Sunday, March 27, 2016

Dear Bernie and Hillary: Transform the Democratic Party (Draft)

Friends and Colleagues:

You’re invited to help rewrite the following letter to Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. 

Anyone with the link,, can edit the document directly or insert a comment. 

Or you can email me feedback or post a comment here.

So far, Mary Hudson, and Roger Marsden have reviewed and offered (valuable) comments.

I believe the letter to Bernie and Hillary should be no more than 750 words. 

On Sunday, April 24, from 12 Noon - 6pm, I’ll hold an Open House in my apartment to discuss this project. Soup will be served. Everyone is invited. Please RSVP.

If sufficient support develops, we can launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to print copies for distribution at campaign events during the June California primary. 

With this approach, we might bring these issues to the attention of Sanders and Clinton, dialog with them and their supporters, and have an impact on the Democratic Convention in July.

Thanks for your attention.

Wade Hudson


Dear Bernie and Hillary: Transform the Democratic Party (Draft)

Throughout society, Americans are held back, beaten down, and suppressed. To counter that oppression, we urge you to call on your supporters to transform the Democratic Party into an activist organization whose members fight for the Party’s platform and build precinct-based communities that serve local, unmet needs year-round. 

Our society is run by individuals at all levels who aim to get as much money and power for themselves, their families, and their organizations as they can, regardless of consequences. 

Most Americans struggle to survive financially and focus on trying to gain some economic security. Many live so close to the edge, one emergency can push them over. Millions who want to work can’t find a job. Millions more work but still go hungry or become homeless.

Citizens don‘t have enough voice with their government. Workers don’t have enough voice in their workplace. Students and parents don‘t have enough voice in their schools. Worshippers don‘t have enough voice in their religious institutions. Clients don’t have enough voice in their social services. Victims of police brutality don‘t have enough voice in the criminal justice system. Consumers are manipulated by incessant advertising. 

Far too many people are abandoned, forsaken, locked up, or isolated with no close friends with whom they can confide about personal problems. Large numbers dull their pain with drugs or alcohol. Many are running faster without getting anywhere, taking in more information and processing it more quickly, without taking the time to listen to and understand one another. Some feel trapped. Others are drifting. Almost everyone seeks deeper meaning, wanting to make a significant difference in the world and help relieve suffering. 

Afflicted with economic anxiety, people become angry and take it out on scapegoats. We indulge in personal attacks and judge others based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or some other arbitrary characteristic. We impose labels that distort reality. We fall into either/or thinking. We become dogmatic and want to win ideological battles. 

Oppression damages the human spirit. The glorification of “winners” undermines the self-confidence, self-worth, self-acceptance, and self-empowerment of everyone else, who are considered “losers.”  The competitive pressure to climb the social ladder weakens the ability to collaborate as equals. 

The result is a divided society with divided selves who do not have the personal and collective power to threaten the status quo. 

To make this nation more democratic, we need a bottom up, grassroots organization whose members help one another be all they can be and help this country live up to its ideals. 
The Democratic Party could be that organization, a grand coalition. 

Registered Democrats elect Party leaders to local and statewide bodies, whose members elect leaders of the national Party. As such, it is democratic. But the Party focuses on elections, and merely electing Democrats is not sufficient. 

Between elections the Party does little to advance its platform and engages in little or no precinct organizing. Party activists who are elected to positions of power within the Party tend to defer to elected officials. Many of those activists are ambitious themselves and want to gain favor with elected leaders. Party leaders reduce members to functionaries who fit into the electoral machine. 

Given the will and discipline, a unified grassroots effort can change those patterns. Staying involved with the Democratic Party throughout the year, we can empower one another in our daily lives. We can nurture vibrant, compassionate communities by getting to know our neighbors and engaging in activities like peer learning, public forums, registering voters, social events, house parties, mutual support, and environmental cleanup, as well as get-out-the-vote during elections. Party members who share that commitment might create and join a new Party caucus to advance this project. Elected officials could use their office and their campaigns as organizing tools to grow community. And in primary campaigns, Democrats could back candidates who support this effort.

So we ask you, Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders, to endorse this statement and urge your supporters to help transform the Democratic Party and this nation into compassionate communities dedicated to promoting the general welfare. When we do, all Americans will benefit. 

692 words

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Van Jones, CNN, Fascism, and the Republicans

When he lived in the Bay Area, I bumped into Van Jones, the CNN commentator, several times. On each occasion, he left a positive impression. To my mind, the most significant instance was during a book release party for During the panel discussion, he said, “We need to be more con-fessional and less pro-fessional” -- that is, activists need to more frequently acknowledge mistakes, and pause professing our opinions. 

That is an extremely important point. Deep, strong feelings, including righteous anger and a sense of urgency, motivate activists. Too frequently, those feelings lead to self-righteous preaching rooted in arrogance, which can prompt us to try to forcefully persuade others to agree with us. That arrogance is wrong and counter-productive. Truth and justice call for humility and honest self-examination.

I’m glad to report that in one recent instance Van practiced what he preached. He made a mistake on CNN and when I pointed it out to him, he accepted my criticism. 

On two occasions, he said that in order to overtake Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders must win 60% of the remaining delegates. But according to my calculations, he only needs 54%, which is much more achievable. So, via Facebook and Twitter, I sent Van messages arguing that he was wrong. Given the high volume on his feeds, I was unsure he would ever see my messages, much less respond. But I feared that using the 60% number would discourage potential Bernie supporters, so I persisted. 

My first message, about which I assume Facebook sent Van a notification, read:
Van Jones did a great job on CNN last night, especially concerning the erosion of Hillary's African-American "firewall" and her potential vulnerability to Trump among white working class voters. But I believe he made a mistake when he said Bernie will need to win 60% of the remaining delegates. If the super-delegates switch away from Hillary as they did in 2008, that is not the case.
My second message read:
I don't understand why Van Jones continues to say that Bernie will need to win 60% of the outstanding pledged delegates to win. If he wins 53.6% of those delegates, he will have more than Hillary, with great momentum behind him. That could prompt superdelegates to switch, leading to a majority of those delegates to back Bernie. If they did not, they would have hell to pay.
I also posted:
Thanks, Van Jones, for squeezing in that final comment about Hillary saying Bernie had supported the Minutemen, and for earlier pointing out the cynicism of her saying he opposed the auto bailout -- and repeating it last night even after being so roundly criticized for it! Not only does such dishonesty hurt her relationship with Bernie, as you pointed out, it hurts her relationship with voters and potential voters.
Then, The New York Times reinforced that assumption about the superdelegates. So yesterday I posted a link to that article and the following comment:
Van Jones, the last sentence of this article reads, "Superdelegates generally support the candidate who receives the most pledged delegates." Please stop saying Bernie needs to win 60% of the remaining delegates. Adjust that interactive graphic, and it shows Bernie winning if he gets 54%, as I've said before. You're doing a great job on CNN, but you're wrong about that.
To that post, Van replied, “Ok. He has to get 55%, not 60% ... That's actually a significant distinction in the world of politics.” I responded, “Good to hear. Thanks.”

Moments after his first reply, Van also commented, “Thanks! Any other feedback, always welcome.”

That comment led me to post the following:
I appreciate the invite. 
In “Bernie’s Revolution” I wrote, “On a recent CNN post-election analysis, Van Jones suggested that Hillary is being effective by adopting ‘intersectionality,’ a term coined by Kimberle Crenshaw….” Was my memory correct on that point? If so, can you document an instance when Hillary has adopted an intersectional stance? 
It seems to me that merely presenting a list of “barriers” is not intersectional. Rather, one would need to discuss how those barriers interact in a systemic way. And though Hillary has at times talked about nurturing “love and kindness” throughout society, that theme also does not seem to be necessarily intersectional. And as I expressed in “The March 6 Disappointment,” it seems she articulates that theme only occasionally, and unfortunately has not done so during the debates. If she were sincerely committed to that perspective, it seems she would have talked about it during the debates.
Consequently, though your comments prompted me to re-evaluate her candidacy, I’m now less impressed with her “electability,” especially after her dishonest and cynical charges that Bernie opposed the auto bailout and supported the Minutemen, two claims you rightly strongly criticized. I fear the “honest” Trump would be stronger against the “dishonest” Clinton than he would be against Sanders, whose integrity is highly regarded.
I’m also concerned that Trump will appeal to white working-class voters with his attacks on the “free trade” agreements that Hillary supported. And he will more effectively tap the anger that is widespread. So, not even considering the looming email issue, it’s far from clear that Hillary is more electable.

And if Trump gets the nomination, he must be stopped. In recent decades, I’ve argued that the United States, with its deep libertarian bent, is unlikely to go fascist. But if we have one or two more major terrorist attacks on our soil, all bets are off. Trump or the next Trump could inflame the authoritarian, racist tendencies deeply embedded in at least one-third of the American people and use that passion to somehow seize power, as did Hitler who took over without a majority of votes.

Watching the violence at the Trump rally site in Chicago last night and the reporting on his encouragement of violence reinforced my fear, which prompted me to post on Facebook:  
Watching CNN coverage of violence at Trump rallies. Appreciate the good work they're doing, especially Van Jones. Glad that Cruz and Rubio strongly criticized the tone of Trump's rallies. Worried about the violence spiraling down. Sad, scary. Reminds me of Reagan saying, if they want blood let them have blood period, and how the American people supported him.
We must not forget that Nixon brought us to the edge of a police state with his Huston Plan, which called for suppressing “left-wing radicals” and the anti-war movement with domestic burglary, illegal electronic surveillance, opening the mail of domestic "radicals," and the creation of camps in Western states where anti-war protesters would be detained. Neither the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, or the National Security Agency objected to that plan to centralize intelligence operations in the White House. However, J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, saw it as a threat to his power and objected. Fortunately, the subsequent Watergate scandal undermined Nixon’s power play.

But let us not forget, as documented in the powerful film, “The Day the 60s Died,” that in 1970 most of the American people opposed the anti-war movement even more than they opposed the Vietnam War. So when the National Guard shot and killed protesters at Kent State and Jackson State, though those protesters threatened no lives, most Americans supported those actions.

Recalling that history, both in Germany (which faced a “threat” from “socialism” as we may here) and in this country in the late 60s, leads me to be very concerned about the nature of protest demonstrations. So when Van last night on CNN said , “I do not support the”shut it down” approach," I agree with him. Traditional nonviolent civil disobedience is both more moral and more effective.

While explaining that one reason protesters try to stop speakers from speaking is that they otherwise get little or no media coverage and that kind of disruption gets attention, Van recommended that protestors at Trump rallies make their statement early and then allow themselves to be peacefully arrested or removed.

No doubt many young people and their older supporters will tell me that as a white man, I am not entitled to make any such recommendations. But the threat of fascism impacts me as well, which gives me the right to speak. Trying to impose our opinions with anger-rooted force or stop others from speaking, even if it is with “nonviolent” force, can easily lead to a downward spiral. So us old folks who experienced that threat in the late 60s feel compelled to speak up. And I thank Van and CNN (who continues to call out Trump this morning) for giving voice to my concern.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The March 6 Disappointment

Last night’s Democratic Party debate reinforced my apprehensions about both candidates. Sanders still said nothing concrete about how he envisions his revolution being organized, and he stuck with his narrow focus on economics. And Hillary strengthened my mistrust and dampened the optimism concerning her that I expressed in  “Bernie’s Revolution.” 

On occasion, Hillary has challenged Bernie’s “single issue” focus and said that her campaign is about nurturing “love and kindness” throughout society. She recently told Buzzfeed:
I’ve been working for several months now on how to really inject this [“love and kindness”] more into my speeches at every turn, and to try to link it with my vision of where we can go in our country. And I’m hoping that I am getting closer to that. I’ve made some progress — not enough.
Reportedly, “Every so often, at a town hall or rally, there was Clinton, asking for more love and kindness.” Quoting a mentor, Marian Wright Edelman, the founder of the Children’s Defense Fund where Clinton began working in 1970, Hillary has often told audiences, “Service is the rent we pay for living. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time.”

Melanne Verveer, one of Clinton’s closest advisers, said, “This has been a continuum with her. Nobody said to her, well, you should talk about community, and you should talk about service, and you should talk about how we should treat each other. I mean, that was fundamentally who she was. This is a woman who taught Sunday school. This is deeply who she is.” 

But last night, though she had ample opportunity to do so, she never used the words “love” or “kindness” and I heard nothing about the “intersectional” approach she has at times suggested. Even in her closing statement, she only said:
America didn't stop being great, we have to make it whole again. We have to knock down the barriers, we have to end the divisiveness, we have to unify the country,...knock down every barrier that stands in the way of America realizing its potential and every American having a chance to live up to his or her God-given potential. 
We have economic barriers…. We have barriers that stand in the way of quality health care…. We have barriers to education…. And I do want to take on the barriers of systemic racism. 
Then she merely presented policies that the government can adopt to eliminate those barriers. If she’s really committed to nurturing compassion throughout society, it seems she would have talked about it last night. The fact that she did not solidified my suspicion that she will say one thing to one audience and another to the next audience, and often not do the right thing after saying it.

The debate mostly consisted of wonkish policy disputes. There were some heartfelt moments. But by and large the event avoided personal issues, including the importance of underlying values and compassionate action in daily lives.  

The only time either of them came close to encouraging grassroots organizing was when Bernie thanked a Flint resident “for not being resigned to that horrendous situation, but being prepared to stand up and fight back.” Organizing a revolution requires more than individual, spontaneous action.

Unfortunately, Bernie embraced Hillary’s description of him as a “single-issue” candidate. He said, “My one issue is trying to rebuild a disappearing middle class.” If he’s going to focus primarily on economics, he needs a stronger mission statement than that.

I would prefer to hear something like the following from our Presidential candidates:
I am concerned about everyone who is held back or beat down, however and wherever it happens. I want to encourage and support the growth of a more compassionate society that empowers everyone, and enables everyone to live the good life. I ask not only what our governments can do for us; I also ask what can we do for each other. Increasing economic opportunity is one way to help achieve that goal. But it’s not the only method. We must more fully care for each other throughout society and organize new social structures that help us do that.
Until I hear those themes, my enthusiasm for any candidate will be limited.

I still don’t know who would be the strongest candidate in November. If Clinton develops her “love and kindness” theme convincingly and consistently, I might vote for her in the June California primary. But if the election were held tomorrow, I would vote for Bernie, if only to help him push his issues at the convention. 

In the meantime, I’ll continue to do what I can to foster “transformative politics” rooted in compassion and a commitment to serve the common good of the entire Earth Community.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Bernie’s Revolution

Hillary has learned from Bernie. Now Bernie needs to learn from Hillary.

If he does, and urges his followers to work year round to transform the Democratic Party, we could build an actual “political revolution” that endures. If he does not, his impact will be more cultural than political.

Electing a President and changing a few policies, however important they are, do not constitute a political revolution. A revolution is “a fundamental change in political organization” that involves “the overthrow...of one government…and the substitution of another by the governed.” To sustain itself, a revolution needs to involve lasting structural change in how government is organized, as well as a shift in its guiding philosophy.

A democratic revolution would empower all people in all aspects of their lives by establishing structures that foster empowerment. The most viable path to that goal is to turn the Democratic Party into a truly democratic organization that:

  1. works year-round to implement the platform that it adopts at its national convention, and;
  2. helps to meet neglected human and environmental needs throughout the year. 

The Party needs to be concerned about more than electing people. It also needs to focus on genuine service. If it did, as a byproduct, it would nurture more loyalty from its members, which would help win elections.

The Democratic Party is structured so that its members could, if they decided to do so, control the organization from the bottom up. At open caucus meetings and during statewide elections, registered Democrats elect leaders to the state Party, whose members elects leaders to the national Party.

Those members could elect representatives who shared a commitment to turning the Party into a year-round activist organization dedicated to implementing the national platform by building self-organizing, precinct-based, supportive communities that attend to local needs.

Unfortunately, however, most local and state Democratic parties are dominated by elected officials and elected representatives loyal to those officials who do not want to risk burning their bridges with those officials. Most of those officials and representatives in leadership positions seem to be most concerned about moving up the ranks and becoming more powerful, for the sake of power itself. Power and access to power become intoxicating “aphrodisiacs.” So Democratic Party members who are elected to positions of power within the Party become submissive and do not push the Party to become a truly democratic, service-oriented, activist organization.

Unfortunately, Bernie’s track record in Vermont does not indicate an inclination to use his campaigns and his office as organizing tools to help build an ongoing, member-controlled activist organization.

Bernie’s campaign has placed important economic issues on the table. Increasingly, Clinton’s speeches echo his. Fortunately, Bernie and his supporters will push those positions all the way to the convention, where they will impact the Democratic Party platform. So the more delegates Bernie wins, the better.

But Hillary has a point when she criticizes Bernie for being “single issue.” As Bill Fletcher commented on Pacifica Radio the night of the Iowa caucus, when Bernie has talked about social issues, it has been as an “add on.” He has not spoken about those issues, such as racism and sexism, as “integral” to economic issues.

Fletcher’s use of the word “integral” suggests a systemic analysis, which is essential. How do the dots connect? How are the issues inter-related? References to “the system” are commonplace. When Elizabeth Warren first declared, “The system is rigged,” the audience erupted. The Oscar-winning film, Spotlight, affirms going after “the system” rather than scapegoating individuals, which is a critical distinction.

On a recent CNN post-election analysis, Van Jones suggested that Hillary is being effective by adopting “intersectionality,” a term coined by Kimberle Crenshaw that was new to me. As summarized by wikipedia:
The theory suggests that—and seeks to examine how—various biological, social and cultural categories such as gender, race, class, ability, sexual orientation, religion, caste, age, and other axes of identity interact on multiple and often simultaneous levels. The theory proposes that we should think of each element or trait of a person as inextricably linked with all of the other elements in order to fully understand one's identity. This framework can be used to understand how systemic injustice and social inequality occur on a multidimensional basis. Intersectionality holds that the classical conceptualizations of oppression within society—such as racism, sexism, classism, ableism, biphobia, homophobia, transphobia, and belief-based bigotry—do not act independently of each other. Instead, these forms of oppression interrelate, creating a system of oppression that reflects the "intersection" of multiple forms of discrimination.
From that perspective, economics is not primary, with personal and social issues being secondary, as Sanders suggests. Rather, all forms of oppression and domination must be addressed simultaneously by pushing for complete liberation and empowerment, both individual and collective. I hope to learn more about how to talk about those issues from those writers who affirm intersectionality.

Hillary’s evolving call for more compassion seems to be moving in that direction, as when she said:
I want this campaign, and eventually my administration to be more about inspiring young people, and older ones as well, to find that niche where kindness matters, whether it’s to a friend, a neighbor, a colleague, a fellow student—whether it’s in the classroom, or a doctor’s office, or in a business—we need to do more to help each other. That’s what my campaign is about. I want more kindness.
That spirit needs to guide the Democratic Party on every level. The contrast with Trump’s anger and meanness could help illuminate the issue. Somehow we need to help one another set aside our preoccupation with “what’s in it for me” and create a truly compassionate society.

Hillary may be returning to the compassion-grounded roots of her college days and adopting Van Jones’ position, “the 99% for the 100%,” rather than Bernie’s “us against them” approach. His strident, angry, confrontational approach mobilizes many people, but it turns off others. A movement that is clearly based on “love and kindness” could be more enduring if it promotes structural changes that nurture compassion.

As has reported extensively, across geographic, demographic, and ideological lines, Trump is attracting support from authoritarian personalities who fear “outsiders” and desire order. Identified by answers to questions about parenting, authoritarians prefer respect for elders, obedience, being well-behaved, and having good manners over independence, self-reliance, being considerate, and being curious. In politics, they are more likely to want strong leaders who suppress “scary changes, if necessary by force [with] simple, powerful, and punitive” measures.

By tapping fear and anger, Trump has coalesced an authoritarian political force that will likely endure post-Trump. The pending crippling or splitting of the Republican Party provides the Democrats with an opportunity to take over both the Senate and the House as well as the Presidency, if not this year, soon.

If he doesn’t already have a plan in mind, maybe Bernie will soon see the light concerning how to institutionalize his movement, perhaps by re-organizing the Democratic Party. And maybe he’ll begin to talk about personal and social issues more effectively, which would enhance his prospects.

But at the moment, my intuition is that Hillary would be a stronger candidate in November because Trump would mercilessly attack Bernie for being a “socialist” (a label that is still problematic) and an “old man.”

If we suffer one or two more terrorists attacks between now and then, we may need our strongest candidate to defeat Trump and his fascist tendencies. I used to believe that total fascism was not a threat in this country, given our commitment to civil liberties. Now I’m not so sure.

But who knows? A case can be made that Bernie would be stronger than Clinton against any Republican. If we’ve learned anything from this campaign season, it’s that more humility is in order.