Booing Bernie, Self-Inflicted Wounds, And the End of Revolution

 

‘Indict the DNC.’

Image from the Guardian

 

First Story: The DNC is, if not corrupt, certainly skewed toward boring centrism, and staffed with hacks and dopes who send idiotic, if ineffective, emails to each other plotting against Bernie Sanders and any real progressive change. Their little plots might not have come to fruition, but it was symbolic of the attempt to stifle a move toward the left. At the worst, the nomination was stolen from Bernie Sanders, and given to a warmongering neoliberal. Undemocratic superdelegates were just part of that.

Second Story: Hillary would have won anyway. She had the support of Hispanics, blacks, women, and other important parts of the Democratic Coalition. She beat Bernie Sanders by more votes, and more pledged delegates, than Obama beat her by in 2008. The dopes at the DNC didn’t matter. They could have supported Bernie, and he still would have lost.

Third Story: Regardless of DNC perfidy and juvenile grabassery, Bernie supporters have to come around. And the polls say most of them are. Like, 90%. It’s not even close. But the optics are terrible. The media is salivating for a “both sides in disarray!” story. Getting rid of the unexplainable Debbie Wasserman Schultz should be good. Having the most progressive platform in Democratic history should be a huge win. You’ve pushed the DNC as far to the left as can possibly be expected. Even Bernie Sanders is saying that booing is going to be terrible optics, and the stakes are too high. (a Bernie text, via Digby)

And yet, he was booed by some of his own supporters.

Let’s be clear: this is a minority of a minority, and in a very real sense, they are being crazily selfish, hoping for an impossible purity rather than accepting that they have, in a real sense won. The party has moved in their direction, and not even incrementally. If they raise a panic, stomp out, and think that the revolution can only be won by getting everything all at once or nothing at all, then nothing will win. Every amazing thing Sanders accomplished would be ruined.

And yet…they have every right to be angry. What happened at the DNC is not surprising, but it is still maddening and terrible, probably more so for all that. It was a self-inflicted wound by the DNC, in an election that should not be close, that cannot be close.

So the DNC hurt themselves, in an inexcusable way. The lesson for Bernie Sanders supporters is to not do the same fucking thing. Chanting “lock her up”, militating against Hillary, working actively for Trump is a betrayal to everything that every one of us who voted for Bernie voted for. It’s a betrayal of hope. It’s more than a self-inflicted wound. It’s progressive suicide.

So yes, it sucks that you are being asked to be “silent”. I get it. But you’ve already accomplished so much, and the stakes are too high. There is a legitimate honest-to-god fascist running. Your feelings are literally the least important thing here.

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RIP DWS. DNC? GFY.

 

“How many times have I failed at this job?” 

 

Well, it took catastrophic stupidity to finally end the DNC tenure of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, but since that’s what it clearly took to appoint her, and to keep her in after 2014, I suppose that’s fitting.  A few quick thoughts.

  • The main take from the emails– that the DNC was pulling for and maneuvering in favor of Hillary– is not surprising. Not surprising in the sense that we already knew this, but also not surprising in tone. Political people think like political people and talk like them. There wasn’t going to be any neutrality. Remember this when you see people talking about the rigged Democratic leadership who were wondering when the Republican leadership was going to step up to stop Trump. It’s always ok when Republicans do it.
  • That said, this is terrible. It’s another example of DWS’s disastrous “leadership”, in which we managed to lose the Senate, virtually every possible statehouse, and fall backward in the House. It’s like she saw Rahm ignoring the successful lessons of Howard Dean, and saying “I think we should do more of this.” The organization followed. Were in not for the once-in-the-lifetime skills of Barack Obama, and the energy of the resurgent left giving new life to the party, it would be total disarray.
  • I’m not worried about this electorally. Bernie will still be speaking tonight, calling for unity. There will be protests, and a lot of #neverhillary people yelping on TV, but these people weren’t going to vote for her anyway. This is cover, not a reason.
  • That they are right– the system was set up against Bernie– should, in theory, give them even more resolve to push the party to the left. Look at what they accomplished with (admittedly incompetent) enemies. And now DWS is gone! This is a great chance to keep pushing one of the only two viable parties more toward their goals. I know that’s what I am hoping for: an actually progressive in the DNC chairperson role. Why not bring back Howard Dean under whom we were, remember, wildly successful. In the short, medium, and long run, this idiocy could be hepful. (It’s Donna Brazille, at least through the election, which is fine.)
  • A lot depends on the speech tonight, and how well the convention goes. The press would love to have a “both parties in turmoil” story, based on the equivalence of jumped-up fundraisers and college interns at the DNC acting like their venal boss and the rise of American fascism. It’s going to take a hell of a convention to turn that tide. If so, and the story is “a week that started in disarray ended with great unity”, that’ll be a rising tide. I think having Bernie and Michelle and Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden and Barack Obama speak makes it a decent bet.
  • Really, the big story is the Russian connection. It looks more and more likely that they were officially behind the hack, in whatever way the Russian intelligence services work. Trump and Putin are clearly sympatico, though I don’t think Putin sees it as a gathering of equals. Trump does a lot of business in Russia, and needs Russian money, since American banks don’t trust him. His top advisors are intimately intertwined with Russia, and its goals of using energy to dominate their regional rivals. They are vested in the dissoltuion or Europe, the weakening of NATO, and an isolationist agenda. And hey, those are all Trump stances! This could get really interesting…

The Hazara Suicide Bombing And The Hint of Normal Life

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Image from al-Jazeera

The week after the horrors in Nice was another brutal one, a visceral slog through the depths of today’s insanity, focused mainly on Germany.  An axe attack in Germany. A suicide bombing by a Syrian refugee in Germany. Another German tragedy, an American-style mass shooting, was (seemingly) not directed or inspired by ISIS or al-Qaeda, or any militancy at all, save for the militancy of a disturbed criminal mind (which: same with Nice, and Munich, and Orlando. Same mindset; barely-different justifications).

There was also a massive suicide bombing in Afghanistan, in which 80 people were killed and another 230 were wounded. It’s a strange number, 80. On the day of the Nice attack, as the number kept spiraling upward, 80 seemed unimaginable. It feels different in Afghanistan, though. It feels almost normal. We’re inured to violence there, in a way that dehumanizes the victims of ISIS. Even when lip-service is paid, even (especially) when politicians say that “ISIS kills more Muslims than anyone else”, there’s a feeling that those lives don’t matter. They certainly don’t grab the headlines.

That’s partly a man-bites-dog thing, of course: Afghanistan has been in a state of near-constant war for nearly 40 years, and we’re fatigued. Same with Iraq and Syria and Lebanon and Yemen and anywhere else where people are seemingly constantly being killed. It seems like part of normal life, just the regular course of things. We have trouble extending empathy to imagine them feeling the same kind of pain we can envision in France or Germany.

The thing is though, one of the grossest tragedies of the Afghanistan suicide bombing is who the targets were, and why they were there. The targets were the Hazara, Persian-speaking Shi’ites, a minority based mainly in Afghanistan who are the frequent target of the Taliban, of ISIS, of al-Qaeda, of the Pashtun, and others. They are frequently kicked around, and struggle for protection. Iran is the one constant friend.

So, then, why were they all in a group, able to be targeted?

Guardian

The protesters were marching against government plans for a major power project to bypass Bamiyan, a predominantly Hazara province in the central highlands. Following similar protests in May, Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, established a commission to look into the issue but government attempts to find a compromise failed. On 19 June, a contract was signed to build a smaller electricity line through Bamiyan, which did not placate Hazara activists.

Al-Jazeera

The 500-kilovolt TUTAP power line, which would connect the Central Asian nations of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan with electricity-hungry Afghanistan and Pakistan, was originally set to pass through the central province.

But the government re-routed it through the mountainous Salang pass north of Kabul, saying the shorter route would speed up the project and save millions of dollars.

Electricity. Power. Zoning. The desire to be economically and literally connected. The decision to bypass them might have been to save money, or it might have been to further put the screws on the Hazara, or it may have been both. The former might have been an excuse for the latter, or maybe just a coverup for it. The reasons are part of Afghan history and politics, and I don’t feel comfortable speaking to them.

But the protest? That’s normal life. That’s a group of people who are tired of their situation, who feel oppressed, and who want something that is normal. Take away the historical oppression, and imagine it as anything else: a potentially lucrative and life-bettering development was going to happen (imagine it if you want a railroad or a dam or a base to build the newest military joint-strike hybrid disaster) and then it was taken way. The hydroelectric plant was supposed to go near this town but the TVA shifted it away. There are a million parallels around the world. Anyone would be mad, and anyone would protest.

That’s exactly the point: this is normal life, or at the very least, the desire for it, taken away in a energy-filled pulse, that pulverizes organs and rends limbs and makes the face of life unrecognizable. These are (and were) human beings, who despite living in a land of war, many of whom have known war and terror their whole lives, who are willing to stand outside and protest electrical lines. They petition for surveyors and government project planners to look over their notes again and maybe try something new. They are standing up in the city council meeting of a mid-sized Illinois town and asking for the baseball diamond on 4th to be maintained.

There’s no simple answer for terrorism, and the extension of empathy (which can’t just be willed, not even for someone who tries) won’t end it. The recognition that Muslim lives are real won’t stop ISIS, especially when they are the ones taking Muslim lives like a joyless Queen of Hearts. But the dehumanization of Muslim lives, whether that is in the headlines or in the speeches of politicians who treat refugees like a murderous and faceless horde, serves the recruitment purposes of our enemies. It can help a non-political, non-active, and not-even-particularly-religious immigrant decide that they are going to move from petty crimes and personal abuse to a mass killing, in the vague name of some group they barely know. It’s a cycle that will take a generation to break out of. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a duty to start.