to do something to take command of the stage.

We arrived in Houston with Bernie still saying he was sticking to the plan, but something was off. With campaign manager Faiz Shakir, myself, and Jane Sanders in the greenroom, Bernie practiced his opening, jotting it down on his ever-present yellow legal pad. What we saw as Biden’s prior missteps would be framed not just as policy disputes, but as an argument about electability. Bernie would make the case that Biden’s repeated errors in judgment over a long career made him a weak candidate to take on Donald Trump in the general election.

In the greenroom, Bernie read the statement with a perfect delivery. Jane listened carefully, clearly sensed his discomfort, and said, “Talk about your issues, don’t attack Joe.” Jane’s words were all he needed. He would not take the road he never wanted to travel down in the first place. This was not a candidate’s spouse making a political judgment. It was Jane performing one of her most important duties on the campaign—making sure Bernie stayed true to himself.

After Jane left the greenroom to take her seat in the audience, Faiz and I, committed to the strategy we had agreed to in debate prep, encouraged Bernie to go onstage and deliver the statement as prepared. There was even more discomfort in his voice. We made one last attempt to pump him up. At the prior debate, he had left the greenroom dancing and ready for a brawl. He left the green room in Houston with a burden on his shoulders. When it came time for his opening statement, I turned to Faiz and said, “Is he going to do it?”

“I don’t know.”

Instead of the practiced opening, Bernie delivered his Bernifesto, the list of the policies he supports: Medicare for All, College for All, and a Green New Deal. Faiz and I looked at each other. We didn’t need to speak. We could tell what the other was thinking: fuck.

While Bernie performed well enough for the rest of the debate, much of the staff saw it as a wasted opportunity. What made us nervous was that Bernie had seemed to relish counterpunching against John Delaney and other moderate Democrats during the July debate, but he now seemed very hesitant to attack Joe Biden.


Excerpted from The Fighting Soul: On the Road with Bernie Sanders by Ari Rabin-Havt. Copyright © 2022 by Ari Rabin-Havt. Used with permission of the publisher, Liveright Publishing Corporation, a division of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Threat To Abortion Rights Began In 2016

The demolition of Roe v. Wade began long before now. It started in 2016, when Sen. Bernie Sanders and his left-wing followers destroyed the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Had Clinton won the presidency, Donald Trump would not have been able to add three justices to the Supreme Court who have made ending a right to abortion highly likely.

That year, the senator from Vermont ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, as was his option. But he ran a scorched-earth campaign, tarring Clinton as "corrupt." And long after it became clear that he was not going to win the nomination, Sanders continued to sabotage her candidacy.

By April 2016, Trump had become the presumptive Republican nominee. He said that women should be punished for having an abortion.

That same month, Sanders said that Clinton was not qualified to be president. That same month, Clinton trounced him in a string of liberal Northeast states, but Sanders continued to carpet-bomb her reputation.

This was a time when a significant segment of the Democratic left declared open season on women's dignity. After Clinton won the Nevada caucuses, as even Sanders conceded, the Bernie "bros" threw a misogynistic tantrum. Threatening violence at the Nevada Democratic state convention, they shouted the C-word at the female officials trying to certify the results.

Sanders should have come down hard on this shocking display by his supporters, but he held back. He finally issued a statement disapproving of their conduct — in the third paragraph. He then proceeded to blame both sides.

As it became clear Clinton was taking the lead, Sanders appealed to the party's superdelegates and claimed a victory for Clinton would result in a contested convention.

Most of his voters did eventually move to Clinton, but Sanders had groomed a cult open to swallowing conspiracy theories. Trump and his Russian trolls took them and ran.

"To all of those Bernie Sanders voters who have been left out in the cold by a rigged system of superdelegates," Trump said, "we welcome you with open arms."

At the Republican National Convention, Putin pal Michael Flynn led the outrageous anti-Clinton chant, "Lock her up." Then, at the Democratic National Convention, some Sanders delegates parroted him by also shouting, "Lock her up."

Toward the very end of the campaign, Sanders announced his support for Clinton. Admittedly, she was not the cleverest candidate, but even then, Clinton beat Trump by Three million popular votes. Narrow victories in three pivotal states gave Trump a fluke Electoral College win.

Having slashed the tires on her campaign, Sanders later expressed bewilderment that Clinton failed to put Trump away.

Abortion rights are not some culture war bauble. Losing them threatens the ability of women and their mates to control their lives. (That said, Democrats would help themselves if they were more open to the nuances of the debate while ensuring that early abortions are easy to obtain.)

The white, educated liberals who dominate the left wing tend to live in states that would keep abortion legal even if Roe were struck down. And if they live elsewhere, they'd have the means to jet off to a state that provides the service — or to Mexico.

The politics of this do not favor Republicans. Some right to end an unwanted pregnancy has been taken for granted by many voters otherwise open to voting for Republicans. That right will be lost if the Supreme Court throws out Roe.

Clearly, the creation of a Supreme Court poised to do just that dates its origins to 2016, when Trump won the presidency. That's when Bernie Sanders played the Democratic spoiler who handed power to the right wing.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Bernie Sanders Has A Clear Message For Sinema And Manchin

Sen. Bernie Sanders said that by vowing to uphold the archaic Senate rule standing in the way of voting rights legislation, his Senate colleagues Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) are putting "the future of American democracy" at risk.

"It is a sad day when two members of the Democratic caucus are prepared to allow the Freedom to Vote Act to fail," the Vermont senator tweeted on Friday "I hope very much they will reconsider their positions."

Sinema and Manchin's opposition to weakening the 60-vote filibuster rule—a stance they reiterated last Thursday—effectively tanks their party's hopes of passing voting rights legislation to thwart the GOP's mass disenfranchisement and election subversion efforts in states across the country.

Despite the likelihood of failure, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY.) said the Senate will debate the newly assembled Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act on Tuesday, a day after the federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

"If Senate Republicans choose obstruction over protecting the sacred right to vote—as we expect them to—the Senate will consider and vote on changing the Senate rules, as has been done many times before, to allow for passage of voting rights legislation," Schumer said in a floor speech after Sinema made clear she would not back any such changes, intensifying calls for a 2024 primary challenge.

The support of every member of the Senate Democratic caucus and a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris would be needed to enact a rule change.

With federal action likely not forthcoming, local Democratic officials and activists "now say they are resigned to having to spend and organize their way around" the slew of fresh Republican-authored voting restrictions, the New York Times reported, "a prospect many view with hard-earned skepticism."

In a July letter to President Joe Biden, a coalition of 150 civil rights organizations wrote that "while we support the notion of a broad-based coalition of advocates, we cannot and should not have to organize our way out of the attacks and restrictions on voting that lawmakers are passing and proposing at the state level."

"Nor can we litigate our way out of this threat to democracy," the groups warned. "We must remember that at critical times in our history, one party has been forced to act alone in securing the fundamental democratic rights of American citizens, including Congress' passage of both the 14th and 15th Amendments. Any rule or procedure that functions to stop bills from ever being considered on the floor is not a procedure to promote debate; it is a procedure to promote gridlock."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Starbucks Workers Score Major Union Breakthrough In Vote

Buffalo (AFP) - Workers at two Starbucks cafes in Buffalo, New York voted to establish a union, the first at the coffee chain's company-owned shops in the United States.

There were hugs and cries of joy at the union office as the campaign won a decisive majority Thursday at the company's Elmwood Avenue shop in northern New York state, before results were announced on votes at two other cafes.

"It has been an unbelievably long road to get to this count," said Michelle Eisen, who has worked at the shop for more than 11 years. "We've done it in spite of all the company has thrown at us."

The outcome was also cheered by two of America's most prominent progressive politicians.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) saluted the group on Twitter, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said she was "proud" of the workers for persevering through a difficult campaign.

The mood became more subdued after officials with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced that a majority at a second Buffalo-area cafe voted against the union.

But union backers were smiling again after a third store in the region also voted in favor of representation.

Final results await certification by the NLRB following challenges to some votes, but union supporters say they are certain of wins in two of the shops.

"This is a monumental victory, this is a dream come true," said Lexi Rizzo, another union supporter.

Rising Activism

A Starbucks spokeswoman said the coffee giant continues to believe conditions do not justify an intermediary between the company and workers, but added, "we respect our partners' right to organize."

Starbucks will await the final certification of the results next week before announcing next steps, she said.

The vote is the culmination of an effort launched in August by about 50 employees under the banner of "Starbucks Workers United."

A "yes" vote might have a knock-on effect -- not just for Starbucks, but for other US firms like Amazon who are fighting similar efforts by workers to organize.

Earlier Thursday, Steve Boyd, a 60-year-old attorney, expressed support for the workers as he exited the Elmwood Avenue location in the city not far from the Canadian border with his daily fix.

"I see them every morning. They are sort of part of my day and they should have a living wage," Boyd said.

"All across the US, businesses are complaining that they can't find people to work, and the best way to find people to work is to give them fair wages, fair working conditions."

The campaign shows how workers are becoming more assertive at a time when tight job markets have given employees more clout, said Cedric de Leon, a labor expert at University of Massachusetts Amherst.

"The bargaining power of workers is very high at the moment," de Leon told AFP.

There have been high-profile actions at other companies, such as a five-week strike at tractor maker John Deere & Co. earlier this fall.

And some 4.2 million Americans left their jobs in October, part of a phenomenon dubbed "The Great Resignation" that has added to the tightness in labor markets.

Cycling Managers

Will Westlake, 24, joined Starbucks in May and said he was initially attracted to the company's progressive reputation and better working conditions compared with other cafes.

He said he later "found out that wasn't the case," and was surprised that colleagues with much more experience at the cafe were only making slightly more.

The coffee chain, which recently announced that it was lifting its minimum wage to $15 an hour, has stressed that it is not against organized labor, but argued that the issues raised by workers do not justify a union.

Union supporters say Starbucks has cycled about 200 managers and supervisors through the stores since August, in an apparent effort to win over undecided employees.

The company's longtime architect and former CEO Howard Schultz led a meeting with employees in November.

Labor backers describe Buffalo as just the start of an effort that has already spread to the southwestern state of Arizona, where workers recently demanded a vote.

VIDEO: Sanders Tells Biden, Don’t ‘Slow Down” On Infrastructure

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Sen. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said over the weekend that amid the immediate emergencies of climate change, Covid-19, mass unemployment, and homelessness, congressional Democrats cannot afford to dampen their infrastructure ambitions in the hopes of winning support from obstructionist Republicans.

"The time is now to go forward," Sanders (I-Vt.) told the Washington Post. "This country faces enormous crises that have got to be addressed right now. When you have half a million people who are homeless, I'm not going to slow down."

"When the scientists tell us we have five or six years before there will be irreparable damage done because of climate change," the Vermont senator added, "I'm not going to slow down."

Sanders' remarks came as the Democratic leadership is weighing how to proceed with the roughly $2.3 trillion infrastructure packagePresident Joe Biden unveiled last month, a proposal that will serve as a starting point for congressional negotiations. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she hopes to pass infrastructure legislation by July.

But unified Republican opposition to the package and growing complaints from conservative deficit scolds within the Democratic caucus are threatening to impede work on the package that progressives hope to transform into a sprawling bill that deals with a wide range of priorities, from climate to affordable housing to prescription drug prices.

On Monday, the Senate parliamentarian gave Democrats a green light to use the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process for additional spending legislation this year, granting the party the option to move ahead with an infrastructure measure without Republican support.

Sanders told the Post that he is preparing to use the reconciliation tool, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has not publicly committed to that strategy as the Biden administration continues to hold out hope for a bipartisan compromise. With the legislative filibuster in place, Senate Democrats would need the support of at least 10 Republicans to pass an infrastructure bill through regular order.

"The president believes that there's a path forward to get... this American Jobs Plan passed with bipartisan support," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a Thursday briefing. "That's why he's going to invite Democrats and Republicans here. That's why he's going to hear from them on their ideas that they've already put forward."

But progressive lawmakers have cautioned the Biden administration against weakening an infrastructure package they believe is already insufficient in a likely futile effort to win over Republican lawmakers, who unanimously voted against a broadly popular $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package last month.

"Let's not water down a bill for a party that's not actually interested in bipartisanship or wait for Republicans to have some awakening on climate change," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said earlier this month. "Let's move with the urgency and boldness that this moment calls for."

In a report released Thursday, Adam Hersh of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Mark Paul of the New College of Florida argued that under-spending in response to the current crises risks long-term damage to the economy and the climate—a warning progressives cited as all the more reason to quickly push ahead with an ambitious recovery package.

In an appearance on MSNBC Saturday, Sanders said that Republican lawmakers are "probably not" going to accept arguments in support of big spending on climate solutions, core infrastructure, caregiving, and more.

"They live in their world, and their world will be trying to obstruct as much as possible what Biden and many of us in the Congress are trying to do," Sanders said, arguing that the GOP's top priority is "trying to divide us up by stressing xenophobia, racism, [and] making it harder for people to vote."

"Our job," Sanders said, "is to rally the American people around an agenda that works for workers and the middle class, who have been neglected for so many years. It is the right thing to do policy-wise, it is the right thing to do politically."

Sanders, Wyden Push Back On Cruel Cuts To Pandemic Relief Checks

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Democrats are having a public fight over something that really matters: how much assistance hurting people are going to get from them in survival checks. It's a stupid fight, summed up best by Sen. Bernie Sanders:

He's not alone in this with powerful support from Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, the new chair of the Finance Committee. The other side is being spearheaded by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), with back-up from Mitch McConnell's favorite "bipartisan" water carrier, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). They're trying to keep payments from what they call "high-earning" families.

Look at how Manchin explains this: "An individual of $40,000 income or $50,000 income would receive it. And a family who is making $80,000 or $100,000, not to exceed $100,000, would receive it," Manchin said. "Anything over that would not be eligible, because they are the people who really are hurting right now and need the help the most." Who's missing there? Yeah, everybody making more than $50,001. So he's not even arguing in good faith here, couching this as cutting off payments at $80,000 when that's not what he wants to do.

The gap between $50,000 and $80,000 includes a lot of people who, as Sanders says, got two checks already from the Trump administration and are expecting the third one everybody is talking about, a point also made by Wyden: "I understand the desire to ensure those most in need receive checks, but families who received the first two checks will be counting on a third check to pay the bills." That's so glaringly apparent that it's hard to understand there is any constituency for this fight, including in the White House.

It gets even worse when you drill down to find out where the impetus for the cut comes from, as David Dayen has done at The American Prospect. The debate is being driven by a paper from Harvard economics professor Raj Chetty and others that showed higher-income households not spending the last, $600 round of checks immediately. Dayen uncovers the fact that the Chetty research is not on household-level income data. Instead, data for about ten percent of U.S. credit and debit card activity sorted into ZIP codes by the address associated with the card. Those ZIP codes are then grouped "using 2014-2018 ACS (The Census Bureau's American Community Survey) estimates of ZIP Code median household income," according to the appendix in the Chetty paper. So, as Dayen says, the conclusion that low-income people spent their checks immediately while higher-income people did not, "is by saying that ZIP codes that had lower-income people in them between three and seven years ago contained a higher level of immediate spending than ZIP codes with higher-income people during this period." A period before the pandemic.

That's a damned big supposition. Claudia Sahm, a former Federal Reserve and Council of Economic Advisers economist, tells Dayen, "I think the paper is unsuitable for the policy discussion. […] It's one paper at odds with 20 years of research. […] I know the sampling error has to be in the thousands of dollars, there's no way it's that precise." What's even worse about this paper is that they didn't even disclose the out-of-date ZIP code basis for their data until late last week, more than a week after it had been highlighted in the traditional media and started taking hold. It's still out there, with The New York Times opinion page giving Chetty and colleagues space to continue their badly sourced argument.

All that's aside from the larger argument: We're in the middle of a global pandemic and the economy is in tatters—just spend the money helping as many people as possible and worry about sorting out who should have to pay any of it back later. Because the need is so great and this isn't a time to skimp. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said as much, and thankfully appears not to be so much on board with this push to reduce payments, though the White House has been vaguely supportive.

"The exact details of how it should be targeted are to be determined, but struggling middle-class families need help, too," Yellen said on CNN this weekend. Asked if she thinks the targeting should be higher than $50,000 per person but less than $75,000, Yellen responded: "Yes, I—I think the details can be worked out. And the president is certainly willing to work with Congress to find a good structure for these payments."

There's also this: They're still going to base the payments on 2019 income unless they have 2020 income filed by the time the relief bill is passed. Which means you need to file immediately if you've had a big drop in income. Which means the IRS is going to be flooded with returns at the same time it's trying to make income determinations and trying to determine who gets what. But at least there is the recognition that a lot of people did not have the same income in 2020 as 2019.

Again, the survival checks have been means-tested already, with the first rounds of checks phasing out starting at $75,000 based on out-of-date data. Compounding that is this new argument based on really bad and irrelevant information. Not that what anybody does with their survival checks really matters right now, anyway. Worry about saving the maximum number of people possible. That will make the economy come back stronger and faster and then the rest can be sorted out, if necessary, with tax reform.