Category Archives: elections

Do Democrats Divide Between ‘Extreme Left’ and ‘Normal’ Moderates? Nope.

FAIR Examines Media Bias
Fair.org

July 17, 2019 – The 2020 presidential candidacy race is in full (absurdly early) swing, and there is a clear and obvious internal battle currently raging for the soul of the Democratic Party. One faction is attempting to pull the party in a more populist, social-democratic direction, while another favors maintaining a neoliberal, pro-business course.

We all know the most prominent members of the first group: The likes of presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders and freshmen representatives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley are constantly referred to (accurately) as representing the left of the party (e.g., New York Post, 7/9/19; New York Times, 4/10/19; New Yorker, 6/18/19), but also as a cabal of “extremist” (Atlantic, 4/3/19; The Hill, 6/17/19), “far-left” revolutionaries (CNN, 7/7/19; CNBC, 7/5/19) who have “contempt” for Americans (Fox News, 7/11/19). Given the broad overlap of their political positions with those of the public at large (FAIR.org, 1/23/19), those labels, popular as they are in the media, are pretty dubious.

But if there is a left-wing of the party, there must, logically, be a right. And it is equally obvious to those paying attention who represents that right-wing: figures like Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar come to mind.

The media do report on the split, but they never identify the latter as representing the right at all. In fact, the phrase “right-wing Democrat” has not appeared in the New York Times for over 30 years.

Last week, the Boston Herald (7/11/19) decried Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Omar as far-left “bullies” who were undermining Pelosi, and “sowing division” at a time when the party “needs to project a unified—and more centrist—front to retain its majority and knock Donald Trump from office.” The piece did not, however, scrutinize Pelosi’s political positions—or even identify them at all.

This is a common occurrence in media, and has the effect of normalizing the right-wing of the party as the default. Constantly reminders that Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez and Co. are leftists prime the news consumer to be on the defensive. “You are about to hear socialist propaganda,” is the subtle message delivered. But an analogous message is not transmitted if others are not identified as on the right. Understanding the power of this technique, in 2015, nearly 90,000 Britons signed a petition asking the BBC, in the interests of even-handedness, to start describing Prime Minister David Cameron as “right-wing,” just as it constantly called Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn “left-wing.”

On the US struggle, Buzzfeed News (7/10/19) reports Pelosi has been “publicly feuding” with “left-wing members of the caucus and their staff,” while the Washington Post (7/2/19) sympathetically portrayed her has being under attack from an “open rebellion” of “hard-liners” in the party, with neither suggesting she herself holds any particular political ideology. The effect is to present the battle between left and right as one between radical revolutionaries and the “mainstream,” “normal” or “default” position.

All this despite the fact that Medicare For All and free college tuition are very popular in the US, with even a majority of Republican voters supporting the former. Meanwhile, Ocasio-Cortez’s tax hike proposal for the super-rich is more popular than Trump’s tax cuts, and a plurality of Americans support her supposedly radical leftist Green New Deal. When the public, not political parties, define the left/right spectrum, the landscape appears very different.

When any position is assigned to those who have controlled the party for many decades, it is often misleading. Maureen Dowd in the New York Times (7/6/19) describes Pelosi as “trying to keep the party center-left” with the goal of ousting Trump from office by appealing to the American people, only for that to be “jeopardized” by the party’s supposed “lurch” to the “far left.”

Despite this, Biden describes himself as “center-left,” as do media (e.g. Politico, 6/8/19; Real Clear Politics, 6/12/19; Wall Street Journal, 6/3/19). As the Washington Examiner (6/21/19) noted, the dilemma for the party was between picking a leftist like Sanders or steering a “center-left” course with Biden.As a senator from Delaware, he is a friend of large finance and tech corporations, and blocked student debt forgiveness. In this election cycle, he opposes Medicare for All and claimed that billionaires were being “demonized,” assuring them that if he were president, “nothing would change” about America. “I need you very badly,” he told a group of extremely wealthy donors. He also suggests moving the party to the right by working with the GOP.

Another Democrat not only on the right of the party, but on the right side of the political spectrum more generally, is Joe Biden, a current frontrunner for the presidential nomination. Biden began his political career by opposing busing and maintained a very close friendship with arch-segregationist Strom Thurmond until his death, performing the eulogy at his funeral. Among the most hawkish of Democrats, he strongly supported the Iraq War and even boasted he was the true author of George W. Bush’s PATRIOT Act. He opposed immigration and suggested using troops against undocumented workers.

Successfully positioning yourself in the center is a powerful rhetorical and psychological tactic. Many people like to think of themselves as in the middle. The center is often considered (wrongly) as the default position, and therefore free of bias, as opposed to those on the extremes, which hold negative connotations.

As explored previously (FAIR.org, 3/23/19), every political organization Washington supports is presented as a moderate, centrist force. Indonesian military dictator General Suharto, who presided over genocides against ethnic Chinese and Timorese, was described as a moderate (Christian Science Monitor, 2/6/87). The New York Times (3/7/33) even described the “new moderation in the political atmosphere” in Germany as Hitler came to power, while the Philadelphia Daily Bulletin (1/30/33) praised his “indications of moderation” (cited in the Daily Beast, 12/20/15).

Even Donald Trump Jr., someone not noted for his high intellect and political wisdom, is in on this trick. Writing in The Hill (7/11/19), he “warns” us that if the Democrats undermine “centrist” “moderates” like Pelosi, allowing “radical left” “extremists” like Ocasio-Cortez to come to power, his father will be assured of winning the next election. This has to be the apotheosis of the “Inexplicable Republican Best Friend” trope (FAIR.org, 2/26/19), in which media conservatives offer supposedly good-faith advice to Democrats on how to beat them (which always entails surrendering progressive principles and embracing conservative policies).

Corporate Democrats have now begun to use the “this is why Trump won/will win” tactic on the left. The Washington Examiner (7/10/19) warns the “left-wing elites” that their single-minded charge towards is socialism will isolate and alienate them from “moderate Democrats” and the vast political center of America. Instead, they must be “pragmatic” and choose the best candidate: Joe Biden.

“Pragmatic” meaning adapting sensibly and adopting realistic, fact-based positions—is another newspeak word media use to describe right-wing Democrats espousing pro-corporate policies, regardless of what the facts actually are. CNN (2/18/19), for example, applauds Klobuchar for being the “pragmatic” presidential candidate. Her pragmatism, according to the positive CNN portrait, was “resisting the urge to pander to the party’s progressive wing,” as shown by her strong opposition to Medicare for All, the Green New Deal and free college—all of which, we have seen, are distinctly popular with the public (Jacobin, 8/24/18; Atlantic, 6/21/19) and could be huge vote-winners.

That “pragmatic” is usually used as a euphemistic codeword for moving towards the right can be seen by glancing at recent headlines:

  • Pragmatic Pelosi Points Democratic Party Toward the Center (CBS SF Bay Area, 5/14/19)
  • Pelosi’s Pragmatic Approach to Balancing Democrats’ Leftward Shift (Christian Science Monitor, 2/11/19)
  • Idealism vs. Pragmatism: How Style Divides the Democratic Candidates (NPR, 1/27/16)

Even explicitly anti-left organizations are not described as right-wing. On a story covering the Democratic Majority for Israel, which it notes was set up by “major donors and Washington insiders” expressly to counter left criticisms of Israel in the party, the Huffington Post (7/11/19) did not describe it as “conservative” or any similar label, but framed the debate as being between the left and the “pro-Israel” wings of the party. If wealthy donors and “Washington insiders” don’t count as the right wing of the party, no one can.

Corporate media are funded by the same sources that fund both parties and broadly share the same ideology, hence the reluctance to critique them. By refusing to position them on the political scale, or falsely identifying them as left of center, they are attempting to close the Overton window and prevent a leftward shift in US politics. But that does not mean that we as news consumers have to accept these framings.

Continue reading Do Democrats Divide Between ‘Extreme Left’ and ‘Normal’ Moderates? Nope.

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PA 17th CD Chapter of PDA Endorses Bernie Sanders

At its May 2019 Steering Committee meeting, the local chapter of Progressive Democrats of America endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders for President in the 2020 Democratic primary election.

Bernie and Tina

Photo: Bernie Sanders with PA 17th CD Chapter Pres. Tina Shannon

PA General Assembly Under Some Pressure to Act on Minimum Wage

By John Finnerty
New Castle News

June 18, 2019 – HARRISBURG – The state’s secretary of Human Services on Monday called on the Legislature to boost the minimum wage, noting that child care workers and direct-care workers who serve seniors and the disabled make so little many of them are enrolled in public assistance programs, themselves.

Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller said that she depends on quality child care for her 3-year-old daughter and she knows that some of the people who take of her child while she works are enrolled in safety net programs her department oversees.

“No one who works full-time should have to go hungry so their kids can eat,” Miller said in a Monday afternoon rally at the state Capitol.

The average pay for a day care worker in Pennsylvania is $9.71 an hour, she said. Direct care workers make about $11 an hour.

In both cases, about half of the workers in those positions are receiving public assistance of some kind.

Miller said that the state’s low minimum wage – Pennsylvania uses $7.25, the rate set by the federal government, while every surrounding state has moved to a higher minimum wage – creates a “system built on inequities” that shame workers who must turn to safety net programs “for circumstances they can’t control.”

Gov. Tom Wolf has called for a move to $12 and hour with target of reaching $15 an hour by 2025.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated last August that there were about 106,000 people making minimum wage in Pennsylvania, about 3.1 percent of the hourly paid workers in the state.

A report by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, a labor-linked think tank, estimated that moving to $15 an hour would lead to wage increases for 2 million Pennsylvania workers.

Legislation to increase the minimum wage has not moved in the Republican-controlled General Assembly. Continue reading PA General Assembly Under Some Pressure to Act on Minimum Wage

Ohio Valley Environmental Tour a ‘Real Eye-opener’

Shippingport, due to close, but some irrationally want to keep pouring money into it.

Why the Green New Deal Matter to Us

By Rick Shrum
Observer-Reporter / Southwest PA

June 1, 2019 – Ned Ketyer, a Peters Township pediatrician, appreciated the five-hour excursion along the Ohio River.

“This tour has been a real eye-opener,” he said Friday afternoon. “Look out the window and what you see should be beautiful, should be pristine.

“You see areas that aren’t green. You see a lot of damaged roads and probably a lot of damaged lives for people brave enough to live there.”

Ketyer, a leader with the environmental support group Climate Reality Project and a board member of the Southwest Environmental Health Project, was lamenting what he regarded as casualties from heavy industry that still has a significant presence in the Ohio Valley. He was among a group of 30 who coursed through this part of the tri-state on a bus, glimpsing and stopping at industrial sites along a 100-mile stretch.

And the sites were many.

The tour was organized by the Pittsburgh and Southwestern Pennsylvania chapter of the Climate Realty Project; FracTracker Alliance; Breathe Project; and the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

Tour attendees discussed and listened to concerns related to natural gas processing, pipelines, emissions, pollution and – of course – cracker plants.

Many of their contentions, to be sure, conflict with statements by industry officials, such as fracking is usually done safely and greenhouse gas emissions have been cut dramatically. One natural gas producer recently established a goal of zero emissions.

Coalition members and supporters stated their case Friday.

The event began in Robinson Township, advanced to Beaver County, then navigated Ohio and West Virginia roadways that hugged the river south to Proctor, W.Va.

Twenty minutes into the tour, shortly after the bus crossed into Beaver County on Interstate 376, Karen Gdula picked up the microphone and talked about “my nightmare that became reality.”

She pointed to a barren hillside to the east where, last Sept. 10, the Revolution Pipeline burst following a landslide, sending flames aloft a short distance from the home where she grew up and which she now owns. One house and several garages and vehicles were destroyed.

“As a child, I had a nightmare that the woods behind my house were on fire,” Gdula said. “Then we had this fire in September. The flames were probably 300 feet high. It was very intense.”

Early in the journey, organizers passed along a jar containing polyethylene pellets, “the building block for plastics,” one said. These so-called “nurdles” are a vital product for the much-celebrated Pennsylvania Shell cracker plant that is under construction in Potter Township, Beaver County.

This type of facility processes ethane, a component of natural gas that is prevalent in the nearby Marcellus Shale, and processes – or “cracks” – it into ethylene.

Continue reading Ohio Valley Environmental Tour a ‘Real Eye-opener’

PA Minimum Wage No Longer Defensible

In this March 8, 2016, file photo, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf meets with diner patrons before discussing his executive order to increase the minimum wage for state government employees and workers on jobs contracted by the state, during a news conference at the Trolley Car Cafe in Philadelphia. (Photo11: Matt Rourke / AP)

By York Dispatch Editorial Board

Feb. 22, 2019 – Pennsylvania’s minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. That’s $58 a day; $290 a week; $1,160 a month. Before taxes.

It hasn’t gone up a penny in 10 years. And it was only increased in 2009 because the federal government mandated it. Neither federal nor state lawmakers have added to this pittance since. They should be embarrassed.

In fact, $7.25 an hour was insufficient 10 years ago; it is insulting today.

Gov. Tom Wolf would like to rectify this shameful situation. Republican lawmakers who control the General Assembly, unfortunately, are evidently shameless.

The governor is again proposing an increase in the state’s minimum wage — something he has done each year since he took office in 2015. His proposed $34.1 billion spending plan would hike the lowest legal wage to $12 an hour this year, then nudge it by annual 50-cent-an-hour increments to $15 an hour by 2025.

Unfortunately, more livable wages are something many GOP lawmakers believe Pennsylvania can live without.

As Wolf’s budget plan began wending its way through Harrisburg’s legislative gauntlet, his minimum wage proposal attracted many a critical GOP eye. Continue reading PA Minimum Wage No Longer Defensible

Ending the Shutdown: The Deeper Meaning for Us

 

By Randy Shannon

17th District PDA

Our United States passed a critical turning point yesterday. Let’s analyze this historic event and try to make our future path easier. I want to focus on two key elements in this defeat of the far-right Trump-Pence-McConnell Administration.

First is the Resistance Congress led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The Resistance Congress became the conscience and the voice of the great majority of the American people opposed to the Wall and the Shutdown.

The 116th Congress now has an influential group of young people and women elected by the Resistance. In negotiations over Committee assignments, they pushed back against the corporate Democrats. This new class of Congress strengthened the backbone of the leadership. Rep. Pelosi was able to tell Trump: Hell No You Aren’t Getting a Wall! Congress had her back, and Democratic Representatives were confident the voters had their back. (As an aside, my Rep. Conor Lamb’s vote against Pelosi shows he isn’t embedded with the resistance.)

Second is the Air Traffic Controllers at LaGuardia. They exercised the economic power that made Rep. Pelosi’s Resistance insurmountable. Once workers understood that the Democrats were not going to cave to Trump’s extortion, they knew they had to act.

Here’s why they are so powerful. Capitalism is based on the economic circuit of investment-production-consumption. Until the commodity is purchased and consumed there is no profit. The critical link between production and consumption is transporting the product to the market. In this era of globalized production and on-time supply chain, transport of goods is very critical.

I’m using this hourglass to illustrate this relationship. The top well is global commodity production. The bottom well is global commodity consumption. Sitting at the choke point are air traffic controllers and longshore workers at the docks. No other workers have this kind of leverage over the circulation of capital.

The value of air cargo today is over $6 trillion and 35% of world trade. The oligarchs don’t give a hoot about lines at the airport or starving TSA workers, or DC government workers using food banks selling their homes, or being evicted. But a handful of Air Traffic Controllers at one airport can shut down the whole system of capital circulation.

These two forces – a political voice of reason backed by organized workers can stop the far-right assault on our democracy. The Resistance is growing in numbers and solidarity and poised to take back the Government in 2020.

On the Ground with the Pennsylvania Poor People’s Campaign

The Campaign continues to organize. The message: ‘it will be the poor and dispossessed of this nation that will save us from self destruction.’
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Nov 28, 2018 – On Tuesday every other month Yvonne Newkirk rises at 3:30 A.M. to catch a 5 A.M. Philadelphia bus that takes her three-and-a-half hours northwest to a medium/maximum security prison in Muncy, Pennsylvania, where she visits her daughter, imprisoned for life without parole.

When Newkirk arrived for her mid-September visit, she discovered that the food vending machines, which she and other families rely on for sustenance during the 8:30 AM to 2:30 PM visiting hours, were empty. No other accommodations were made for food, and prison authorities told the families that may be the case for the next three months.

“They said it was a health issue, because of drugs entering the prisons statewide, something unsanitary in the machines,” Newkirk said. “But then a guard ate a Kit-Kat bar in front of us. It was a punishment.”

Newkirk was addressing a “Poor People’s Hearing in Harrisburg,” on November 1, part of the Pennsylvania’s ongoing efforts related to the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival. The national grassroots campaign led by poor people in 40 states aims to change a distorted narrative that villainizes and criminalizes low-income people in the United States.

“The ‘No Food Policy’ is really hard on diabetics, the elderly, children, and those on medications,” said Newkirk. “Quite a few inmates are advising family members not to visit.”

The goal of the Poor People’s Hearings is to provide a platform for people afflicted with poverty to tell their own stories about the burdens that come with being poor.

In 2013 Jennina Gorman lost her five children after fleeing domestic violence. What was supposed to be a few weeks of foster care to allow her to deal with a roach infestation has turned into five years of spinning her wheels in an absurd bureaucratic rabbit hole. Adding insult to injury, her wages are garnished to pay for the foster care of her children, and though she says she has toed all their lines, she’s about to lose two of her children to adoption.

“The Court has refused to acknowledge my children’s Native heritage and the protections granted to us by The Indian Child Welfare Act,” said Gorman. “My children have a right to live with their family. I will never stop fighting for my children, I will never stop fighting for my family.”

Both Gorman, who is a member of Put People First! PA, and Newkirk, who is a member of Coalition Against Death by Incarceration, have found a political home in the growing alliance of organizations and individuals that comprise the Pennsylvania Poor People’s Campaign. Newkirk is working against policies that as she puts it, “test the very fiber of life, decrease human rights, and lower the dignity of some and the health of others.”

Also speaking at the hearing was Borja Gutiérrez, co-chair and political education coordinator for the Campaign. He summarized the gains of the group’s “Phase I,” which saw 1,500 people participate in six weeks of nonviolent civil disobedience actions at the Pennsylvania State Capitol. Seventy-six people were arrested.

Those actions gave people a “greater unity, shared experience and sense of purpose,” Gutiérrez said. “We gained knowledge of what is possible, and a new imagination of what could and should be.”

In the future, the campaign will build on these strengths, organizers, say by, engaging in deep dive organizing, mobilizing, base-building, and outreach.

“We’re establishing real bonds with the communities that we live in, leaving behind the shallow tactics of traditional, transactional politics,” Gutiérrez explained. “We are working to build a new America with the people, instead of without them.”

Key issues Gutiérrez lists are lack of living wages, healthcare, affordable housing, clean water and access to healthy food, voting rights, and gerrymandering, immigration, family unity and equitable justice. Political education grounds the contemporary moment in historic worker struggles.

Chapter co-chair Nijmie Zakkiyyah Dzurinko spoke of how people in the past have overcome “divide-and-conquer” strategies. “There’s a ton of history in Pennsylvania including the presence of the Underground Railroad, organizing in coal country and Mother Jones.”

The organizers say the 2018 midterms will be the last election cycle in which their issues are not meaningfully addressed.

Tammy Rojas is a full time worker, living paycheck to paycheck and receiving Medicaid.

“Between the hoops we have to jump through to get Medicaid and keep it along with the constant cuts to it, we, the poor and dispossessed, are suffering” she testified. She detailed the adverse health effects that she herself has experienced due to neglect, inconsistency of care, and added stress of being subject to a dehumanizing process in which accidental administrative mistakes result in lapses of coverage. Rojas told the hearing, which was streamed online, about her advanced periodontal disease, a painfully inflamed foot, and an untreated autoimmune disease.

“By introducing me to this campaign they have saved my life,” Rojas said of the campaign.” I truly believe with all my heart and soul that it will be the poor and dispossessed of this nation that will save us from self destruction.”

Dzurinko agrees. In her view, unless things change the poor of today preview the position of the middle class tomorrow.

“The poor and dispossessed have the least stake in the status quo and the most understanding of the depth of the issues we face,” Dzurinko said.

The chapter is planning an organizing tour for the coming year focused on Northern Pennsylvania.

[Frances Madeson is a Santa Fe-based freelance journalist and the author of the comic novel Cooperative Village.]

Continue reading On the Ground with the Pennsylvania Poor People’s Campaign