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The American Liberal Review
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Advancing a project of resurgent American liberalism of bold reform and visionary politics for the 21st century.
Advancing a project of resurgent American liberalism of bold reform and visionary politics for the 21st century.

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From the latest article at the website, +The American Liberal Review, on what the media and Team Clinton miss about +Bernie Sanders' "some days" critique of Hillary Clinton and what unpacking such criticism reveals about the political zeitgeist in the  Democratic primary season that explains the Vermont senator's surge.

"When it comes to Clinton, her problem among progressives isn’t her lack of liberal purity but rather her lack of conviction in moments where she does support progressive policies. Her habit of constantly hedging when she embraces progressive issues is the problem; it is not her failure to meet a 'progressive purity' metric (whatever that is). Clinton’s tendency to hedge opens her up to the justifiable charge made by many progressives that she’s just an uninspired, rudderless continuation of the poll-driven (and politically exhausted) third way politics of unprincipled triangulation that has been the focal point of liberal dissatisfaction with the Democratic establishment for over two decades since the centrist Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), under the lead of Al From and then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, committed a 'bloodless coup' of the party in the early 1990s. (In 1989, scholars associated with the misnamed Progressive Policy Institute—the neoliberal policy arm of the DLC—went so far as to describe liberals, with dripping disdain, as 'liberal fundamentalists.')

In light of all this, Sanders’ critique last week is merely echoing what many progressive activists in and outside of the Democratic Party have felt (and continually feel) toward Hillary Clinton: Their uneasiness toward the former secretary of state stems from her incapacity to be a progressive 'conviction/signpost politician' who says what she means and means what she says.

In a political climate, within the Democratic primaries, marked by a strong sense of dissatisfaction toward the party establishment (that’s fueling the hunger for bold, liberal change), any lingering doubts that question a candidate’s commitment to be a progressive change agent this year serve only to undermine the ability of any candidate to authentically claim that he or she is the transformative force in this political season. Liberals and the progressive left suffer no such doubt toward Bernie Sanders. With Hillary Clinton, not so much. And that explains, in large part, why Sanders, not Clinton, is having so far the clear momentum in the Democratic race to be the party’s presidential standard-bearer in 2016."
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Robyn Morton, writing in +Quartz ​, pens a piece that sums up the motivation of why we +Bernie Sanders supporters have embraced the campaign of Vermont's junior senator. Sanders' candidacy is not a personality-driven affair arising singularly out of one politician's ambition; it's something else. It's a movement about a simple notion as Morton writes:

"You are asking me to consciously give up on any hope I may have of living a sane life in our country. To vote for Clinton in the primaries, I would need to believe that the establishment on both the right and the left have so thoroughly strangled the political system that it is no longer 'reasonable' to even try for reform. I have to be so scared of political opponents gaining power that it is worth it to sacrifice even the hope of being able to get ahead, have a savings cushion, access health care, send our kids to college, retire, or just not feel like we’re constantly living on a knife’s edge, all because of fear of a potential future. . . .

If we don’t elect Sanders, but at least we try, then maybe someday — four years from now, eight, maybe when my kids are grown, who knows — we will make progress again. But to lay down now and accept the position that our political system is so thoroughly bankrupt that I should drop any expectation of living beyond paycheck to paycheck in order to prevent something even worse from happening … well, that’s it. It’s over. The powerful can sit back and relax, knowing that if we didn’t stand up now, we never will . They know their manipulations work. Their place in life (and ours) is set. We shut the door, and I embrace the hand-to-mouth class status we’ve tried to move out of for so long."

Hear, hear!

In essence, what motivates Morton and other supporters of Sanders (like myself) is a rejection on an impoverished politics of technocratic fear that's dressed up as "pragmatism." What inspires us is an aspirational view of politics that embraces a hopeful and just vision of society that confidently looks to the future and does not fear it.

Far too many times "pragmatism" is misused by those who oppose bold advocates who reject an uninspired, defeatist view of politics, to borrow the words of Canadian Liberal Prime Minister +Justin Trudeau, where "good enough is good enough and that better just isn't possible."

What Sanders supporters clearly understand is that progressive politics, at its best, is more than a laundry list of sound, constructive policies that will do much to lift up the many. It is about fighting for a hopeful future where (to quote Trudeau again) "better is always possible." 

Now, despite being on the center-left who started her political career in liberal politics—first by volunteering for Eugene McCarthy​'s anti-war insurgent candidacy in 1968 and later working for  George McGovern​'s idealistic campaign  in 1972—Hillary Clinton has sadly forgotten what makes progressive politics worthy to fight for. Left politics, at its core, is a hopeful, forward-looking creed; it's about boldly facing the future that channels the spirit of RFK who famously said (invoking the spirit of George Bernard Shaw), "Some men see things as they are and say 'Why'? I dream things that never were and say 'Why Not'?"
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Former Greek finance minister, +Yanis Varoufakis, hits it on the nail in astutely explaining why insurgent left-wing parties/movements (like Spain's +PODEMOS  and Greece's Syriza) and progressive candidates (like +Bernie Sanders, Pablo Iglesias, and +Jeremy Corbyn) have seen their political stocks rise in the past two years:

"Last year, the Greeks elected people like me not because they suddenly became leftwing! Similarly with Bernie Sanders. The New Hampshire voters did not suddenly discover they were democratic… socialists! They just had enough of phoney politics and decided to back someone who has been saying the same common sense stuff for decades. They would not vote for a ‘transition to socialism’ (like my voters would not have voted me in last year if I was proposing such a ‘transition’ to them).

But they understand that Bernie and us—his comrades on the Atlantic’s other side—are modest in our aims. We understand that socialism is far, far away—and that it will probably only become pertinent when technology develops further … For now, all we propose is the return to basic liberal democratic principles that the establishment has confined to the dustbin of history—at the cost of everyone (except some, very few, entrepreneurial spivs)."

What those in the media, political, and economic establishment fail to grasp is that worldwide people have experienced decades of dysfunctional political and economic systems (littered with failed institutions) that are unable to respond to the voters' basic aspirations and needs. As such, it's only rational that ordinary people reject the status quo and opt for far-ranging change to fix the pressing (and seeming insurmountable) challenges of today.

For the past two years, the people in many democracies (with either their votes or through their mobilized engagement in the streets) have clearly rejected the decades-long neoliberal settlement—whether it's Reaganite/Thatcherite "market fundamentalism on the right or the technocratic center-left iteration of Clintonite/Blairite "compassionate neoliberalism." 

In this political vacuum where both right-wing and center-left forms of neoliberalism have been rejected, the popular cry of "¡Ya basta!" has risen among the vast populace who have experienced decades-long income stagnation, witnessed the mass privatization of public services, and suffered at the Dickensian heel of draconian austerity that has eviscerated what's left of the social compact that prior generations of workers, activists, and social reformers have tireless fought for.

Despite the distracting, abstract labels of "socialism" or "radicalism" used by the media uncritically parroting the talking points of the establishment used to de-legitimized popular movements from below, what the people are clamoring for is simply a return to both (1) functioning liberal democracy that's not dominated by narrow, elite interests and (2) a sustainable capitalism that actually works for the many rather than being rigged for the few.

#FeelTheBern #NotMeUs
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"Salerno is one of the most enthusiastic Sanders supporters, but she says there’s a part of her excitement that’s bittersweet. 'Sometimes part of me is kind of sad that he’s running,' she says. 'Because before, I was excited about voting for Hillary.'"

In light of the quote above—a sentiment that's shared by a significant number of young female supporters of +Bernie Sanders —imagine what astounding levels of support +Elizabeth Warren would have gotten from this important demographic, as well as from other groups, if she had decided to run in 2016.

If Warren had entered the Democratic primary race, she would have been able to excite a wide range of voters within the Democratic Party as a savvy, progressive feminist senator who can authentically speak to the populist tenor of 2016, as well as being able to energize a significant number of young feminists as being a historic liberal candidate running to be the first female president of the United States. So many what-ifs.
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Whether one is part of the +Bernie Sanders/+Elizabeth Warren  wing or the +Hillary Clinton wing of the Democratic Party, Democrats who wish that their party (the party of Franklin D. Roosevelt ) once again becomes a transformative political vehicle (à la the New Deal) that directly speaks to the broad concerns of working and middle class Americans on Main Street should embrace a form of economic or workplace democracy: giving workers a say in the management of their companies, i.e., co-determination.

Now, to those overly cautious Democrats, in the Beltway, who argue that this is just too "radical" or "socialistic" for the American electorate, may I remind them it was German conservatives who ushered in co-determination as national economic and labor policy going all the way back to the late 1940s. (It was later regulated under the "Co-operative Management Law" in 1951 by West Germany's center-right Christian Democratic government.)
As such, this is not radical; it's common sense. It's not "socialistic" but rather sustainable capitalism that benefits the working many rather than just the elite few.

George Tyler, a former senior official with the World Bank and former Deputy Treasury Assistant Secretary under President Bill Clinton, recently challenged the Democratic Party (in a piece posted at +Social Europe Journal) to embrace economic populism as the effective agenda that can counter Trump's potent populist nationalism. And as part of a robust economic populist agenda, Tyler points out that co-determination must play an integral role.
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This is why the +Bernie Sanders campaign matters: It's not about one candidate, but rather about the inspirational ideals, timeless values, and bold vision that make up this people-powered movement of everyday citizens who believe that the best is always possible. As the social gospel Christian and social-democratic icon behind Canada's beloved universal health care program, Tommy Douglas, once said: "Courage, my friends; 'tis not too late to build a better world."

https://berniesanders.com/this-campaign-is-about-you/?source=sms160130

‪#‎NotMeUs‬ ‪#‎Revolution2016‬ ‪#‎IowaCaucus‬ ‪#‎FeelTheBern‬
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Well, today is the day in which we'll all see whether it is the bold idealists-- or the timid technocrats--who are right: a people-powered movement for bold change vs. an establishment-powered campaign for safe change.

If +Bernie 2016 wins today in Iowa, the powerful grassroots movement in support of his candidacy will join the trajectory of mass-based, insurgent and anti-austerity progressive Left movements around the world (like Spain's +PODEMOS) who have won victories by challenging the ideologically bankrupt neoliberal consensus peddled by both third way centrist Democrats and right-wing neo-Reaganite Republicans for many decades.

This evening may very well be the beginning of a people's democratic revolution in fighting for a better tomorrow for the many rather than just the few. Indeed, Iowa may be the beginning of our "Podemos moment" in America.

#FeelTheBern
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With some of the latest polling results showing +Bernie Sanders behind Hillary Clinton (albeit, still within the margin of error) in Iowa, there is a pro-Sanders demographic that may be decisive tomorrow, yet may have been undercounted (or not counted at all) in some of these polls: 17-year-olds.

A piece, published in +POLITICO ​, points out the following:

"A campaign strategy targeting teenagers as young as 17 might sound like a waste of valuable time and money. But in Iowa there are 52,000 high school seniors who will be 18 by Election Day, and the rules of caucus voting allow anyone eligible to vote in November to participate this Monday. Confident that this slice of the electorate is overwhelmingly Bernie territory, the Sanders campaign has gone after them aggressively -- his website is the only one among his Democratic rivals that makes explicit multiple reminders about this quirk in the age rules."
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David Dayen, writing in +The Fiscal Times, recently pen an article that is a must-read for those interested in the political, philosophical, and policy divide within not only the Democratic Party, but within liberalism itself. The attacks against +Bernie Sanders  by some liberal writers and policy entrepreneurs are not merely representative of the division between the Warren-Sanders wing vs. the Democratic establishment (or liberal centrist party grandees). It's more than that. It's a divide between two competing visions of 21st century liberalism: a populist, progressive liberalism that believes in real change (i.e., deep, structural reforms) vs. technocratic, bloodless liberalism that believes in safe change (i.e., small-bore, tinkering reforms).
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Josh Vorhees, writing in +Slate,  captures the essence of +Bernie Sanders' campaign (and the sharp difference with +Hillary Clinton's candidacy):

"Bernie logs a decent amount of screen time, but the only time he speaks is to deliver the required tag line at the very end: 'I’m Bernie Sanders and I approve this message.' And the message that’s delivered: It’s about you, not him [emphasis added]."

At the end of the day, the campaign narratives of Sanders and Clinton are a study in contrasts. For Sanders, his mantra of "political revolution" is all about putting the spotlight on the people rather him. While for Clinton, her declaration of "experience" is the opposite: it's all about focusing on her rather than on the people.

So far, looking at the trajectory of the latest polls in the Democratic Party primary season, it seems that the politics of the "people" is trumping the politics of "personality."
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