Mendocino County Today: Monday, May 2, 2016
by AVA News Service, May 1, 2016
SHERIFF TOM ALLMAN is going around the County to personally gather signatures for his popular Mental Health Facility Initiative. He’ll be in downtown Boonville from 10am to noon on Monday, May 2, and in downtown Philo that afternoon from 12:30 to 2. He’ll be happy to talk to anyone who stops by about his proposal.
ESSENTIALLY, the “Mental Health Facility Development Ordinance of 2016,” would establish a five-year half-cent sales tax to revitalize mental health services throughout Mendocino County. Allman estimates that the five-year tax should net about $22 million. The tax would be used to develop (construct, procure or lease) facilities to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness and addiction recovery, i.e., a local locked inpatient facility that would reduce emergency room visits by redirecting 5150s (danger to self or others) to a local facility where mentally ill or otherwise incapacitated patients await psychiatric thus reducing the time that local law enforcement spends dealing with the mentally ill in crisis. It would also save the county a lot of money that now goes to expensive out-of-county facilities. The initiative would also fund a training facility for mental health and public safety professionals to learn how to better handle the usual suspects. A “politically independent oversight committee” would keep track of all spending of the proposition funding.
ALLMAN RECENTLY TOLD US that officially he and his core group of supporters and signature gatherers need a minimum of 2,502 registered Mendocino voter signatures but they hope to collect 3,500 prior to the end of May. Technically they have until the end of July to finish the process and put it on the ballot. “We will soon be focusing on the campaign necessary to get the two-thirds vote,” said the Sheriff. “We will be standing by our local post offices and at our Farmers markets and other venues. We see this as a solution for our mental health dilemma on the horizon. Hooray.”
MENDOCINO REDWOOD COMPANY, via one of their pr people we assume, wrote the following to local papers: "To the Editor: Mendocino Redwood Company was created in 1998 from lands purchased in Mendocino and Sonoma county with the publicly declared mission to be good stewards of the forest and at the same time run a successful business. This set a different, sustainable and better path from the legacy of previous owners. In addition to the California Forest Practice Rules, MRC voluntarily subjects itself to third party verification of forest…"
WHICH SET ME a-thinkin.' Mendocino County history is pretty thin, its formal history, that is. A lot of stuff never got written down. I hope someone will straighten me out if I'm wayyyyyy wrong here, but I've seen fleeting mentions here and there from old Ukiah newspapers of smallholders being cheated out of, and even violently driven off, their timberlands and inconvenient in-holdings when the large interests put together the mammoth timber forests we see today in Mendocino County. I imagine a day will come when the local timber families will reverse that process and reclaim corporate forests to run them in small, self-sustaining parcels like, say, Comptche's Hollister Ranch, and we'll be a county of freeholders like Thomas Jefferson had in mind. Of course we're aways away from that glorious day. Mean time, everyone in the in-County timber business is more like a Russian serf from Czarist times, albeit a serf with a tv set and a six-pack, but just as dependent on the master, in the case of MRC, a savage Frisco-based family called Fisher.
IN FACT, Joe Scaramella, former Fifth District Supervisor, remembered it this way:
“Before Masonite, the biggest lumber companies were the Albion Lumber Company, the Caspar Lumber Company, the Mendocino Lumber Company and Fort Bragg Lumber Company. They owned most of the forestland. Interspersed in between those lumber company lands would be private holdings of various sizes and values. I remember around 1910-1912 there was almost a regular war with rifles out here on the road to Boonville. The Eli White Lumber company in what is now Elk was claiming land out there toward the Coast that some of the settlers had filed claims on. I don't know if there was actual shooting, but people were ready to go. The rapacious lumber companies were trying to grab it and these people thought they had prior claims and rights. It was one huge controversy, it was quite a mess there until it finally subsided. I think what finally resolved it was the old ‘money counts.’ The lumber companies backed down for the moment, but soon the farmers and settlers were starved out because most of them still had to sell their lumber to the big mills at prices the mills set. So they had to sell their lands, and ‘somebody’ bought them.”
DEAD-TREE FLYOVER VIDEO
DEPARTMENT of unintentional humor, the headline in the Ukiah Daily Journal this week that read, "City of Ukiah, Palace Hotel owner still in discussions." Those discussions have been going on for almost a decade now, and we're no closer to resolution than when the discussions began. So a visiting judge wafts into town on golden per diem and advises the two sides — a wacky and underfunded Marin woman who has title to the abandoned hotel, and the lavishly tax-paid lawyer for the dying city of Ukiah — to "mediate." This is the process. Over and over again.
THIS CHRONICLE SENTENCE jumped off the page at me this morning: "Also demonstrating were members of the protest group Black Lives Matter, the Oakland Workers Collective and several self-professed communist organizations, including the Progressive Labor Party, whose members were reminding observers about how they reinvigorated mundane May Day marches in the 1970s."
PROGRESSIVE LABOR? I knew those guys, and they were almost all guys, and of those guys probably half were FBI agents, when the late John Ross was their lead guy. AVA readers will remember John when he wrote for Boonville's beloved community newspaper. John was just about the most fearless person I've known, fearless to where I assumed he wouldn't make it out of the 60s alive. He got beat up by the police a bunch of times, he got beat up by the Black Panthers, he got beat up by passersby on the street who didn't like the bi-lingual sidewalk speeches he delivered in the Mission on Saturday mornings. He insulted me every time he saw me, and he insulted me by mail, then e-mail when he wrote for the paper. He once wanted to use me to insult Alexander Cockburn, a person you insulted at great peril. I refused to do it, explaining to John his denunciation of Cockburn, a close friend, was so hysterical that he, John, would look like a total nut doing it. And then he'd get a prose beating from Cockburn worse than the physical ones he was used to taking. But what I liked best about John was that he wasn't a grudge hoarder. He'd go off at unreasonable length, then that was the end of it. Would never bring it up again.
PROGESSIVE LABOR DID INDEED enliven demos. They torqued up the tensions wherever they went. They were Maoists then, probably still are, and, as individuals, smart and funny so long as the subject wasn't politics. But the only political ideas at the abstract level that ever resonated with me were the anarchists. I thought Maoism, as applied to America and Americans, was so far from any known Americano applicability that you might as well have been selling rainfall futures. PL back? Look for street demos to get a lot more, ah, energetic.
MIGHTY' NAVARRO SANDBAR CAN LET LOOSE — AS A TOURIST FOUND OUT.
The sandbar at the mouth of the Navarro "closed" Friday morning — but it was a tenuous close. The top photo was taken 8:15 pm Friday night - it was one continuous stretch of sandbar people were casually walking upon.
On Saturday, people continued to walk across it — until the river "breached" trapping a visiting Humboldt County woman. The river roared through the breach eventually settling down to carve a wide, shallow, breach in the sandbar.
BENEFIT MAY 21 FOR LYNDA AUBREY
A benefit for Lynda Aubrey will be held Saturday, May 21, at the Greenwood Community Center in Elk. Lynda is really hoping that she will be able to attend the benefit and we are too! She is currently recovering from chemotherapy and radiation treatments for tongue and throat cancer. Her job now is to get stronger, gain weight, catch up on sleep, and do her physical therapy exercises with her tongue, mouth and neck to regain her voice & be able to swallow again. The proceeds of the benefit will ease Lynda's financial burden as she recuperates over the next couple of months. The fundraiser starts at 4 p.m. with appetizers and drinks. A spaghetti dinner will be served from 6 to 7:30pm.
From 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. the following musicians will sing and play their instruments: Lavender Grace, Chris Skyhawk, as well as Sue Nagle & her band Sue Mommie's Kitchen Band. They will play earth grooves infused with reggae, rock, and funk music. Nicole Fish & Trillium Tribe will do belly dancing. At 8 p.m. 'Pura Vida' will perform Afro-Caribbean dance music. There will also be a silent auction a with over hundred items donated by local individuals and businesses. Donation at the door is $20. Children under 6 years of age are free.
No dogs please. We are thankful for the efforts of the Greenwood Community Center, various community members and friends of Lynda's and for the many donations we have received for the raffle and the silent auction. If some of you want to bake desserts for us we would appreciate it (cookies or pies or some other yummy dessert item).
We also need volunteers to help collect money by the door, sell raffle tickets, monitor the silent auction, wash dishes, make coffee, sell desserts, sell non alcoholic drinks, dance, or help clean up. To let us know about the dessert you want to bring or help with the above mentioned tasks you can reach Annemarie Weibel at 937-5575 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have questions about the benefits call Anna marie Stenberg at 964 9109 or email at email@example.com If you will not be in the area and want to donate money to Lynda you can donate any amount to the Greenwood Community Center, write "HealthCare" on the "for" line. You can drop these checks off at the Elk Post Office or mail to:
Greenwood Community Center
Elk, CA 95432
You can send mail directly to Lynda at:
c/o Sabin Willingham
1219 Birch Ave
San Mateo, CA 94402
Please spread the word about the benefit!
Thanks, Annemarie Weibel and Anna Marie Stenberg.
[photo by Annie Kalantarian]
WAYNE ALLEN SINKS COLUSA HOSPITAL
by Malcolm Macdonald
Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH) projects an $835,000 budget deficit for the coming fiscal year. That was the bottom line of an April 26th informational gathering held just before the MCDH Finance Committee meeting had to be canceled for lack of a quorum.
One could look on the bright side of the numbers, at the end of June, 2016, the hospital is likely to have lost only slightly more than $20,000 in the current fiscal year. Though Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Wade Sturgeon stated revenues should go up in the upcoming year so, too, will operating costs.
Sturgeon claimed that his estimates for potential revenue were stated on the conservative side. If one wants to look for financial hope in the upcoming year, gaze no further than the line in Sturgeon's “Budget Notes” that says, “Based on the evaluation of our charges over a 6 month period, it is estimated we under coded ER [Emergency Room] charges.”
How much one might ask? Sturgeon answers with, “$4.4 million over a 12 month period.”
Questioned later about the matter Sturgeon said the six month period started about six months before February, 2016. There have been rumors and even statistics that hinted at major billing errors in the past at MCDH, but this multi-million dollar error of omission occurred under the tenure of Sturgeon and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Bob Edwards, who started on the job in April, 2015. Sturgeon joined MCDH a couple of months later and it should be said that some of MCDH's short term upturn has been due to Sturgeon and his underlings finding significant amounts of savings and improved billing methods in some areas.
Losses of a million and a half dollars (or more) in the ER Department were cited by Edwards as the chief reason to look into an attempt at passing a parcel tax increase for the Mendocino Coast Health Care District. However, the parcel tax scheme is on hold until at least next spring and, as reported here earlier, Edwards is now promoting a switch to a hospital fee provider system that Edwards touts as a multi-million dollar annual gainer for MCDH. In order to make the switch to the hospital fee provider system MCDH would have to restructure itself under an appointed non-profit board that would make the day to day operating decisions for the hospital. There are rumblings of dissent in and outside the coast hospital by those who see this as a further power play by Edwards. Some of those questioning the hospital fee provider system may very well be on the MCDH Board of Directors. That publicly elected board might lose much of its decision making power if a non-profit board is set up to monitor the hospital as well. The presumed recipient of more power and control in all of this would most likely be the CEO, Bob Edwards.
Anyone searching for more signs of acrimony within MCDH's current power structure need gaze no further than the April 28th MCDH Board meeting agenda, under New Business, to an item entitled “Review and Approval of Medical Staff Bylaws.” Board member Sean Hogan moved to have the matter tabled and Dr. Peter Glusker (recently retired neurologist) seconded while questioning why these bylaws were not written in accordance with California Medical Association (CMA) guidelines instead of the California Hospital Association (CHA) guidelines that chief of medical staff John Kermen (anesthesiologist) and his committee seemingly followed. The difference being that the CMA represents physicians and the CHA can be looked on as representative of hospitals as a whole, thus that organization could be said to advocate more for the administration of hospitals rather than physicians themselves. All of this comes on the footsteps of MCDH's Medical Executive Committee balking at a full on round of mediation with the Board and administration, a mediation recommended for by the Board's legal counsel.
One bit of good news comes as a result of the recent closure of Colusa Regional Medical Center. With just forty-eight hours notice MCDH sent a team to Colusa that ended up recruiting two nurses and a pair of diagnostic imaging employees to the coast. More hires resulting from another hospital's misfortune may be pending. In addition, MCDH may be able to acquire some of Colusa Regional Medical Center's equipment at lower than normal rates.
Anyone looking for vulture analogies need gaze no further than the Colusa closing. Their CEO at the time of the April 22nd closure: Wayne Allen, who presided in a similar post during MCDH's bankruptcy era.
(Malcolm Macdonald's website is: malcolmmacdonaldoutlawford.com.)
GOOD THINGS AHEAD, MAYBE
To the Editor:
First let me get off my chest a bit of family lore before I segue into the marijuana economy. This is a story with a Ukiah Valley historical twist that should be shared before it is lost: Background: I grew up in Mill Valley, in the 60’s and 70’s. Next door was a vacant lot and just beyond that lived a gay couple. Good neighbors. One of these two guys, Bob, really came through when my mother was terminally ill with cancer in 1970 and my dad needed help transporting her to San Francisco for radiation.
The bottom line: By the 80’s my dad had remarried. He and my stepmother told Bob that they had bought property near Ukiah where they planned to retire. Bob, a California Department of Highways (now Caltrans) engineer told them that Ukiah was the place where they really had fun with the numerous freeway interchange designs. Since there was very little traffic up that way they could try different things as it would really make little difference if they ended up being less than ideal. Bob and his partner Jack are gone now. I never got a chance to tell Bob that one of those on-ramps is so bad (North State Street, north bound) that I will never use it, having seen so many close calls and wrecks there. Often as I drive north and am following the advice of the signs that say “Through Traffic Use Left Lanes Next Three Miles” this story comes to mind.
In my dreams that ramp will get a total redo and I will feel good about using it again. Even though a recent article mentioned that funds for doing the work were not available due to the drop in gas tax revenues, I will continue to hope. When we were faced with the possibility of a shopping center on the Masonite property the only upside I could see was that at least the developer might be forced to fund improvements like that.
Ross Liberty’s purchase of the entire property has got it back on track for industrial use. Thanks Ross! One thing we should consider is this: In February Santa Rosa City Council voted to allow commercial marijuana cultivation in industrial areas. This is just the tip of an iceberg. Right now we are facing, or not facing, a major danger to our local economy: legalization of marijuana will deal a heavy blow to what is the biggest industry we have.
If we do not start moving, and quickly, to prepare our county for big changes, especially in regards to competition from other areas where marijuana has not been grown in the past our economy could be dealt a potentially crippling blow. Government needs to do all it can to work with the marijuana and related industries as well as service businesses so we can position ourselves to maintain Mendocino’s existing reputation in the marijuana economy in what will be an entirely new day. My worst nightmare is that we lose the marijuana money machine to other areas where production costs are lower and we end up like the Appalachian’s after the coal mines began to close.
Taking full advantage of legalization will entail much more than measures like allowing production in industrially zoned areas. Prices are likely to drop too and so we will need to exploit the marijuana industry in new ways to maintain and enhance its economic impact. Mendocino is a beautiful place and so marijuana tourism has great potential. If we can combine our proximity to the Bay Area and our existing tourist draws of the coast, parks and wineries with marijuana tourism based on our reputation as the premier marijuana growing region in the USA we are well positioned to see a very significant increase in tourism.
I have read Ukiah residents’ indignation at the spending of city funds on a hotel study. My feeling is that what is really needed is a broader study and a resulting plan, funded by both county and city governments, for all the towns and cities of Mendocino county, especially the inland areas, that helps us move quickly to take advantage of the tourism potential of marijuana legalization. We have a number of assets that can be retooled to take advantage of marijuana tourism. When thinking of a hotel in downtown Ukiah the Palace Hotel does come to mind. A significant uptick in tourism is just what could make the Palace a viable hotel again. The other big asset in downtown Ukiah that will need to be repurposed is the courthouse. I don’t agree with those who are against building a new courthouse. Funded by court fees, not income or property taxes, Mendocino, not some other county, will get a modern and much safer facility, our economy will receive a temporary boost during construction, the former rail yard will be cleaned up and repurposed and last but not least we will be left with an empty but solid building, the old courthouse, owned by state government, not an underfunded out of towner or a running in the red Postal Service. What about turning it into a center for all of the products we produce from foods, beer and wine, to crafts and art and last but not least marijuana that might appeal to tourists? I am thinking something like the Ferry Building in San Francisco.
Marijuana tourism can have a significant impact on the county north of Ukiah. Willits is a natural marijuana mecca. It could be time to change the wording on the arch over the highway to “Willits, Heart of the Emerald Triangle.” Besides appropriate shops along Main Street an expanded county museum that educates and entertains tourists on the history of marijuana in Mendocino could also be very popular with visitors. The Hotel Van could become Willits version of the Palace in Ukiah. Another type of lodging that is becoming an increasingly important part of the tourism industry is AirBNB and its like. Increased tourism would inevitably result in more demand for this type of lodging. It often flies under the radar resulting in a loss of occupancy taxes. Other areas have seen that this type of lodging has resulted in a loss of rental housing and we don’t want that to happen here. The small stock of rentals is already a problem. The county and the cities could look at existing zoning rules to see if changes can be made to encourage the construction of extra units specifically for this purpose on parcels where adverse impacts can be avoided or minimized. Visitors might be especially intrigued by the idea of a stay on properties with “old school” outdoor marijuana grows combined with rural charm and scenic beauty.
I started off relaying a bit of lore about our local transportation system. Focusing on transportation, marijuana tourism could also help us utilize another one of our “white elephants”: the North Western Pacific Rail line. What if we could end up with a “Pot Train” that ran from Cloverdale to Willits? In Cloverdale the completion of the Sonoma-Marin SMART rail system would allow a tourist in San Francisco to get on the Larkspur Ferry in SF to begin what could be a multi day journey that would end in Willits. There would be stops in Hopland and Ukiah, maybe Calpella and Redwood Valley, that would be within walking distance of downtown areas and in Willits passengers could even transfer to the Skunk and continue to the coast. Getting tourists out of their cars would help control congestion, reduce air pollution, lessen climate change impacts and keep impaired drivers off the road and from generating bad publicity.
Another type of tourism could be developed along the difficult to repair and maintain for rail service portion of the NWP line north of Willits: do a “rails to trails” conversion of the balance of the line all the way to Eureka. What with the existing businesses along parts of the route, if lodging and food businesses were developed in the section that goes along the Eel River far from the 101 highway the result would be the most spectacular rail trail in the nation for cyclists and hikers. An Emerald Triangle Bike race could be an annual event that would help promote it. Bicycle rentals at appropriate locations would encourage day trips by casual cyclists. This trail could become a very serious magnet for tourists in both Mendocino and Humboldt.
I am sure what I have mentioned is just the beginning. The thing is that to avoid a real local economic downturn from the inevitable shake up in the marijuana industry we are going to have to make the best of it, not let it make the worse for it for our county. If we can plan, make some changes and seize the day I think some really good things could be coming our way.
Michael Toivonen, Redwood Valley
CATCH OF THE DAY, May 1, 2016
Anderson, Ardenyi, Barry
TODD ANDERSON, Laytonville. Probation revocation.
JASON ARDENYI, Ukiah. Meth for sale, smoking-injecting device, ex-felon with firearm, pot for sale, probation revocation.
WILLIAM BARRY, Ukiah. Failure to appear, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
Baumeister, Beers, Cabrera
RONALD BAUMEISTER, Ukiah. Petty theft, probation revocation.
MICHAEL BEERS, Ukiah. Drunk in public.
IZIK CABRERA, Fort Bragg. Assault with machinegun, assault weapon, or .50-caliber rifle upon a peace officer or firefighter.
Cisneros, Cowan, Escarano
JONAHTAN CISNEROS, Ukiah. Controlled substance, controlled substance without prescription, probation revocation.
CHRISTOPER COWAN, Modesto. Drug possession for sale.
JOSE ESCARENO, Covelo. Murder.
Gruber, Kester-Tyler, Menard
BRANT GRUBER, Crested Butte, Colorado/Boonville. Drunk in public.
DEVIN KESTER-TYLER, Ukiah. Controlled substance, failure to appear.
LOUIS MENARD, Cotati/Ukiah. Drunk in public.
Moreno, Romero, Santos
VERONICA MORENO, Ukiah. Drunk in public. (Frequent flyer.)
ALFREDO ROMERO, Hopland. DUI, suspended license.
RYAN SANTOS, Willits. Domestic assault, false imprisonment.
Shively, Valador, Venema
TYLER SHIVELY, Willits. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, probation revocation.
JERIMIAH VALADOR, Ukiah. Vehicle theft, evasion, possession of meth.
CHELSEA VENEMA, Fort Bragg. Use of tear gas unrelated to self-defense, resisting.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Here’s the truth: for the past several days, the entirety of the Democratic political establishment has been hoping Bernie’s political revolution would dissolve, that we Bernie supporters would just go away. But one thing is clear, we are only getting stronger:
YouGov National Poll –
April 27, 2016
Those numbers represent a four point gain for our campaign, and it comes entirely after our tough loss in New York. Numbers like that can’t be ignored because it proves our movement is resilient and will never stop fighting for the values we share.
BERNIE’S MAY DAY PRESS CONFERENCE
"EVERY ELECTION is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods."
— H.L. Mencken
DELUSION, n. The father of a most respectable family, comprising Enthusiasm, Affection, Self-denial, Faith, Hope, Charity, Optimism, and many other godly sons and daughters.
— Ambrose Bierce
THE LOOK I'll have at the end
will be the smile I give to people I don't really know.
Albert's not come home,
he's the sad ant on the end of my finger.
Howcome you didn't wrap yourself in the dancer's spins and dips,
wear black, flared pants?
Howcome you didn't remember the old grannie lady, naked by the river,
beating on herself with a stick, getting ready, hands,
talons of anger,
ready to beat the brown rushing flood?
She got nailed by a log right after the bell.
Howcome you didn't listen to your grandfather's voice
singing the songs of his grandfather?
All dogs are comedians, they just want to be laughed at.
Howcome you drove out onto the St. Clair River in a 48 Chevy, towards Detroit?
I watched the bubbles pop through the surface.
I thought of you under there.
I thought, howcome you know to dance,
to sing the songs of our roots
and you start driving to America across a river,
through the setting yellow haze?
I shot and buried in the Alder swamp
a wounded roadkill I found today
pissed off you aren't here to help me with the dying.
(Tom Hawkins, writing as Wanda Tinasky, 1985)
WILLIE BROWN'S WORLD is different than the one the rest of us live in. From his column in today's Chronicle:
“Demonstration update: Hard to work up a head of steam for the anti-Greg Suhr progressives backing those camped outside Mission Station on a hunger strike. It certainly wasn't the greatest look the other night when some of the supporters headed straight from a rally at the police station to one of the chic restaurants nearby.
“If they want to talk about it, maybe we can get together at Jardiniere. I was back there for the second time the other night. The quail was perfect, the warm crouton-based salad just as good. With dessert, it was $55 well spent. Try it — eating out is becoming more affordable, what with all the restaurants that are opening shop and trying to entice diners.”
$55 for dinner is “affordable”? Maybe to a one percenter like Brown.
Look at Jardieniere's menu and we see that the quail (ramp, chantenay carrot, basil) is a mere $34. (You know a restaurant is fancy when they use a lot of French and Italian words on the menu.) Sounds like Brown had the warm bread salad (artichoke, chicory, crescenza), which is $17.
The desserts are apparently listed under "sweets," and, even if he had the cheapest one, the $8 cookie (cookie, confection, tartelette), that comes to $59—without a tip.
No drink? "Cocktails" are $13 (pomme noir: rye, baked apple shrub, pommeau de normandie, lemon, bitters) —"pommeau de normandie"? Le de fucking da!
That would push the tab up to $72. Maybe Brown just had water.
A 20% tip on a $72 dinner would be $15, which would make the tab around $87.
You don't have to wonder what all those Bernie Sanders supporters are upset about.
— Rob Anderson (Courtesy, District5Diary)
WHAT IS THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY GOOD FOR?
by Andrew Levine
Think of Republicans and despair for the human race. Even the ones who otherwise seem morally and intellectually sound champion political views straight out of Morons R’Us.
However, Democrats are worse — not morally or intellectually, of course; and neither are their views worse. But within the matrix of our semi-established two party system, Democrats do the most harm.
The Democratic Party is, by default, the political voice of organized labor and of social movements that fight for racial and gender equality, environmental sanity, and other worthy causes. Democrats can therefore do what Republicans cannot: integrate the victims of the status quo into a political consensus that serves and protects those who benefit most from it – the “one percent,” the “billionaire class.” They are good at this.
The generally accepted name for the socially atomizing, inequality-generating, environmentally reckless version of late capitalism practiced and promoted in developed countries over the past four decades is “neoliberalism.” For most Americans, as for most people around the world, neoliberalism has become Enemy Number One.
Republicans support neoliberal policies and practices more fervently than Democrats do. But, for putting them into practice, Democrats leave Republicans standing in the dust.
The American version of neoliberal theory and practice was concocted by Republicans and others who flocked into the Reagan administration decades ago; call them “Reaganites.”
The villainous old Gipper, Ronald Reagan, had little to do with it himself; he was never much of a thinker or visionary or policy wonk. But, in the United States, the name has stuck. It applies not only to neoliberals of the Reagan era, but to their successors as well.
Reaganites showed the way. However, “Clintonites,” the Clintons themselves and other “new” Democrats, put the Reaganite vision into practice.
In America these days, Reaganites think of it, Clintonites do it. Rank and file Republicans, insofar as they think at all, believe in it; rank and file Democrats don’t like it, but let it happen.
By now, though, nearly everyone who does not benefit egregiously from the neoliberal world order is fed up with its consequences. In public opinion, the Reaganite-Clintonite era has run its course.
Were the United States more of a (small-d) democracy, that would be the end of the story – and of the Clintons. But there is almost nothing democratic about American politics. It therefore looks like the neoliberal era will be hanging on for a while longer, an unloved encumbrance to human progress and wellbeing.
And, as the global hegemon goes, so go the countries it dominates. For the time being, the change so many yearn for is not quite at hand.
Even so, there are reasons to hope: American politics is changing – in ways that could, before long, cause the neoliberal world order to fall.
The Republican Party is destroying itself. This has been in the works for a long time, but the Trump phenomenon has pushed the process along, and changed its nature.
A facetious later-day Hegelian might say of this that the Cunning of Reason is at work.
Hegel thought that History becomes increasingly rational and therefore intelligible through the deeds of world historical figures, great men (always men) acting out their passions and interests. He insisted, however, that this only becomes apparent in retrospect. In this case, Reason’s cunning is on display even as events unfold.
Thanks to Trump, there is another wrinkle to add onto the Hegelian story: that Reason has a sense of humor. Hegel had men like Julius Caesar and Napoleon in mind. But the latest world historical figure, the Donald, is the very antithesis of figures like that: he is an over the top real estate tycoon, reality TV star, and all-around buffoon.
Hegel thought that opposites are integrally related. Democrats and Republicans certainly are. It is hardly surprising, therefore that the Democratic Party may also be on the brink of becoming undone or, failing that, of changing beyond recognition.
This might seem unlikely now that Hillary Clinton’s victory over Bernie Sanders is practically assured. But the Sanders campaign, whatever becomes of it, introduced a destabilizing element into American politics. The Democratic Party may not yet be on the brink of destruction, but there is no telling what Reason has in store.
Were the Democratic Party to vanish from the face of the earth, it would certainly not be missed, except by deluded liberals who think, for example, that Hillary is one of the good guys, and that her “experience” – as an official wife, a feckless Senator, and the worst Secretary of State in modern times – has taught her how to get worthwhile things done.
Even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, there are people who believe that, alarmingly many of them. Democrats buy snake oil at Morons R’Us too.
At first, Elizabeth Warren was the Great Progressive Hope. She had one obvious advantage over Bernie: Team Hillary couldn’t play the gender card against her. But she said she wouldn’t run, and she meant it.
Sanders therefore came to occupy the space that might otherwise have been hers.
It was plain to progressives of nearly all stripes, from Day One, that, if nothing else, Sanders’ candidacy would help reintroduce “socialism” — the word, if not the idea – back into the American lexicon. This couldn’t hurt, and might actually do some good. A Warren candidacy would not have had the same effect.
Otherwise, between Warren and Sanders, it was, as far as anyone could tell, a wash.
One argument against Bernie was that his campaign would redound ultimately to the benefit of Hillary’s because it would keep progressive voters on board long enough for them to be coopted into the Clintonized Democratic Party’s mainstream. Another was that, on all but economic matters, his views were standard Democratic Party fare. The same arguments would likely have been deployed against Warren, had she decided to run.
I, for one, didn’t much care. It was enough for me that the twenty-first century versions of New Deal-Great Society liberalism that the two of them had in mind is better by far than anything we Americans, with our bought and paid for pro-business political parties and our servile corporate media, had any right to expect.
My beef with Bernie was just that he was too Clinton-friendly. No doubt, Warren is as well.
Nevertheless, I decided long ago that, if Bernie was still in the running by the time I had a chance to vote in the primaries, that I would vote for him – if only because a vote for Bernie would be a reasonably principled and effective way to protest the coronation of Clintonism’s (neoliberalism’s) reigning Queen.
Earlier this week, I made good on that decision. My state, Maryland, disgraced itself more fulsomely than the others voting that day — except Rhode Island. But even before last Tuesday, a Sanders victory was very nearly a mathematical impossibility.
For a few months, though, it did seem that a vote for Bernie could be more than just a protest vote; that he could win the nomination and therefore the presidency.
And it still seems that the “huge” crowds coming to Bernie’s rallies and feeling the Bern are part of something a lot bigger. The differences from the Occupy movements of 201l are significant, but the vibe is much the same.
Oddly, leftists were less skeptical of Occupy Wall Street and its clones than of the Sanders campaign, especially at first. I certainly was.
This was odd because Occupy lacked a political focus – electoral or otherwise. One didn’t have to be a committed Leninist to understand that this made it more than usually difficult for Occupy militants to figure out what to do next.
It was also plain that, without a more defined political orientation, the Occupy movements would be easily swept aside when the Forces of Order decided that the time to repress them had come, and when the campaign to reelect Barack Obama started sucking up all the air.
And so it was that Occupy burned out shortly after it got started.
Even so, it seemed, at the time, that Occupy’s bottom up structure and disregard of electoral politics was its strength. Also, the movement awakened a long dormant spirit of resistance — in much the way that Black Lives Matter now does.
Therefore, it wasn’t so strange, after all, that Occupy’s flaws didn’t seem quite as objectionable as the shortcomings of the Sanders campaign did in the days before it became clear that Bernie was on to something.
Unlike Occupy Wall Street, the Sanders campaign does have a focus and a structure; it is, and could only be, a top-down electoral campaign of the familiar kind. This is its weakness, of course. But it is also what has enabled it to reach more people and to change consciousness more profoundly than the Occupy movements ever could.
Much the same could be said for Sanders’ decision to run as a Democrat. Technically, he had always been an Independent. He was, however, an Independent who caucused with the Democrats in the House and Senate, and who generally voted the way a Democrat would. His change in party affiliation was therefore of little substantive consequence.
However, it was consequential strategically. Had Bernie run as an Independent, he would not have been included in debates, and he would be even more ignored by corporate media than he has been. Also, he would have had to waste money, time and effort just gaining ballot access.
Running as an Independent, he would almost certainly end up doing even less well than Ralph Nader did, running on the Green Party ticket sixteen years ago. Nader won a whopping 2.74% of the popular vote.
On the down side, though, by running as a Democrat, Sanders is strengthening the Democratic Party. And were he actually to win the nomination, he would have no choice but to cede at least some power over his campaign to that wretched party’s leaders. They would also demand a role in his administration.
Sanders’ decision to run as a Democrat may not quite rise to the level of a Faustian bargain; he has not had to sell his soul – not yet, anyway. But it comes close.
At the same time, by running as a Democrat, Sanders has done a lot of good. He has shown that it is possible to finance a Presidential campaign without relying on “the billionaire class” or Super PACs, or nefarious lobbyists. And he has moved the center of gravity in the Democratic Party to the left.
Thanks to the Sanders campaign, even Hillary is now talking the talk. Of course, in her case, it is only talk; when there is no longer anything in it for her, she will revert back to form. But, in politics, even insincere and opportunistic words can have beneficial consequences in both the short and long term.
Pundits used to say that the Sanders campaign was doomed to fail; now that it has very nearly done so, they are saying it again. This seems right; the institutional Democratic Party and the corporate media that supports it defeated Sanders, just as everyone expected they would.
But failure was not inevitable. Were it not for New York State’s election rules, which disenfranchised large numbers of potential Sanders voters, and for the Democratic Party machines that the Clintons concocted or took over during the past decade and a half, Sanders might have been able to sustain the momentum he brought into the New York primary by winning there. He would then have been well positioned to give the Clinton juggernaut a run for its money in the “Acela primaries” and in the others to come.
Hillary was never the inevitable nominee, just the most likely one. Unfortunately, this time, the facts bore the probabilities out.
In the end, though, her victory may be a blessing in disguise. For reasons I will mention presently, the Democratic nominee this year has always been sure to prevail against Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. But, barring a successful and profound “political revolution,” he or she would then have as hard a time governing as Obama has had.
In Obama’s case, racism made the problem worse. But Republican obstinacy will not go away just because the color of the Democrat in the White House next year will be white.
Republicans went after Obama mainly on domestic matters; they were fine with his drones and “targeted killings,” his deportations, his war on whistle-blowers and his assaults on privacy rights.
We can expect Republicans to thwart Hillary at every turn too, except perhaps when she warmongers and otherwise promotes Obama-style murder and mayhem. Even more than was the case under Obama, we should be grateful that she will seldom get her way: being clueless and inept, she has a knack for making everything she works on worse.
Indeed, before long, even Obama will be looking good. Expect too that, as the consequences of Hillary’s blundering unfold, many current Hillary supporters will wise up and turn on her in much the way that LBJ’s supporters turned on him half a century ago.
We will never know for sure how a President Sanders would fare. On the one hand, the man is a straight shooter; even Republicans can respect him for that. But capitalists who feel their power and privileges threatened fight back viciously. Because they own almost the entire political class, a “democratic socialist” who means what he says would not be likely to be cut much slack.
Sanders is faulted for being an “idealist” and a “dreamer.” This is nonsense; what he proposes – retrieving and then building upon progress made in the middle decades of the last century — is eminently doable, provided there is the political will. Countries less wealthy than ours do similar things all the time.
But finding the political will would not be easy. Republicans would be an obstacle, of course; but Democrats would be a problem too.
Even if his candidacy would generate enough excitement and voter turnout for Democrats to win control of the Senate and the House, as happened when Obama ran in 2008, Congress would still be in the hands of base and servile flunkies who toe the line for their corporate paymasters. The Democratic Congress Obama contended with during his first two years in office is a case in point.
Let Hillary deal with problems like that. Bernie can serve the people better in other ways.
Who’s Afraid of Donald Trump?
High on the list of nonsensical things that foolish liberals believe is the idea that because Hillary is a “centrist,” she is more electable than anyone further to her left.
This belief is like the old notion that after a heart attack or major surgery, patients should have complete bed rest as they recover. This seems commonsensical, but the idea is demonstrably false.
In this case, though, it is clear as can be that Hillary is going to shellac Trump (or Cruz) in November. Sanders would do the same – in all likelihood by a larger margin.
Even a people capable of venerating Ronald Reagan and reelecting George W. Bush in 2004, after it had become plain to anyone with half a brain how devastating his war against Iraq already was, would not put their country – and its nuclear weapons – in Trump’s (tiny) hands. The Donald cannot win – no way.
To be sure, there is a fair chance that Trump is not nearly the racist, nativist and Islamophobe that he pretends to be. He played that part on TV, though; and he won’t be able to live it down.
America is not yet a majority-minority nation — but it is getting there, demographically and in spirit. Therefore anyone nowadays whose public persona resembles that of, say, George Wallace circa 1971 cannot win an election that is not confined, as Republican primaries mostly are, to out of sorts white people.
Moreover, if Trump is the Republican nominee, he will not only have to contend with the Clintons and their hapless minions; he will have the Republican Party, what’s left of it, against him as well.
The swords are already drawn. The Old Guard is mobilized against Trump because he threatens their hold over their Grand Old Party. Libertarians, theocrats and other self-described “conservatives” are against him too — because they realize that, despite his bluster, he is emphatically not one of them.
It is likely, in fact, that Trump would run to Hillary’s left on most issues – trade, foreign affairs, infrastructure development, jobs programs, holding Wall Street banksters and other corporate criminals accountable, and so on.
Nevertheless, liberals say that, like her or not, Hillary is the lesser evil; and conclude, on that account, that she merits their support.
There is no point now in going back over the case against lesser evil voting, except to note that one of the timeworn arguments – that it is not always clear who the lesser evil is — is especially relevant in a Clinton vs. Trump matchup.
But, in this instance, lesser evil considerations are moot: Trump cannot win in November, period, full stop.
There is polling data that suggests that Bernie would have done a lot better than he did in recent primaries were voters more confident that a Democrat, any Democrat, would trounce Trump (or Cruz).
In the years to come, as the horror that is Hillary becomes apparent even to those who are now somehow able to enthuse over her candidacy, we will all have cause to regret that debilitating imperviousness to evidence that afflicts Republicans and Democrats alike.
Jesse Jackson folded the Rainbow Coalition into the Democratic Party after the 1988 primary season. Because he wanted to be a player, he squandered an enormous opportunity.
If Bernie follows suit, it will nullify much of the good his campaign has done.
Sanders seems less cooptable than Jackson. Nevertheless, every indication so far is that he will follow Jackson’s lead.
That it could come to this has been the great fear all along, and the main reason for faulting Sanders for running as a Democrat. Containing progressive uprisings is what Democrats do.
In principle, what got going under the aegis of the Sanders campaign could survive and even flourish without him. There is no denying, though, that, in the short run, it will help mightily if Bernie stays on board.
For that to happen, he will have to become more like Donald Trump. Liberal pundits and faux progressives are already busily telling one and all that this would not please them one bit. No surprise there!
When Republican grandees treat the Donald badly, as they have been doing relentlessly from the moment that it became clear that his campaign was more than just a joke, he has fought back with verbal retorts designed to cut them down — supplemented with barely concealed calls for violence.
Behind his words, however, there is, as everybody knows, the threat of exit. Trump could bolt, taking large swathes of the Republican base with him.
The institutional Democratic Party has treated Sanders badly too, notwithstanding their fear that, if they go too far, his supporters will also bolt, regardless what Sanders tells them or what he himself chooses to do.
They want to keep as many Sanders backers on board as they can, not because they are afraid that Trump will win in November — that isn’t going to happen – but for the sake of down ticket Democrats. To have any chance of taking over the Senate, the House and vulnerable State Houses, they know that they will need to keep the people feeling the Bern active and enthused.
Their thoroughly justifiable fear is that, without Bernie, most of them will just sit the election out.
There is no obvious way to prevent this. With Hillary at the head of the ticket, the temptations of quiescence are too strong not to prevail.
But all is not lost; not by any means. It may be impossible now for Americans opposed to neoliberalism to elect a President who is not part of the problem; but, thanks to the Sanders campaign, there has never been a more propitious moment for doing something even more worthwhile – changing the face of American politics by building a genuinely leftwing political party.
This is why the first order of business now must be to convince Bernie to join with those of us who would swim through vomit before voting for any Clintonite, much less the exceptionally inept and very dangerous “Madam Secretary.”
This won’t be easy. Bernie is too nice. It doesn’t help either that liberal pundits back the Democratic Party, as we know it, a thousand percent.
Even so, many Sanders supporters are sure to find their way to the Greens — voting, as I probably will yet again, for Jill Stein.
On economic matters and other domestic issues, Stein offers essentially what Sanders does; on foreign affairs, she offers a lot of what anti-imperialists don’t like about Sanders’ views.
With these considerations in mind – and with a Democratic victory in the Presidential contest assured – a vote for Stein ought to be a no brainer for the vast majority of Sandersnistas, especially those who live in the forty or so states whose electoral votes might as well have been assigned four years ago.
But the Greens have been going nowhere for as long as anyone can remember, and they are not even good for drawing protest votes. In 2012, when I would tell people, including some who follow election news closely, that I voted for Jill Stein, the response I would often get is: “Jill who?” This year is looking no different.
Nevertheless, thanks to decades of perseverance, the Greens do have ballot status in more states than any other “third party.” It is theoretically possible for them to assemble enough Electoral College votes actually to elect a President.
But their candidates are frozen out of media coverage. The media’s malign neglect of Sanders turned out to be not quite fatal, because, by challenging Clinton so successfully, his campaign was undeniably newsworthy; and because, running as a Democrat, he couldn’t be entirely ignored. Stein can and will be ignored; diluting the value even of the protest votes she receives.
However, were she and Bernie to join together, neither would stand a chance of being elected President, but the Greens would become a force to be reckoned with. This idea is one of many being floated (link: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/04/21/the-undemocratic-primary-why-we-need-a-new-party-of-the-99/). It is far from clear, though, that Bernie has the will, or that the Greens have the means, to make it happen.
Now is therefore a time to be thinking hard and fast about what is to be done.
It is also a time to be thinking about how a genuinely leftwing party could win over Democratic politicians whose hearts are in the right place, but who, for the time being, have no choice but to make common cause with Clintonites. There are only a few brave souls like that at the national level; at the state and local levels, there are many more.
Predictably, though, calls for party unity are already become deafening. They should be rebutted whenever possible, and otherwise ignored.
If the party the Clintons did so much to move to the right is harmed by defections, so much the better.
There are Democrats who do good work at the local and even the state level; at the national level, the good ones could probably all fit, as they say, in one taxi, with room left over for luggage.
Arguably, the rest do some good just by being there — keeping Republicans at bay. That consideration aside, today’s Democratic Party is good for nothing at all — at the national level and, with a few exceptions, further down the line.
The GOP is a wreck. This is outstanding news. A similarly damaged Democratic Party would be an enormously salutary development too, an achievement of truly historic importance.
(Andrew Levine is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, the author most recently of The American Ideology (Routledge) and Political Key Words (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).)