How Crazy is this Women’s Card Attack?

Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton cheer at her New York primary campaign headquarters, Tuesday, April 19, 2016, in New York

Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton cheer at her New York primary campaign headquarters, Tuesday, April 19, 2016, in New York

Little Rock    Really? You have to be kidding me! In the 21st century what kind of political calculations lead someone to believe that there is gain to be had by attacking Hillary Clinton expressly on the issue that she is a woman? Unbelievable!

I mean really, if the choice is electing the first billionaire or the first woman, who can possibly believe that’s really a choice. Better to play the card than think you can get a better deal with someone trying to buy the deck, the table, and the whole casino.

Where has Donald Trump been the last 70 years? He needs to get his plane out of the clouds. Are women tough enough, geez look what Margaret Thatcher did to the United Kingdom and Indira Gandhi did to India. There’s a case to be made that – right or wrong – men are soft by comparison. Can they lead, look around, and take the measure of Germany’s Angela Merkel who is virtually holding Europe together with her bare hands.

And, yet a Republican analyst was arguing that maybe, just maybe, Trump and his people were being shrewd and trying to “Swift boat” Hillary early on the women’s issue to sow doubt now on one of her significant assets against Trump by casting a shadow on her strengths, just as Bush did to Kerry on his war record. Hillary’s advisors were both jumping up and down over Trump’s wild misogyny and trying to figure out the proper tone of response so they didn’t alienate men.

Geez, my take was different and disappointment more real. Only a day after I had argued that Hillary needed to “go big” and sew up working women’s vote everywhere with a bold proposal for government programs and increased federal support for adequate and affordable daycare and eldercare to rally women, now with Trump’s preemptive attack on her solely over her gender, basically she doesn’t have to swing hard to win the critical women’s vote, she just has to keep standing, and it’s hers.

Even more depressing is the underlying comment about American culture and the continued divide even between race and sex. There is no doubt that a huge percentage of the stubborn resistance to President Obama, both personally and politically, emanates from resistance to his race. Yet, no candidate, big or small, well-meaning or mean spirited, ever was stupid enough to attack Obama precisely. Nonetheless, there is absolutely no hesitancy to attack Hillary exclusively on her gender.

On race, we have finally drawn a line about what is beyond the pale, but on gender it’s still anything goes, the sky is the limit, and there’s no such thing as too low to go. No coding there. No dog whistles to the masses, just straight-up women hating. Explains a lot about everything from the Republicans’ perverse interest in trying to infantilize women on the issue of their bodies and babies and their fear of other orientations from the bathroom to the bedroom.

We all knew this race was not going to be pretty, but we’re now getting a grasp of how humiliating the whole affair may be to all of us as a people.


Is a Progressive Future Ours to Lose?

02supertuesday-sanders-superJumboLittle Rock   Ok, puzzle me this, joker, if Bernie Sanders doesn’t go out of the box as I’ve argued he should to gain increased leverage, but instead gets lost in the arcane minutia of Democratic platform politics, what is the progressive future? There are several scenarios that are possible, even if unlikely, but at least worth strategic consideration.

We’ve learned two things that we shouldn’t forget in the 2016 primaries thanks to the Sanders’ campaign. First, to use a sports analogy, small ball can at least stay on the court against the big guys, meaning in politics that small donors can equal big fat wallets. The money primary can be won with the right candidates and program as we have seen with Obama in 2008 and now with Sanders in 2016. Secondly, to quote Nate Silver’s data crunching, FiveThirtyEight website, “The Democratic electorate turning out in 2016 has been a lot more liberal than it was in the last competitive Democratic primary, in 2008.” The tide is turning our way.

To Charles Blow of the New York Times that says that the “moderate/conservative portion of the Democratic primary electorate [could] become a minority in the next 10 years.” He worries that that could create the kind of divisiveness within the Democratic Party that the rise of Trump is creating for the Republicans. Maybe, but let’s say Clinton wins the presidency as a moderate/liberal/hawk having survived by the reckoning of many as the best of bad choices. The Sanders constituency that stays in the Democratic Party won’t be happy and an evolving progressive base will still be looking for someone or something to carry its banner, so my bet is that Clinton will face a challenge on the left in the 2020 primaries, especially since she won’t solve inequality, the betting odds are that we will be more likely to be in military conflict than not, and Sanders has created more space that someone will want to fill. She would still win the Democratic nomination in 2020, because there’s no way a sitting President doesn’t, remember Jimmy Carter, but the Republicans will learn from the Trump trouncing, and might then hold her to one term. Sadly, that would leave the progressive faction discredited, farther out of power, and estranged from its own growing base.

I think progressives get trapped in that scenario because we are competing with a significant base, but in an arena so alien to our core competency on rules that so radically privilege incumbents and elites that we can’t win, and worst can be ignored. All of which argues that we do better building an independent base either through an alternative party, a national Working Families Party style fusion strategy, or a temporary free floating ad hoc coalition strategy of running and winning with independents. There is energy for such strategies, and there are young, savvy candidates who will emerge as well.

Implementing any of these strategies means years of hard work in the vineyards, but at least there’s something real at the end of the rainbow. The short term strategies that depend on taking down the establishment with an inside coup, seem destined for failure and leave us holding an empty bag, and, worse, starting over from scratch on a job we should have started yesterday, but at the least need to get busy with today.


Want Women’s Vote, How About More Childcare and Eldercare

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Little Rock    You can stick a fork in it now. It’s done or, as they say, all over but the shouting. Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State, U.S. Senator from New York, and First Lady at the end of the 90s will be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. Think about it: that’s a huge first right there, but don’t take a breath, the Vandals and the Visigoths are still gathering at the city wall, so there’s a huge battle still waiting.

Many have argued in the last several cycles that the key to winning is women. Here’s the most recent case from inside the Clinton campaign, as quoted in the New York Times:

“Realistically, the most important part in all of this are white working-class women,” said Geoff Garin, a pollster and strategist on Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 campaign who is now advising Priorities [a super PAC], citing Mrs. Clinton’s emphasis on issues like equal pay for women and an increase in the minimum wage.

I’m going to make this argument again. And, probably again and again and again. It’s time for Clinton to go big. And, if we want working-class women, black, brown or white, equal pay is fine and some bumps of the minimum wage are good, but that’s not going big, that’s just “me, too” on the dogpile. I’m not foolish enough to say what working-class women want, but from talking to them every day, I can tell you what I hear most often that they need: safe and affordable childcare and eldercare and a whole lot more of it.

I’m not saying that working women would pass up a raise or that their blood doesn’t boil when they find some dude making more and doing the same job, but what crushes their world and upends their whole lives is the inadequacy of care for the young and old. No matter how much mansplaining is trumpeting, how many more loads of wash and dishes are done along with school pickups and whatever, when push comes to shove more child and elder care still falls on women.

Inadequate and unaffordable childcare pushes women out of work and into precarious situations fraught with tension and stress. A real federal program that matched childcare vouchers with working mothers would create citizen wealth and family security. No near term increase in wages would equal the weekly savings most working class women would gain from subsidized childcare.

When it comes to adequate and affordable eldercare it’s a different and harder problem, because nothing exists in the formal economy. Home health aides have been godsends, but the reimbursement is inadequate and time-stamped, even while relatives are living longer and longer. No one believes that assisted-living is the real solution except for the well-to-do or those who can finagle Medicare and other resources. Nursing homes are last resorts. All of which invariably pushes the burdens to families, and dollars to donuts that means it is falling disproportionately on working women. Once again forcing many of them out of the workplace or into tenuous employment.

We need to do better for our children and our elderly and stop looking the other way and assuming we all live on farms still or in some kind of multi-generational Indian family in Delhi when life begins until death dost part. Want to breakthrough with women, let’s raise up some new issues that wedge differently, and talk about programs and subsidies that don’t just make it easier to make it another day, but change the whole character and expectations of working class quality of life.


Hillary: Forget the Young Women, Go for the Moms

Lucia McBath, left, mother of Jordan Davis, and Maria Hamilton, mother of Dontre Hamilton, react as Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, talks about her son next to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during a rally at the Central Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C. Image: Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press Juana_summers By Juana Summers Feb 23, 2016

Lucia McBath, left, mother of Jordan Davis, and Maria Hamilton, mother of Dontre Hamilton, react as Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, talks about her son next to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during a rally at the Central Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C. Image: Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

New Orleans    Hillary Clinton is having well-documented problems appealing to young women. Backers like Gloria Steinem have been no help to her. She can talk about student loans and the need to get a woman elected, but where she’s getting traction, very cleverly, is with the “moms,” and if we were whispering advice in her ear, it would have to be: “do more of that, sister!”

Brilliantly, she seems to have reached out and courted African-American mothers of young men shot by police. The Times detailed her outreach, and it’s a textbook example of the advantage of a well-organized internal campaign organization and uber-professional campaign staffers. She sent them handwritten notes on Christmas cards about their losses. She followed up with other hand-written notes. She got some of them together for a 3-hour dinner in Chicago, and this wasn’t a Michelle Obama healthy sprouts special, this was old time, down home, Southern cooking, featuring pork chops, fried okra, and apple pie. She did what she does best as the every diligent, super-student in the room, listening and taking notes while they told their stories. She put them on the road together to appear at meetings and rallies, where she smartly introduces them to much better applause than she gets on her best lines. OK, sure the story was planted with the Times and pushed along and facilitated by the campaign, but that also proves my earlier point about how well organized and professional her campaign has the ability to be. Undoubtedly, this kind of outreach has been pure gold in sending her message, silently and with strength, to the African-American community. Who wants to see another grinning politician or wannabe, if you can stand in applause for sister in pain?

If something is working, why not do more of it? Hillary should double-down on the “mom” vote. Heck, they vote more than young women anyway, when push comes to shove.

But, why not do more and prove to the rest of us that you will be our standard bearer?

Why not argue more aggressively for family leave that means something? Not just some unpaid leave if you’re lucky enough to work for a big company, but real leave for pregnancy with support and pay for everyone?

Why is Clinton not making paid sick leave a bigger issue for working mothers – and fathers! There’s increasing support for such leave in statehouses and cities, why not carry that banner?

And, here’s the kicker? Isn’t it finally time to talk about universal daycare? The advantages are immense: job creation, more women in the workforce, less loss of working hours, earlier education of children, huge financial savings for families, reduced inequality, and just plain peace of mind. You want moms – and a heck of a lot of dads – then finally fix daycare and take it out of the shadows of always low-waged and often informal employment and create something that supports families and children. Moms would crowd the rallies and stand in line for a candidate really committed to delivering on this issue.

And, besides we should all whisper to Secretary Clinton, universal adequate and affordable daycare for children is a core feminist issue. Surprise yourself, go one-hundred percent for the moms, and see if positions like these, sincerely felt and strongly argued, don’t bring even young women to your side as well.


Please enjoy The Jayhawks’ Quiet Corners & Empty Spaces.  Thanks to KABF.


Unmask Race and President Obama is the Comeback Kid!

Senator Bernie Sanders watches as President Obama signs the Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Senator Bernie Sanders watches as President Obama signs the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP

New Orleans     Big, fat surprise in the land of hateration, President Obama’s popularity is shooting up, up, up. He’s now over 50% and rising. Articles in the papers are starting to wonder why he’s not getting more credit for the economic recovery in Rust Belt states like Michigan and Indiana, since nationally unemployment is down to 5% and in some places in the Midwest it’s in the 3s. What’s up?!?

Part of it is clearly the fact that many on the right, middle, and even the left, are looking at the candidates vying to take his place and saying, Holy Jesus, what has God wrought! Hillary Clinton is dying out there with progressives, the young, and many women, feminists included, are putting their hands over their faces to hide big, fat yawns. Bernie “Old as Dirt” Sanders has managed to have less negatives than Clinton, even wearing the red vest of socialism proudly under his suit jacket. In fact his numbers are higher than Hillary’s in one-on-one polls against Donald Trump, if the general election were tomorrow.

And, that brings us to the Republicans, mercy me! It’s not just that they all measure up like Lilliputians next to a giant, but they are scaring the dickens out of huge numbers of the American public. Perhaps most importantly when we look at the drivers behind the contradiction of this puppy love of a large segment of the white working class for a billionaire of all things, it’s not the just the easy answer of being left behind in the modern economy, but the anger is the old anger deeply embedded in race, pure and simple. The more this campaign drags on, the more the suspicion of the African-American electorate that a lot of the venom directed at the President is based on the fact that he’s black more than his policies is verified as hard cold reality.

Thanks to the schoolyard bullying and brawling of the Republican primary, even hardcore ideological opponents among the nation’s punditry are also having to admit that they have to give President his due. There can’t be any argument that he brought dignity to the office. Compared to the hip shooters vying for the job, being Cool Hand Luke now looks good to some of his opponents. They even concede he has good manners, a picture perfect family, and has presided over his two terms with hardly a wisp of scandal and nothing that would point in his direction.

Some of this may be the voters coming to grip with the “devil they know” being better than the devil they don’t know, but reading an unending piece in The Atlantic based on a series of interviews with President Obama about his driving philosophy, actions, and initiatives in foreign policy was a little bit like meeting Marshall Dillon and admiring his balance in working with nothing but trigger happy gunslingers. Obama didn’t call people out, but the reporter and the article made it pretty clear that without Obama’s restraint and courage if it had been left to Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Samantha Power, and a litany of other advisers as well as what Obama called the dictates of the “Washington Playbook,” we would be stuck unendingly in the middle of the Syrian conflict with boots on the ground for years and years. Obama may not have deserved the Nobel Prize when he won it when he was still wet behind the ears in his first term, but in Syria, Iran, Cuba, and other areas, he has earned it now.

We all have just cause to complain about the lack of progress on many domestic issues in Obama’s first six years, save the “better than nothing” Affordable Care Act, but I would bet that his footprint on the world stage and White House lawn is going to be a tough act to follow for generations.


Does Hillary Clinton Have a Real Plan for Income Inequality?

Victims of MFIs display their daily payment cards in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. The Reserve Bank of India has appointed a sub-committee to look at governance issues. Photo: The Hindu/C.V. Subrahmanyam

Victims of MFIs display their daily payment cards in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh.  Photo: The Hindu/C.V. Subrahmanyam

Halifax    It’s time to start getting serious now that reality is sinking in and giving us a better look at a possible political future. There’s woe and rage about wage stagnation, the few future prospects of family-supporting jobs, deindustrialization, and millions stuck in grinding poverty while others have been allowed stupendous riches, and while fingers are pointing wildly, if Hillary Clinton is going to be the standard bearer for hope on any of these fronts, does she have a plan? Do we have any hope?

President Obama floated an interesting notion of wage insurance that would provide a cushion for a couple of years by making up a large part of the difference between a former job at higher pay and a new job at whatever was available in order to allow workers a transition and the ability to try to stay on their feet. This is not a guaranteed annual income proposal, which is what we need, but a shot in the right direction, even though it has no current or likely chance of passage. So far Hillary Clinton has danced around the $15 per hour minimum wage fight, arguing that, yes, a raise is needed, but, geez, not that much. She has also concretely argued for an increase in the earned income tax credit, but once again, you have to actually have a low-wage job for EITC to give a worker and her family much of a break. Once again, this doesn’t alleviate poverty.

For all of Clinton’s talk about women and children both domestically and in her recent past as Secretary of State and via the Clinton Foundation, it is still hard for me to believe she has been uncoupled from President Bill Clinton’s bargains with the devils on “ending welfare as we know it” that has put a hammerlock around the necks of many of America’s poorest families, while opening the door on tax breaks that have created an entire new class of the mega-rich. Her constant drumbeating for micro-lending and microfinance in her career is also very disconcerting, since at best microfinance is a job-buying subsistence program, not a poverty reduction scheme. Increasing debt is a guarantee for most families of an accelerated poverty trap, not an escape hatch. The support of microfinance institutions is widely understood now as simply smoothing the path for new markets under the existing financial models, not narrowing the inequality gap.

Thomas Frank in a devastating critique writing in Harper’s recently labeled much of Clinton’s work both in and out of government in the poverty reduction fight as largely a “virtue quest” rather than a serious fight against inequality or a struggle to break ground with workable policy prescriptions. He correctly pulls down the false flag of microfinance, but also gets too close to comfort on what may be the real problem of Clinton’s coziness with elites which is an embrace of what Michael Lewis years ago called “access capitalism.” Access capitalism is a world of head-nodding approval from policy makers, celebrities, philanthropists, foundations, corporate heads, former government officials, and others, which secures the common consensus, through its special access to the cronyism that both provides the infrastructure and the launching pad for “professional liberals” and same-old-story-business-as-usual capitalism and its implicit acceptance of intractable poverty and dream shattering inequality.

If that’s where she has been living, what does it take for Bernie Sanders, young activists, and the progressive forces to push her towards real programs, both domestically and internationally, before the dumbing down of the campaign and the inevitable compromises of government pull us farther away from winning change?