“It’s Inequality, Stupid.” Let’s Point Hillary toward Economic Populism

There’s an eerie silence at the center of recent clamorous speculation over Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential prospects. No one is asking what she actually stands for. What positions she takes. What she  wants to achieve.

This silence is hardly an accident. The news and opinion machinery now in high gear has been designed to keep substantive matters off the table.  As long as people are obsessed with the “will she/won’t she” question, they can be distracted from wondering what Hillary actually would do if she were president.

The fantasies of voters are best projected onto a blank screen. Hillary’s handlers are going to keep her as blank as possible for as long as possible.

What progressive media must do, then, is ignore the purely speculative question of Hillary ‘s presidential future and focus instead on the substantive question of Hillary’s concrete political commitments. Above all, they should hammer on whether Hillary will work hard to reduce wealth and income inequality – nationally and globally.

Like it or not, Hillary is now the weathervane atop the Democratic Party.  If she can be pointed toward more populist economics, most of the Party and its apparatus will follow her. See David Freedlander’s very interesting piece in The Daily Beast on the fight over economic populism now being waged within the Party.

Now is the time. Hillary is much more vulnerable to pressure from progressives now — while Joe Biden and  Elizabeth Warren are still imaginable alternatives.

So let’s all reach out to Hillary  and let her know:  “It’s Inequality!”

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Ted Cruz Is Today’s Mario Savio!

Hang  your heads radical progressives! The Republican insurgency that has just achieved a second shutdown of the U.S. government should embarrass every self-styled radical  on our side of the political spectrum.

Ted Cruz and his confederates have radicalized their party to a degree that the left has not ever come close to. Imagine, if you can:

– Bernie Sanders and a handful of other Congressmen bringing down the government because their demands for a radically progressive income tax have not been met.

– the Black Congressional Caucus and its allies bringing business as usual to a halt because their demands for equality of educational opportunity have been ignored.

– a cadre of Congressmen concerned about global warning shutting down the federal government until meaningful climate-change legislation has been passed and signed into law.

Why are these scenarios so hard to imagine?  Why, indeed, are they so …. laughable?

All week long, these words kept echoing in my mind:

“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”

But now it’s not Mario Savio speaking them – it’s Ted Cruz. And that squishy sound in the background? That House Republicans throwing their bodies on the gears…

Seriously: Aren’t we ashamed that there’s no radical wing of the Democratic Party pushing everyone leftward as forcefully at the Tea Party has pushed Republicans to the right?

What riles me is that almost no one is even asking this question.  Instead, we  join the holy choir of sanctimonious censuring. In our tones I hear my grandmother’s voice when she complained about “those dirty hippies with long hair. Why can’t they shave and get a job!”

Now it’s –

“Those nasty old Tea Party Republicans! They’re so narrow-minded they won’t compromise! How mean of them to hold the government ‘hostage’ as a way to block legislation that has been enacted and signed into law! That’s so unfair!”

These are good points. Fair points. But they’re debaters’ points. I can’t speak them any more. They sitteth in my mouth like unto soggy breakfast cereal.

Meanwhile, the other side is breathing fire and brimstone.

Sure, we should keep trying to corral the Tea Party back inside the fences of conventional politics marked by reason and compromise.

But we should also identify weak Democratic candidates in strongly Democratic Congressional districts, mobilize our radical troops to vote in those primaries, and push those candidates to the left – hard.

“But we can’t do it without the Koch brothers!” I hear someone say.

They’d sure like you to believe that, wouldn’t they?