October 2016

From the October Issue: 

Antonello Borra, Voto Non Voto

Charles Simpson, Going Green

Frank Martyr, In Defense of autocracy

Kenneth E. Harrison Jr, Music Zoned for Dead Shopping Malls

Michelle Sayles, The Funnies

Shay Totten, Get Miffed about the Tif

Eden Vincent, Poison Berry

Jonathan Swift, From a Tale of a Tub

Diane Elliot Gayer, Beauty

Stephen Callahan, The Grand Hotel

Marc Estrin, From Hyde

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Going Green!

For the politically dispirited, there is hope, if only a thin and silken thread. That hope is expressed in the nearly 70-page platform of the Green Party U.S. and the candidacy of its nominee for president, Dr. Jill Stein. Progressives now feel, with some justice, abandoned. For the past year we gathered around Bernie Sanders’ effort to secure the Democratic Party nomination, applauded as he castigated Wall Street for its grip on economic policy, hooted as he called for single-payer healthcare, and joined with him in outrage as he fulminated against the DNC. Students were awed when he boldly called for tuition-free public colleges and relief from student debt; and workers when he demanded rebuilding highways and investment in commuter rail. Environmentalists and human rights activists clapped when he linked NAFTA and the WTO, the Clinton-era templates for the corporate grip on the global economy, to the destruction of both worker rights and a now-imperiled climate. Sure, the Sanders platform had gaps. It was silent on the huge American military presence in the world and the budget that supports it. There was no demand that Saudi Arabia cease obliterating Yemen using U.S.-made weapons. It failed to come to grips with U.S. support for Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land or U.S. domestic police forces terrorizing minority communities. But overall, Sanders articulated the dreams of better than 13 million voters and mobilized a legion of young and not-so-young volunteers.

Then it all turned to ashes. At the National Convention, he embraced the very candidate he’d pilloried throughout the campaign, overlooking Hillary’s embrace of Goldman Sachs and Bill’s savaging of the welfare safety net and the platform’s rejection of universal healthcare. His signature issue, fair trade rather than “free” trade, was contradicted by the party platform he now stood upon and Hillary’s up-to-the-last minute support of the TTP. Her victory would clearly mean that worker rights here would continue to “go South,” And the rationale for this pirouette? The need to defeat a mercurial Donald Trump, cast as the “greater evil”. Bowing low to expedience, Bernie became the Pied Piper, hoping to lure his youthful following into the maw of politics-as-usual.

How should the electorate respond to this betrayal? Stay home? Follow “Our Revolution,” his subsequent effort to re-direct his followers toward support for swing-state Democrats whose victory could let the party recapture the Senate? Forget both the progressive vision or an escape from neoliberalism and the Democratic Party’s alley muggings—a  rigged Super Delegate system; 130,000 voters deregistered by the party in Brooklyn; millions of ballots left uncounted in California—that  call into question both the legitimacy and the value of a Clinton win? Bernie may be Senator-for-Life in the one-party state of Vermont, but as a progressive he is a spent force, along with his party. If additional proof were necessary, “Our Revolution” refused to endorse Matt Funiciello, the Green candidate for New York’s 21st Congressional District, excluding him from a showcase for “progressives” that “Our Revolution” hosted in August. Matt threatened the Clinton consensus from the left side of Sanders and couldn’t be allowed visibility.[1] So, we must move on, look elsewhere.

That “elsewhere” is the Jill Stein campaign. Her party platform is a roadmap that includes all the progressive positions articulated by Sanders as well as the Libertarian, Gary Johnson, and much more. Logically, she begins with political reform. She’d move to full public funding of elections, free campaign air time, and debates run by a nonpartisan public commission. Instant runoff voting would allow voters to select third-party candidates without fear their votes would elect their worst choice. As a physician, she understands healthcare inequality and supports a public system delivering a full range of health care services, including dental. Equity would be further advanced through tuition-free public colleges. Her massive infrastructure program would move us away from dependence on fossil fuels and put millions to work. She’d scrap global trade agreements that exploit workers and the environment, reclaiming the economy from corporate control. Beginning with a $15 an hour minimum, she’d index minimum wages to inflation, the wherewithal coming from tax reform and halving the bloated “defense” budget, thus ending American’s addiction to foreign invasions, arms exports, and the covert manipulation of foreign governments. She’d end aid to Israel, a program Obama is seeking to massively increase. She’d bring back constitutional protections by repealing the Patriot Act and ending warrantless government surveillance. Breaking a bipartisan taboo, she’d have the crimes of 9/11 objectively investigated.

Can she win? In Burlington, Stein recently argued that if 40 million student-aged voters go to the polls in their own self-interest, she would. And she’s on the ballot in 48 states. But she remains veiled in media obscurity and as a result, scores only in single digits in national polls. For her message to get out, she must give voice to her platform in the first presidential debate, September 26. That won’t happen without an enormous expression of outrage against the party-rigged debate process. But win or lose, she’s given us a roadmap and a sense of urgency, indeed outrage. If progressives can’t reclaim the conversation before what’s left of social and climate integrity slips away, we are lost in terra incognito.

[1] Russell Mokhiber, “Matt Funiciello and the Great Sucking Sound Coming Off of Lake Champlain”, Counterpunch, 8/30/16, www.counterpunch.org/2016/08/30/86203.

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