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Dress rehearsal


As the Democratic Party assembles in Philadelphia, the dust may or may not have cleared from the Republican fireworks in Cleveland, Ohio. This year’s reunion of the Great Old Party faithful has everything aficionados of the provocative and melodramatic could want: a charismatic figurehead and natural showman prone to inflammatory rhetoric and insult; the option of openly carrying firearms inside “free speech zones” outside the immediate area surrounding the Quicken Loans Arena where the convention was held; legions of malcontents within the GOP eager to express their opposition to a nominee they believe will cause irreparable damage to their party’s political prospects in the foreseeable future; and a recent spree of violent episodes nationally and on the global stage that will undoubtedly cast a shadow of ominous foreboding over the delegates as they gather to determine the party platform (or “plank,” the term commonly used to describe the collective components that make up a political group’s agenda or goals.)

The celebrity/rock star status of the (Hillary) Clinton brand notwithstanding, the Dems arguably boast no compelling figure like Donald J. Trump, and yet the present political climate ensures ample potential for a leftist/progressive version of drama and chicanery during the four days of political prognostication in the “city of brotherly love.”

Befitting the contemporary trend toward multiculturalism, the leadership of the Democratic Platform Committee boasts an assembly of ethnically diverse individuals. These include co-chairpersons Irish-American governor Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut and Atlanta mayor (and Philadelphia native) Shirley C. Franklin, an African American woman. They, in turn, are aided by (Puerto Rican native) Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, (African American) Rev. Cynthia Hale of Georgia, (Chinese American) San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, and (Jewish American) Greg Rosenbaum, a banker from Maryland.

Marching to her own drummer: A double-edged sword

“They are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel”                                                       -Hillary Clinton from a 1994 speech in Keene, N.H.

Politics is often reduced to a balancing act in which efforts to appease one issue or part of a constituency can come back to haunt a candidate further on down the line. To her credit, Hillary Clinton was always more than a public relations accessory to augment husband Bill’s image, and to her detriment, she always chose to craft her own identity by embracing causes and issues that appealed to her. For better or for worse however, Mrs. Clinton’s public persona is tied to the legacy of her husband’s two terms as president.

And so it is that earnest attempts at addressing legitimate concerns about crime and law and order—hot-button issues in any election—may come back eventually as callous and insensitive remarks spewed in an effort to seize votes from the fearful masses. In turn, it raises the question about the integrity that former Senator/Secretary of State Clinton and other politicians are subject to: elected officials who are opportunists willing to sacrifice their principles in tune with the whims of a fickle voting public.

Even after populist Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed Clinton earlier this month, his devoted followers complicated things by signaling that they would not blindly follow their champion’s allegiance to the Democrat’s likely standard bearer. Refusing to “toe the party line,” in this case might hinge upon the relative perception of honesty in an individual who soon could be the determining factor in the fate of multitudes across the globe. This, of course, has led to concerns about party unity on the eve of the election.

In this era of economic and social divisiveness, the selection of Philadelphia as the host city is interesting in of its history of political repression and police brutality. The reign of Frank L. Rizzo as police commissioner (1967-1971) and mayor (1972-1980), is remembered with derision by the African American community due to his handling of a shootout with the MOVE Black liberation group in 1978. Today, the city is under going a period of revitalization, a wellspring of prosperity that alas scores of citizens will not benefit from. Last year’s study by the Urban Institute on urban inequality categorized Philadelphia as second on the list of American cities in terms of disproportionate division of wealth, behind only Dallas, Texas. (which in turn might explain a motivation behind the recent gun violence in that city).

To make a long story short, scores of political bigwigs will converge upon the city to determine the leadership of the wealthiest nation on earth, within shouting distance from abandoned houses, ramshackle tenements, and empty lots that would not be out of place in a warzone.

In the wake of this legacy, activist Erica Mines of the local faction of Black Lives Matter, the Philadelphia Coalition for REAL (Racial, Economic, and Legal) Justice, voices disdain for all of the subsequent heads of government, regardless of race. In the lead up to the convention, Mines and the rest of the Coalition steering committee are planning a demonstration and public “speakout” with some 500 participants signed up on their Facebook page.

While accepting the moniker of being a “socialist,” Mines insists that her group encompasses a variety of viewpoints and ideologies, rejecting any labels aside from the catchall “anti-establishment.”

Political dogma aside, she reserves particular animosity for the heir apparent to the Democratic nomination.

“The only reason Hillary Clinton stands a chance of becoming president is out of sheer inertia and political connectedness,” she declares.

“She is the living embodiment of what is wrong with party politics.”

Mines dismisses any and the entire consortium of clergymen and politicians whom she calls “the Black misleaders,” who’ve come out in support of the current standard bearer.

A statement put forth by the coalition states:

“From Clinton’s support of the racist death penalty, to her description of Black youth as “super-predators”, to her avocation of the 1994 crime bill (officially known as the ‘Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994,’ or H.R. 3355) which decimated Black urban communities, she has proven herself to be the enemy of Black working and poor people. Although Donald Trump is a foul, egotistical racist, the Coalition fails to see how Hillary is any better for Black people. She has a record of doing serious and measurable harm to Black working and poor people in the U.S.”

H.R. 3355 is considered by many, including author and law professor Michelle Alexander (see “Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote,” from the Feb. 10 issue of The Nation magazine), as a contributing factor leading to the mass incarceration of minorities in the wake of the War on Drugs.

Mines summarizes these sentiments with the declaration that “Hillary Clinton is nothing but a pimp for the Black community.”

(For the record, Mines refuses to endorse fellow socialist Bernie Sanders as well, citing his record of voting for the 1994 crime bill, and deems Barack Obama a “fence straddler,” who has let down the Black and Brown community in a horrible way.)

The coalition is by far not the only group planning to assemble to express dissent on the national stage. Well in advance, various groups (aside from the ubiquitous Black Lives Matter) have expressed their intention to use the convention as a platform to showcase their individual grievances and issues. Among them are perhaps 1,000 baggage handlers, custodians and other members of the airport workers union (demonstrating for higher wages), the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, and Occupy DNC, who claim a reported 30,000 people committed to protest what they call Clinton’s “fraudulent nomination.”

This is no surprise to UCLA political scientist Mark Q. Sawyer.

Disgruntled citizens are drawn to political gatherings, he observes, because “…that’s what activists seek, to draw attention to their interests.”

However, he does not believe that these divergent elements will harm the push to the presidency.

“For the most part the Democrats are united,” he sermonizes, in spite of the considerable pockets of discontent seeking media attention.

Groups and individuals who go against the grain are often magnified via the lens of the communications apparatus and the concerns, sometimes legitimate, sometimes exaggerated, of those charged with maintaining order.

“They see all dissent as potentially dangerous,” he points out.

Return of the Neocons?

The “neocons” believe American greatness is measured by our willingness to be a great power—through vast and virtually unlimited global military involvement.

–From “What’s a Neoconservative?” by Jack Hunter in the American Conservative, June 23, 2011.

Neocons – Criminally insane spenders that believe in killing brown people for the new world order.

–From the Urban Dictionary

Before the dust cleared from the rubble of World War II, America found itself thrust into the role of global policeman, either through its own volition or by world decree. Arguably this notion has informed foreign policy throughout the remainder of the century and into the new millennium.

It is telling that Hillary Clinton did not start out in the Democratic camp. As a teenager, she was a staunch Republican, supporting Barry Goldwater (who famously opposed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964) in his bid for the presidency against Lyndon Johnson circa 1964.

She experienced a shift in ideology during her college years at Wellesley College (1965-1969) due to the impact of the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. Around this time she fell under the sway of the community organizer Saul Alinsky (who shaped the thinking of President Barack Obama as well), the subject of her senior thesis for her political science degree.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry wonders about the people Hillary Clinton will likely surround herself with in the event of her victory. A presence on the internet with his website, he has followed the presidential procession since the 1970s, and acknowledges the presence of lies and deceit throughout, allowing that Jimmy Carter may have had the cleanest record, comparatively speaking.

That said, he believes that the voting process necessitates making quantitative judgment calls, in the end determining the candidate likely to cause the least harm to the world. In this current contest, he marvels at the events that have transpired in the campaign thus far.

“It seems odd that the two parties have wound up with two candidates (Clinton and Trump) who are historically unpopular,” he says.

In spite of all the mud slinging spewing from the Republicans and the Trump camp, Parry allows that much of the controversy surrounding Clinton is her own doing, specifically the use of private emails she’d been specifically warned about. This in turn, was coupled with a series of questionable decisions during her tenure as Secretary of State regarding Libya and other global hot spots.

Regarding the advisors that will accompany Clinton on her second round in Washington, Parry believes they’ll include the likes of political scientist Robert Kagan (who euphemistically identifies as a “liberal interventionist”), his wife Victoria Nuland who currently serves as President Obama’s Assistant Secretary of State, and Jamie Rubin, also an Assistant Secretary of State in her husband’s presidential administration.

These learned individuals have been associated with Neoconservatives (shortened to “neocon”), a political movement that emerged in the 1960s. In some circles, they are defined as liberals with a hard line against communism, and possibly open to military intrusion as an adjunct to foreign policy. As an evolving ideology, it is open to interpretation, as many of its adherents “straddle the fence,” politically.

Barack Obama had his share of hawkish advisors in his administration (among them Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and General David Petraeus, both carryovers from the George W. Bush administration), but his core liberal sensibilities presumably balanced things out. The interplay of these specific personalities, along with Clinton’s personal track record, may well indicate a more heavy-handed approach towards the global community in the event of her gaining the office of Chief Executive.

“Voting for Hillary is more than Voting for Hillary”

“I don’t think (Bernie) Sanders will have much of an impact from here on.”                                                                               -Robert Parry’s assessment of the Vermont Senator’ legacy, suggesting his presence may primarily motivate the Clinton domestic approach concerning the minimum wage and social medicine, among other things.

According to Boris Ricks, the first order of business when the Democratic Convention convenes is to “unite and unify the party.” The Cal State University, Northridge political science professor believes success is hinged upon Sanders followers becoming part of the bigger picture.

“The party knows the critical nature of the election,” he says, maintaining its aftermath will impact up to four Supreme Court nominations (and the ensuing repercussions on court and legal decisions), not to mention social benefits imperative to Blacks and other minorities such as livable wages. The presumptive nominee’s expertise/experience as secretary of state will factor in the potential for stability in the Middle East as well.

“If you do not vote (because of a distasteful choice of candidates) you’re actually increasing the chance of a Republican victory,” he insists.

In terms of ethnic voting affecting the out come, he notes that Trump’s approval rating among Blacks hovers at about 10 percent, but significantly higher numbers on the Democratic end of the political spectrum means the possibility of dire results (in the event of poor voter turn out) come November. In a similar vein, Hispanic voter registration has surged in recent months. In California, the number of Hispanics registering to vote doubled in the first three months of this year compared with the same period in 2012 according to resources within the DNC, the National Association of Elected and Appointed Officials, and other sources, possibly in response to Trump’s rhetoric on immigration and his grandiose plan for a great wall panning the southern United States. Voters initiating this spike will likely cast their ballots with the Democrats.