It’s June, early June, but the trail is already crowded with presidential hopefuls. Close to two dozen Democratic candidates are now competing for the nomination. While on the surface, their platforms are not fundamentally different, the corporate media seem to have made their choice on whom they would prefer to face Donald Trump in November of next year. The consensus appears to have centered around Joe Biden, whose announcement last April was received with unbound enthusiasm from the Washington establishment.
Dubbed a “centrist,” Biden believes his years as Obama’s VP, his connections with the superrich—oligarchs and nouveaux riches—will ultimately serve as key elements in his résumé, enough to sway Wall Street financiers onto his bandwagon. A conventional politician, he had to make sure the underwriters were on board because the prospect of running a shoestring operation terrifies him to the core. After all, without an army of tech savvy soldiers, with no grassroots organization, Biden knows if he stands a chance at clinching the nomination, the money managers MUST bankroll his campaign.
Biden, however, does not have to worry. The money will start pouring in like sheets of rains in a fast-moving typhoon. From Comcast executives to hedge fund managers of Silicon Valley, all seem ready to use their power and wealth to catapult Joe Biden to the presidency and, in doing so, to forestall a wave of Democratic candidates who, according to the New York Times, view “the Republican Party as irretrievably malignant.”
The most feared among the pack is frontrunner Bernie Sanders, whose insurgent campaign makes no apology for his blistering message against corporate greed, the military industrial complex, and the political establishment. Moreover, the superrich see Bernie’s policy prescription, which promotes Medicare for all through a single payer system, raising the minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour, and free college tuition, as a direct assault on their monopoly.
To those who live in the uptown world, Bernie’s campaign is an appalling insurgency that threatens to unscramble the omelet. To them, each election cycle should be nothing but another affirmation of the two-in-one party system—a recreation of their liking—but never an instrument that may someday be used to destroy what French sociologist Monique Pinçon Charlot calls “a nonchalant and arrogant form of between themselves”—between themselves behind their exclusive gated communities, between themselves within their corporate boardrooms and at the top-end of the pyramid of power, between themselves over the lush, green lawn of their élite golf course communities where they practice their swings while checking their Wall Street investments at each pause, between themselves in prestigious, private institutions to educate their children. The latter phase of this dull and unimaginative form of “between themselves” is the uppermost cherished, for it provides the framework that has given birth to a culture of dominance and has allowed them to marry between themselves in order to ensure their perennial control of society.
Can Biden truly deliver?
With so much at stake, losing is not an option. But how do image makers create a political saint out of a politician whose character is anything but pristine? Joe Biden’s career has been a journey full of erratic missteps, from plagiarizing to outright racism to co-authoring Bill Clinton’s Crime Bill targeting young black males. Biden’s endeavors seem far removed from what it takes to foster a winning campaign short of resorting to cheating. Biden, like many of his fellow politicians, harbors a compulsive craving to raise cash. Since leaving office as vice president, it has been a financial windfall for Mr. Biden. He has learned from the Clintons’ playbook. “Mr. Biden has earned millions of dollars through paid speeches and book deals and has created a network of nonprofits and academic centers that employ many of his trusted aides. [Although he says] he intends to shut down the most prominent of those groups, the Biden Foundation.” This was according to the New York Times and many other news outlets.
The latest shocker was what he orchestrated last year when he flew to Benton Harbor, Michigan, three weeks before the highly anticipated November midterm elections. Biden told his friends in Washington his trip to Michigan was part of a grand strategy to reclaim the Midwest for Democrats. Instead, at Lake Michigan College where he was scheduled to speak, he waltzed onto the stage, patting what is left of his silver hair before an audience full of GOP sympathizers to praise Republican Fred Hupton, who was facing a tough reelection battle against Democratic challenger, Matt Longjohn. To the dismay of the Democrats, Biden was not there to support them, he was there to collect “$200,000 from ECSM (Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan for the address.”
A copy of the contract was obtained by the Times. Hupton, a powerful Republican in Congress who, in 2017, helped craft the bill to repeal the ACA (Affordable Care Act), sat in the audience, visibly gleeful for the endorsement that has led to his victory on election night. Needless to say how furious the Dems in Michigan were, at a time the Democratic Party was desperately trying to recapture the leadership in Congress.
With such political baggage, every stakeholder must come to the rescue. Shortly after Biden announced that he was in, an avalanche of endorsements rushed in. Noticeable were Senators Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Doug Jones of Alabama and former New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, who offered to help lead Biden’s campaign in that crucial state. In the face of an ascendant wave of progressivism, their aim is to make sure Joe is crowned as the indisputable frontrunner by Super Tuesday.
In the South, where the fight could be bloodier, old crocodiles have been resurrected and readied for the get-out-to-vote scheme. Leading the charge against what they now call the insurgents is House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, who has already taken up position for yet another replay in the selling of the African-American vote in wholesale trading in South Carolina. As always, all black church leaders will be ordered to mobilize the buses that usually take members to the polls in every election cycle in order to make sure no one goes astray. In primary politics, South Carolina is a key component in putting the puzzle together.
It is inconceivable at a time when poverty and race—blacks, Hispanics and other minorities—are perfectly intertwined, when generations of African-Americans are disproportionately disenfranchised for a black politician to be so shamelessly egotistical, preying on the vulnerability of his constituency, hoodwinking struggling black families to vote against candidates who are fighting for environmental, racial, social, and economic justice.
Until now, Biden has yet to wear the progressive straitjacket. Instead, he is telling America he is fighting for its heart and soul. “I’m a unifier who has what it takes to bring both Democrats and Republicans together,” he said while campaigning in Philadelphia last week. Avoiding his Democratic rivals, he has taken the fight directly to Trump, as if he has already won the nomination—an arrogance that has infuriated many of his fellow Democrats.
And if money, power and influence are not enough to beat back the progressive wave, divide-to-conquer must be introduced. That strategy might be the most effective of all, for the other candidates are not there to corroborate Bernie’s agenda. They’re there because they want to be president of the United States. However, one needs money, and lots of it, to run an effective campaign in continental USA. In politics, money is the mother of all evils. Everyone is tempted to go after the big donors—everyone, except Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who refuse to compromise their principles in exchange for money.
Opportunistic in many ways, they change positions and color like stealthy chameleons on the forest floor. For example, Kamala Harris says she would negotiate with the big banks over the vexing student loan issue. During his kickoff speech in New Jersey, Cory Booker took jabs at Bernie. Reassuring his donors, he made it clear that he will never “sacrifice progress for purity” in the pursuit of elusive dreams.
Pete Buttigieg is an interesting case, not because of his uniqueness for being the mayor of an obscure Midwestern town in Indiana to run for president, not because of his sexual orientation. He is unique because of his appeal to an audience that would otherwise vote for Bernie Sanders. In the grand scheme to cut Bernie’s margin, money will be used to empower candidates who will never be strong enough to surpass Joe Biden’s questionable lead in the polls, but strong enough to weaken Bernie’s campaign.
According to an article on Politico published last week, Pete Buttigieg’s campaign is “brimming with cash and new staffs.” With cash swelling his budget, “the campaign recently snagged Hillary for America alum George Hornedo as national delegate director. And, with a swagger more often seen in Silicon Valley startups, it’s even hired something called a ‘chief innovation officer’—former Google senior engineer Ann Mei Chang—and a creative director, Obama White House alum Julian Maryonovich,” Politico tells us.
Buttigieg went on to acquire more experienced individuals including New York operative Lis Smith and Nina Smith as national traveling press secretary, including two deputy national press secretaries: Tess Whittlesey and Marisol Samayoa. Buttigieg has brought in veteran Democratic ad maker, Larry Grisolano, who served as director of paid media and opinion research for Obama in 2008. Mayor Pete’s poll numbers seem to be moving higher, and that’s bad news for Bernie’s campaign.
Bernie Sanders soldiers on
If traditional Democrats and their powerful allies are flexing their muscles, the progressive left is not running away. Politics is an art, not a game. It involves competing forces bent on making sure their ideas and agenda triumph. It involves people’s lives and their future, and that’s what makes citizens’ engagement so strategic. With this understanding, many grassroots organizations have moved swiftly to take on the Biden’s scheme. Justice Democrats , one of the more influential groups, issued a scornful statement rejecting Joe Biden as the real option and describing him as a symbol of the Democratic establishment that was unable to stop Trump in 2016. “The old guard of the Democratic Party failed to stop Trump, and they can’t be counted on to lead the fight against his divide-and-conquer politics today,” said Alexandra Rojas, the group’s executive director. Sanders’s campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, mocked Biden for ending the first official day of his campaign “in the home of a corporate lobbyist,” in reference to Biden’s fundraiser in Philadelphia with a Comcast executive.
Meanwhile, Bernie is on the stump doing what he does best: staying on message, crisscrossing the country, giving speeches to sold-out arenas, educating people about their constitutional-given rights to get involved. However affective is the message, the campaign’s top strategists understand this is just half of the work needed to win the White House. There are lessons to be learned from the defeat in 2016. Just as three years ago, today the greatest obstacle Bernie Sanders faces is the protracted, smear campaign being orchestrated against him in the mainstream media.
At the start of the campaign in 2016, they ignored him, dismissing him as a fringe candidate with far-out ideas; and when he was propelled to the public consciousness, thanks to online media and word-of-mouth, they switched gears to smear him and his base as being delusional, out-of-touch with reality and weak on foreign policy. This was quite apparent on March 6 and 7, when the Washington Post published 16 hit pieces—back-to-back—against Sanders in 16 hours, attacking every single policy proposal in the political platform and calling them “unrealistic.” Today, as in 2016, in pundit world, Sanders’s policy proposals are being compared with Venezuela and other countries of the old Soviet bloc, insulting the intelligence of readers while implicitly telling voters to reject policies that will ultimately better their lives.
With such blatant dishonesty, Bernie’s campaign needs to take a more proactive tone. Replying to set the record straight whenever someone in the media lies about or mischaracterizes one of the campaign’s policy proposals is fine, but more importantly it needs to explicitly point out the negative intentions of the pundit. As was noted in the International Digest, “If Bernie wins the Democratic nomination, then the MSM will ratchet up the Nordic socialism=gulags framing, arguing that Trump, for all his flaws, helped to revitalize the economy via stock market growth and lowered unemployment…. Bernie doesn’t need to be a bully so much as a street fighter. He will have to run an endless gauntlet: mischaracterization by the MSM, attacks from more centrist candidates, libelous attack ads from billionaires terrified of his reformist vision, and then the final boss, Trump.”
It is true Bernie doesn’t need to adopt Trump’s schoolyard bully mentality. He has the integrity, through his extraordinary ideological consistency and his refusal to take corporate donations. It would be wise, however, for the campaign to counter in a constructive fashion every criticism from the media as well as the laissez-faire fallacious arguments of rival candidates. Fortunately, the Vermont senator has some very important media-savvy friends who can help represent him on TV, social media and through op-eds, such as Nina Turner and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Historically, voters want to vote for a fighter…someone who will fight for them. “Americans want to vote for someone who embodies the word ‘leader’: someone willing to stand up to the corrupt establishment that wrecked the economy and created endless wars in the Middle East, and someone willing to speak hard truths.” (International Policy Digest)
Joe Biden: the savior of the last hour
This time around, the fight is going to be toughest for Bernie’s campaign, not because Joe Biden has entered the race, but because of Trump’s senseless trade wars with China and Mexico—protracted trade disputes that threaten US global dominance over the world’s financial system. The superrich are feeling the pinch. More than five trillion dollars have already been lost in the stock market since Trump unleashed his trade war against his own European partners, China, Canada and Mexico. The last salvo came last Friday when Trump announced another 5% tariff on Mexican exports to the United States, a move that caused global stock markets to take a nosedive. Fast-food giant Chipotle Mexican Grille with a market cap of nearly 20 billion dollars saw its stock plunge from $700 a share to $659, trading close to its 52-week low and losing about 2% of its value, roughly half a billion dollars in just a few hours. The losses in May were said to be worse than last December, pushing the market deep in correction territory.
In the fast world of soundbite and algorithms that drive competition, it is no longer the fundamentals of a public company that hold the strength of its long-term projection, it is its stock price controlled by short-sellers and option-traders. As Trump hunkers down in his trade war against China, the gurus on Wall Street are panicking, not knowing when and where the bleeding will stop—except of course for the profiteers, the insider traders who always have the intel beforehand and who know how to play the rigged system that protects the rich at the expense of the vast majority of taxpayers who play by the rules. While most common Americans do not own stocks, millions are being affected through their dwindling retirement portfolios—their Roth IRAs, their 403-Bs, their 401-Ks, etc. This could provoke a widespread discontent, ushering a mass mobilization from below that the political establishment will not be able to control. The stakes are high! The superrich now face a major dilemma: fleeing Trump or fighting Sanders? So, Joe Biden is the San Salvador of the Prime Hour, the unifier, who will have to come to the rescue. Consequently, it is fair to say if Biden wins, America loses.
But the progressive camp can still pull it off, for no task is too daunting for those who fight on the right side of history. Fortune favors the bold!
Note: Ardain Isma is a novelist and editing manager at CSMS Magazine . He heads the Center for Strategic and Multicultural Studies. He also teaches Introduction to Research Methods at Embry Riddle University. To see his books, click here.
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