Redefining Violence: Class-based definitions of violence strengthen oppression

This morning, after a few days off the grid, I returned to see a handful of news stories from over the weekend, including the results of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail servers, which concluded that she and her team did indeed delete tens of thousands of e-mails that should have been archived, and she often sent very sensitive data through insecure means against policy.  The FBI Director called her “extremely careless” and noted that her actions would likely result in repercussions under “normal circumstances” before recommending that no charges be filed.  He quickly exited the stage without taking questions.

Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning would surely like to have a word with Director Comey.  After all, they’ve been exiled/incarcerated for a combined 3000+ days for their own sharing of sensitive data in the form of whistleblowing that proved important to exposing corruption and dishonesty within our own government.  Clinton, on the other hand, acted in bad faith, and today we’re supposed to embrace her as the progressive presidential candidate while two heroes live without freedom.

Recently, a partially blind and deaf teenage cancer patient was thrown from her wheelchair by TSA agents, busting her head open as she was arrested at an airport security checkpoint.  The charges were later dropped, but no word on charges against the TSA agents who left her bloody and disoriented.

In another recent story, the mother of a murdered college graduate let the state of New Jersey know that her son had been killed, and therefore he would be unable to repay his student loans.  The state responded that his death does not meet the threshold for loan forgiveness and the payments were now her responsibility.  The state has been known to garnish and sue borrowers who fall behind due to medical bills or other hardships.

The statistics add up.  A 2009 Harvard study found that 45,000 people die in the United States each year due to lack of sufficient healthcare coverage.  Unskilled labor is outsourced, leaving people jobless, and skilled labor is out of reach for many because of the costs of higher education.  Wealth inequality is at Great Depression levels.  Are crippling poverty, rampant homelessness, and lack of access to basic medical care forms of violence?

If you consider each stroke of a politician’s pen to be the physical force behind these actions that harm or kill our citizens, the answer is clearly “yes.”

If you consider the response of the media, the government, and our society at large, the answer is clearly “no.”

Corporate America and the government which represents them can kick you out of your home, bankrupt you, deny you shelter and basic services, without a peep from the working class.  Meanwhile, when protesters block streets or shatter windows, the chorus swells with screams of “violence.”  Violence against what?  Windows?

We’ve come to associate property damage with “violence” through decades of class conditioning.  From Debs being labeled a dictator by the railroad bosses to “Hanoi Jane” to Occupiers needing to “get a job,” there’s always an eloquent narrative about why it’s wrong to oppose your rulers… and it’s written by the rulers.

And we consistently buy it.

Meanwhile, they can perpetrate a slow-burning upward transfer of wealth that leaves the working class starving and broken, plundering the cheap labor of some foreign nations and the abundant natural resources of others, putting on the charade of an election every four years to give lip service to the concepts of democracy while only allowing preordained candidates to reach the final round, and we’ve learned to simply accept this as the way things are.

The difference between those windows and these people is that windows don’t bleed.  They don’t have families.  They’re easily replaced.  The human lives and human dignity which can be so transparently under attack from decades of class-based definitions of violence are irreplaceable.  These are people, not property.

Class consciousness requires that we understand violence is being perpetrated against us daily and that it is our duty to educate one another, support one another, and fight together against a system that flaunts its power inequities.  When Director Comey says no charges should be filed against Clinton while Snowden and Manning remain oppressed, we are being insulted, and we should respond as such.  Anything less is allowing those in power to control the narrative, and it’s easy to see where that has gotten us.

Just make sure you don’t break any windows.

Who’s to blame for the violence at Trump rallies?

Seems like violence springs up at rallies for GOP nominee Donald J. Trump with ever-increasing frequency as we hurtle toward July’s nominating conventions.  The media has taken to linking these aggressive protesters to the Bernie Sanders campaign, thus bruising the reputation of the candidate himself and encouraging him to “condemn the violence.” Continue reading

No, Bernie Sanders is not the Tonya Harding of this primary season

Minutes ago, I was forwarded this article from Mitch Lerner, describing Bernie Sanders’ audacity in challenging the handpicked Democratic nominee as the equivalent of physically assaulting his opponent in an effort to steal the nomination.  With five days until California, the panicking pro-Clinton punditry has reached a new level of self-victimization and we need to have a conversation about it.

Let’s compare the tools.  Nancy Kerrigan was famously attacked with a police baton, brutally physically assaulted with a cheap shot designed to prevent her from competing.  The attacks on Clinton, meanwhile, are questions about her policies and her behavior.  The insinuation is that asking Clinton about her own actions and her own platform is a type of unforgivable assault that could cost her the race.

For example, to ask why Clinton took millions in speaking fees from major banks and to question what she said behind those closed doors is neither violent nor inappropriate.  These questions speak to her ethics and her transparency on any promises made behind closed doors.  The voters deserve answers.  This directly impacts her ability to lead without lobbyist influence.

To ask Clinton why she’s the right person to lead the fight against climate change while she has been an evangelist for hydraulic fracking and continues to support the devastating practice is not some kind of personal attack.  It is a glaring conflict in her platform and voters have a right to know her answers before they visit the polling place.

Now, let’s compare the anticipated outcome of both “attacks.”  Harding wanted an unobstructed path to a gold medal.  Sanders spent the first few months of 2015 encouraging progressives to run for president, ultimately noting that he would assume the role if nobody else stepped forward.  If anything, he was reluctant but felt the call of duty.  His entire campaign has been about advancing progressive goals, something that seems pretty integral to the role of the Democratic Party in US politics.  If that has changed, maybe Sanders (and the millions supporting him) didn’t get the memo.

Finally, let’s compare the “victims.”  Nancy Kerrigan, as I recall, was a hard-working and talented competitor.  She wasn’t known for taking shortcuts or pandering to judges.  She was the type of competitor that didn’t court controversy and was well-respected.

Clinton has been dogged by controversy throughout her career, including the scathing IG report last week in which it was confirmed that she had been consistently lying to the media and voters about the details of her unsecured e-mail server holding state secrets.  She and her husband have taken millions from lobbyists while championing their causes.  They have taken millions in foreign donations while selling weapons to countries linked to terrorism.  They brought us Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Defense of Marriage Act, Workfare, Three Strikes and NAFTA.  They’ve openly electioneered in front of — and even inside, at least once — polling places (illegally) in several states.  And I’m barely scratching the surface.

What I’m saying is that for Clintonites to challenge Sanders on ethics takes a powerful suspension of reality and self-awareness.

Sanders has ran a campaign on the issues, and he has worked hard to draw contrasts between himself and Clinton on those issues without making it personal.  To suggest that he should stop doing this is to suggest that the Democratic Party is somehow allergic to democracy, and that the best path forward is unquestioning loyalty.  Progressives didn’t win marriage equality and higher minimum wages by silencing dissent, and we won’t win universal healthcare or paid parental leave unless we continue speaking up.

Candidates holding each other accountable for their actions and platforms won’t damage the candidates with the ethics and ideas to carry us forward.  To propose that a strong primary season is detrimental to progress is embarrassing.  Our leaders should be challenged daily, by each other, by the media, and by the voters.  Anything less is undemocratic.

Nevada Democrats become first state party to openly declare war on Sanders

Before we get started on this latest news, it needs to be said that certain tactics are unacceptable in opposing the unethical behavior of the Clinton camp and her supporters at various levels within the Democratic Party.  Violence, or the threat thereof, is absolutely, unequivocally unacceptable.  No exceptions.  A handful of Sanders’ diverse support definitely comes from revolutionary-minded folks, but the campaign trail is neither the time nor the place to invoke that sort of tactic or rhetoric.

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Clinton Campaign Distorts Bernie Sanders’ Racial Justice History

Ah, campaign season.  A time when truth takes a back seat to political expediency, when there seems to be a competition in the establishment to create the biggest, most ridiculous lies and make them stick through repetition and selective reporting.

Folks, if there’s a way of measuring it, we may have a new world record.

Today, in response to the 22.4 point blowout in New Hampshire, establishment Democrats went for the nuclear option.  J. Todd Rutherford, South Carolina House Democratic leader, accused Sanders of having a “thin” record on African American social justice, claiming that “he only really started talking about issues concerning African Americans in the last 40 days.”

Perhaps Mr. Rutherford has amnesia, or perhaps he’s just in a bit of a panic after Cezar McKnight today became the sixth legislator in South Carolina to endorse Senator Sanders, all men of color.  Regardless, it is impossible to accuse a man arrested for protesting segregation over fifty years ago, before the Civil Rights Act, of being a newcomer to issues of racial injustice.

Bernie Sanders discusses MLK, Jr. with Dr. Cornel West, Nina Turner, and Killer Mike

Bernie Sanders discusses MLK, Jr. with Dr. Cornel West, Nina Turner, and Killer Mike

A former New York NAACP president, Hazel Dukes, even went as far as to downplay the senator’s participation in the March on Washington, saying “there were many people participating in that march, so what does that mean?”  For one, it means that Sanders was actively participating in civil rights protests at a time when Hillary Clinton was working with Republican Barry Goldwater, a man who fought to protect segregation in Brown v. Board of Education by stating the importance of “the essential differences between men.

Oddly, her time working for a Goldwater didn’t affect the statement of Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who said today that “Hillary Clinton has been a true friend to the African American community for the last 40 years.”  Jeffries posited that while Clinton fought for them, Sanders had “been missing in action on issues important to African Americans” and had “no credibility” on these issues.

Interesting, then, that Clinton has so much credibility on the issue.  The Clintons worked very hard to pass the omnibus crime bill in 1994 — signed into law by Bill — that included the three-strikes provision which has contributed so much to the increase in mass incarceration, yet today the Clinton camp is attacking Sanders for voting affirmative on that same bill.  There’s one problem:  Sanders voted yes in order to pass the included provisions on violence against women.  Clinton did it because she was scared of “superpredators.

The Clinton record regarding workfare reforms and NAFTA is often cited as disproportionately affecting the African American community, but many have forgotten the various smaller attacks:  denying financial aid, Pell Grants, public housing and more to those who had felony records, locking communities into a cycle of poverty that has only gotten worse.  The Clintons may want to separate Bill’s record from Hillary’s platform, but Hillary is known for being a particularly active campaigner for Bill’s legislative initiatives.

Sanders, meanwhile, has been speaking directly to Black men and women for much longer than the aforementioned forty days.  In fact, he is the top candidate in terms of meeting the Campaign Zero demands of the Black Lives Matter movement.  He has spoken strongly in opposition to private prisons (from whom Clinton received funding), the drug war, and the militarization of police while promoting better wages and healthcare and educational opportunities that will be a boon to low income communities.  Sanders was the first candidate to say “Black Lives Matter,” and the first one to demonstrate it… half a century ago.

This coordinated messaging reeks of old establishment propaganda.  It is brazen, but it is disgraceful.  For these surrogates to stand in front of their constituents and blather on with no regard for the truth is an insult to African American voters, and these voters have every right to be outraged at the attempted manipulation.  Until the Clinton campaign can be honest about the records of Hillary and Bernie, it is everyone’s duty to call them out and share the truth.  That is how we demand respect and integrity from our politicians.  And that is why Bernie Sanders is the candidate for all of us.


NOTE:  I’m working on a project with Lorain County for Bernie Sanders to send mailers to thousands of residents in the crucial swing state of Ohio.  Most of our funding will come out of our own pockets, but some of it will also come from this “Give ’em Hell, Bernie” bumper sticker which you can order for $6 with free shipping in the US.  Please consider supporting our efforts!  (And share this article!)

How can Bernie Sanders earn the votes of Rand Paul supporters?

With Rand Paul recently announcing his departure from the GOP primary race, many Libertarians and conservatives may have an eye toward Gary Johnson.  As a protest voter myself (Jill Stein 2008 anyone?), I understand the appeal and the moral dilemma involved in that decision.  However, I’d like to make a quick pitch, if I may:  I’d like you to consider Bernie Sanders.

If that seems crazy, I’m going to back up and resurface this anecdote.  In the 2008 primaries, both Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich had small yet passionate crowds.  Seemingly on opposite ends of the spectrum politically, Dennis said he’d be very interested in having Ron as his Vice President.  Not only did both men stand against the imperialistic wars of the day, they also fought against the erosion of rights for our own citizens.  As far apart as the media would place them, Kucinich and Paul felt a mutual respect and had some conspicuous platform agreements.

Fast forward eight years:  Kucinich was gerrymandered out of Ohio and Paul has retired from politics.  The Tea Party gained traction in 2009 while Occupy Wall Street made waves in 2011.  The NSA was strengthened and the NDAA was added.  The Fed wasn’t audited and Gitmo wasn’t shut down.  More countries were invaded while infrastructure continued crumbling at home.  While the corporate media tells us the recession is over, the people have become as restless as ever, comparing the rosy outlook on television with the reality of their neighbors losing their jobs and drowning under college and medical debt.

Bernie Sanders has emerged as an anti-establishment fighter for the people.  He has demonstrated consistency in protecting civil rights, opposing NSA surveillance and the PATRIOT Act, as well as prescience in foreign policy, voting against the Iraq war and other aggressive military action.  He has supported a full and transparent audit of the federal reserve.  His record on guns may be the only one that effectively meets everyone in the middle, strengthening certain loopholes while acknowledging that Americans have a strong fundamental right to own guns.

Bernie Sanders is the only major remaining candidate who supports removing cannabis from Schedule I and legalizing it on a national scale.  He has bluntly stated his opposition to civil asset forfeiture and said that he will demilitarize our police so that they do not look like an invading force.

Based on my experience speaking with Rand Paul supporters, you probably already knew all that.  Here’s a few things you may also know, but we may see a little differently.

Bernie is often viewed as a welfare state president because he has some economic views that fall hard toward the Keynesian side of life, but consider for a moment that instead of a handout, he wants to take a trillion dollars and pay people to do work… and not just any work, but sweat-inducing and important work.  Rebuilding bridges and roads that we know are in poor shape.  Making buildings more energy efficient.  Building better public transit.  Think of Eisenhower’s interstate highway system and FDR’s New Deal projects.  The hard and necessary work creates consumer demand and fixes the shortcomings of the private sector since the 2008 meltdown.

He also may appear to miss the free market bus on healthcare and college, but if I may:  The invisible hand of the free market forgets one key component, and that is dignity in a mature society.  Sure, it’s our responsibility to get educated and stay healthy.  We should save from an early age and always have great insurance coverage.  On the other hand, the costs of both of these things have ballooned out of control and we are bankrupting people who pursue intelligence and health.  They’re trying to invest in their future, but they graduate with six digit debt and no job prospects, or their insurance companies reject their claims with little recourse.

We may never agree on taxation, and that’s fine.  However, if Bernie’s tax revenue makes society smarter and healthier instead of paying corporate welfare to Walmart and propping up Wall Street, isn’t that just a tad bit in a better direction?

I’m not saying we have a home run here, but I think the comparison at least warrants a bases loaded double, and I don’t believe you’ll find that with any other candidate in either party.  So what do you say, supporters of Rand?  How can we work together to defeat the establishment?


SIDE NOTE:  I’m working on a project with Lorain County for Bernie Sanders to send mailers to thousands of residents in the crucial swing state of Ohio.  Most of our funding will come out of our own pockets, but some of it will also come from this “Give ’em Hell, Bernie” bumper sticker which you can order for $6 with free shipping in the US.  Please consider supporting our efforts!  (And share this article!)

A slim margin is a reminder that the fight’s not over

Tonight’s post is going to be very short for a variety of reasons, but I wanted to drop in and issue a reminder of sorts.  Tonight, with 90% of caucuses reporting in, we are tied according to popular vote and have one more delegate than our opponent, yet she has issued a statement regarding her victory.  Her goal, much like ours, is to build momentum for the rest of the fifty state campaign.

The major difference between the campaigns is that — win or lose — we understand that we are still the underdog, still the fighting campaign, and we will carry our momentum forward.  We have proven electability, but we have also proven that there is a long fight ahead of us, and we are up to the challenge.  Tonight, democracy spoke, and we have listened and learned and doubled down on our efforts.

Grassroots efforts are the key to our victory, and we will win by never backing down and never giving up.  You — yes, you, reading this now — are individually important to this campaign and each of us must continue to hold our fellow volunteers accountable to fighting for our political revolution.  Tonight was the first of fifty-one steps.  The fight has just begun.

What’s next?  More phone banking, more canvassing, more tabling, more conversations with friends, family, neighbors, coworkers… Our work continues.

For example:  In my city, it is time to open a volunteer campaign office.  We have dozens of volunteers ready to spread the Bern across the state and the country, and we have located the perfect space to make it happen.  We are following in the footsteps of our neighbors on the west side of Cleveland and we are opening a county headquarters to make sure our local volunteers are trained and equipped to make a tangible difference in our very important swing state (Ohio) and beyond.

What’s next for you?  I want to hear from fellow Berners in the comments.  I want to know that you’re still committed, that you’re going to wake up tomorrow ready to continue the fight.  Help me build confidence that we’re only getting started.

Thank you for your hard work thus far, and for the hard work you have yet to put in.


NOTE:  With your support, we will open a volunteer campaign office in Lorain County, Ohio, THIS WEEK.  Please consider contributing at and/or sharing with your friends.  When we work together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.  Thank you!

Most Negative Campaign in Democratic Primary History?

The latest narrative: Sanders is “running the most negative campaign of any Democratic presidential candidate” in primary history.  This accusation comes from Joel Benenson, Clinton’s senior campaign strategist, in a new interview on CNN.  (CNN is owned by Time Warner, a major Clinton campaign donor.)
There’s only one problem: This negativity simply doesn’t exist.

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Why do Pelosi, McCaskill, and the media want us to give up on Bernie Sanders?

“Mr. Sanders’s success so far does not show that the country is ready for a political revolution. It merely proves that many progressives like being told everything they want to hear.”

So ends the stern editorial from the Washington Post this past Wednesday, chastising a candidate the media had actively ignored for months despite his surging popularity. Continue reading