WHAT IS A POLITICAL CONVENTION FOR IF NOT TO CHOOSE A CANDIDATE?

Hillary Dumpty

The question of what is the purpose of a political convention may seem a trifle simplistic to modern media pundits, but as three generations of teachers—and Democrats—in my family were want to say, there are no stupid questions; just stupid answers.  So to all the politically savvy “experts” in the media and the Democratic political establishment nationwide, I recommend that you seriously consider—or reconsider—your own answer to this question, as well as my own answer below.

Thomas Nast dead elephant and Donkey over cliff
The GOP is a dying beast but can still do great harm; meanwhile, the Democratic Party establishment seems bound and determined to follow Hillary Clinton over the precipice.  Their convention in July is the place to correct their mistake.

For a number of years, the presidential convention has simply been one giant publicity event, a raucous but essentially meaningless cheerleading rally for the pre-anointed candidate of the respective political party.  We now have a prolonged and incredibly expensive process for selecting a presidential candidate, a process which is neither designed to choose the best possible person for the job, nor even the most electable candidate; and if the current Democratic Presidential nominating process is any guide, it is also not reflective of the wishes of the rank and file members of that political party, but the cynical will of a small circle of political bosses and their financial handlers.  

Traditionally, the purpose of a presidential political convention has been to select a candidate; how the candidate was chosen has varied over the years, but in essence the convention was the medium through which this was done.  Caucus, primary or smoke filled room have all been methods for selecting a suitable candidate; but the purpose has always been to choose the best person for the job, not to acquiesce to the political operative most acceptable to the billionaire class.

 

Hurricane image royalty free
The Democratic Party is traveling straight into the Perfect Storm with #CrookedHillary and can’t see it.  Only the nomination of Bernie Sanders can save the day.

Since the late 1970’s, the leadership of the Democratic Party—the party of Jefferson and Jackson, the party of the common man, the working man—has transformed it into a “me too” party, mimicking the Republican Party, perhaps a little less austere and still giving lip service to American workers but in fact undermining them at every turn, but has been gradually abandoning the values of FDR and the New Deal, the very programs and values that had made the Democratic Party the dominant political party for half a century; the programs and policies that had not only reformed a broken economic system, but ushered in an era of unprecedented prosperity for most Americans. 

Mind you, the wealthy also benefited from the economic programs of the New Deal, since we are a consumer economy and the more money American workers have, the more they spend. 

The reverse, however, is not true: giving the wealthy undeserved tax breaks and various “corporate welfare” schemes to not result in wealth trickling down to the American worker.  They never have and never will: Trickle Down economics, or whatever label you rebrand it with, is a proven failure and just a con to rob the middle class of their wealth and transfer it to the top 1%.  What is a billion dollars in political contributions when it will return you in 100 billion in tax breaks, government subsidies and assorted outsourcing and off-shoring schemes?

 

Stuffing-The-Ballot-Box
The only way Hillary has gotten the primary wins she has was by out and out cheating.

 

Bernie Sanders portrays himself as a “Democratic Socialist” and that is fine if he wishes to characterize his solid New Deal derived programs and policies in those terms.  Perhaps all these years the Democratic Party should have been more forthright to the American people about all those “socialistic” programs which created wealth and prosperity in this country.  Those programs, and a strong Union movement, created the record postwar prosperity we enjoyed between 1945 and into the 1970’s.  Perhaps then the Repugnican NeoCons would never have gotten to first base with their vile economic voodoo even in the Republican Party. 

 

Now both the GOP NeoCons and the DINO Democrat NeoLibs are attacking Social Security and Medicare as “entitlement programs” that need to be cut to balance the budget.  Even Ronald Reagan laid it out in simple terms that, while Social Security is technically in the Federal Budget, it DOES NOT contribute to the deficit; it is fully funded by the American people and their employers. YES IT IS AN ENTITLEMENT: YOU ARE ENTITLED TO THAT MONEY BECAUSE YOU PAID INTO IT YOUR ENTIRE WORKING LIFE, NOT THE BILLIONAIRES!  However, every American should be aware that over the years Social Security has been raided by the Republicans and some Dems as a giant slush fund to finance Billionaire tax cuts and otherwise unfunded wars (like Hillary’s Iraq War).  So, no Social Security is not “going broke” but the Billionaires and their Congressional toadies have been stealing from the till and need to put the money back,

Reagan Defending Social Security: reagan

Bernie Sanders Defends Social Security

bernie-sanderssmiling
Why is this man smiling? Guess.

However, to learn what the Repugnicans and the NeoLib Democrats have been doing with your Social Security money, listen to this radio show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqxMCjZxXYM

 

Hillary Clinton is a DINO—a Democrat In Name Only—and she and her fillandering husband have worked very hard to transform the Democratic Party in the Republican Light Party.  Even many progressives in the party—and they are fewer every year—are largely afraid to cross the Clinton Crime Family or run too strongly against the NeoLiberal lies that the Clinton organization has made the new party dogma.

 

Delacroix Liberty at the Barricades
aux la barricades in July and take the Democratic Party back from the Oligarchs, America.

 

The Democratic Party needs to get back to its roots; nominate Bernie Sanders, move heaven and earth to get money out of politics and push through financial reforms and all the regulations that were put in place after the “free market” bankrupted America.  The only reason these safeguards were removed was because of sheer greed.  During World War II, FDR proposed a Second Bill of Rights, also known as the Economic Bill of Rights.  Call it Socialism if you wish—but bear in mind the Pilgrims and the Puritans were socialists too and they never heard of Karl Marx.  Karl & Abe Book

 

Needless to say, all the phony trade treaties like NAFTA, the TPP and the upcoming TTIP and some 45 or so other scams to benefit multi-national corporations all need to be repealed and renegotiated into FAIR TRADE plans, where corporations are excluded and American workers benefited.  Then, and only then, can this nation come back from the precipice and begin to return to a prosperous and just society.

 

Unless the Democratic Natonal Convention in July does its true duty and nominate Bernie Sanders as their standard bearer, our nation is headed for an even bigger financial collapse than we experienced in 2008.  Hillary Clinton is a large part of the problem—her and the Republican NeoCons—and it is hard to say which would be worse, her or Trunp.  If Hillary is nominated, there is a strong chance the Democratic Party will go down to defeat; if she wins, it is almost certain she will be impeached.  Whatever vestige of Democracy we have is on the verge of disappearance.  The Democratic Convention can reverse this dangerous situation, but not if it nominates the worst candidate they have had since the era of Boss Tweed.

Hillary vs Bernie on Panama Trade Agreement

 

Advertisements

THOMAS PAINE: PATRIOT & SOCIALIST

590px-Thomas_Paine
Thomas Paine called “The Firebrand of the Revolution,” had strong opinions about Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

The notion that Socialism is a foreign innovation imported into the United States in the twentieth century is a falsehood which is deeply implanted in the modern American consciousness.  We have seen how the Pilgrims and Puritans organized their first colonies on a socialistic basis and that that socialistic structure proved key to their survival in the dangerous early years the two colonies existence.

Let us now finally lay to rest the false narrative of socialism as being  un-American by examining the case of American Patriot and revolutionary, Thomas Paine.

Having grown up in New Rochelle, New York–Paine’s home town during the American Revolution–I was exposed to Paine’s writings at an early age and visited Paine’s cottage to see where he penned many of his most famous phrases.  I even wrote an early essay on the “Firebrand of the Revolution.”

So I have long been familiar with his life and works.  However, until recently I had not grasped the economic aspects of his political ideology. In short, Thomas Paine was not only a Patriot and key figure in the American Revolution, but a Socialist as well.

Thomas Paine was about the closest the Thirteen Colonies had to a professional revolutionary. His pamphlets stirred the American rebels to action and motivated them to stay the course in achieving independence.  His stirring calls to action and evocative phrases still resonate today: “These are the times that try men’s souls,” “The Summer Soldier and Sunshine Patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country,” “The harder the conflict, the more glorious t he triumph.”

But in amongst his calls to action in defense of liberty and independence, he also declaimed against organized religion (especially Christianity) and he also had quite a bit to say about equality—social as well as political.  Of course, at the time of the Revolution, the Church of England was very much a political creature of both the Crown and the upper classes who ruled both England and America.  We forget that it was the dissident Protestant sects in America who were most in favor of separation of Church and State which is enshrined in our Bill of Rights.

The economic aspects of his political philosophy are rarely mentioned in discussions of Thomas Paine today, but they were part of his political philosophy of equality and his ideas about promoting equality are perhaps more relevant today than they were in his day.  If all wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few, you inevitably end up with an Oligarchy.  Economic inequality is the enemy of Democracy.  There is no way around that fact.

After the end of the American Revolution Thomas Paine traveled to France to join in the French Revolution  The French call for not just Liberty, but Equality and Fraternity had a strong appeal to Paine—and inherent in Equality and Fraternity is the notion of economic democracy.

french-revolution-kings-execution
An enthusiastic supporter of the French Revolution, he nearly lost his head when he began criticizing the revolution’s excesses.

 

To be fair and balanced (as it were) we should note the Mr. Paine was well surnamed, for at various times he made himself a royal pain to his fellow revolutionaries, both in the America and France.  He criticized George Washington at one point and when he saw the French Revolution start to devolve into the Terror, he began criticizing some of the French revolutionaries and he came close to getting his neck shaved by Madame Guillotine.  Not surprisingly Paine once quipped that, “he who dares not offend cannot be honest.”

Paine concentrated much of his social democratic ideas in a pamphlet called “Agrarian Justice.”  It was written in the winter of 1795-96, but he held off publication for a time, due in part to the war between France and England.  What apparently motivated him to go ahead and issue his essay was the verbal diarrhea of an Anglican Bishop who thought to answer his work The Age of Reason; the smug cleric entitled it “The Wisdom and Goodness of God in having made both Rich and Poor.”  The title of the pamphlet outraged Paine, who pointed out that God “made only male and female, and he gave them the earth for their inheritance.”

I think we still have far too many people today who still believe that their wealth is somehow due to God rewarding them for their virtue and that, conversely, poverty is God’s punishment for the unworthy.  As Paine pointedly note, economic inequality is mainly a condition mainly due to man’s injustice towards their fellow humans.  As Paine put it, “instead of preaching to encourage one part of mankind in insolence . . . it would be better that priests employed their time to render the general condition of man less miserable than it is. Practical religion consists in doing good: and the only way of serving God is that of endeavoring to make His creation happy. All preaching that has not this, for its object is nonsense and hypocrisy.”

But I digress.  In his pamphlet, Paine pointed out that poverty and want are not the natural state of man.  Paine illustrates this by giving the example of Native Americans of his day, whose tribes held all their land in common and enjoyed an egalitarian lifestyle: “The life of an Indian is a continual holiday, compared with the poor of Europe; and, on the other hand it appears to be abject when compared to the rich.”

HomePage6

It was Paine’s premise that “the earth, in its natural, cultivated state was, and ever would have continued to be, the common property of the human race. In that state every man would have been born to property. He would have been a joint life proprietor with rest in the property of the soil, and in all its natural productions, vegetable and animal.”  However, because of the rise of civilization, which he noted was usually a product of the sword, the land was divided and subdivided so that now a handful of producers have possession the soil and its bounty.

Paine argues that the air, earth water and land are a common patrimony of all humanity and that only the improvements to the land as a result of civilization are actually private property.  Beginning with the invention of agriculture, “the common right of all became confounded into the cultivated right of the individual,” Since it is impossible to separate the improvements from land itself, he proposed instituting what he called a ground rent on the propertied class.

From this single tax on land he proposed to funding payments to the landless to help equalize the disproportion between rich and poor.  Beginning at the age of fifty and over, an annual stipend of £10 per annum was to given to everyone, regardless of economic status.  Fifty is what at that time he considered the average life expectancy.  Also, when anyone reached the age of twenty-one they would automatically be given a lump sum of £15 Sterling, “as a compensation, in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance.” This would, he hoped, help give them their start in life.  A payment would also be made to those who became disabled or were infirmed and unable to support themselves sufficiently to make a living.  These payments, he emphasized, were not charity but a right—a universal right—and would be paid out regardless of whether the individuals were rich or poor.

To modern ears, Thomas Paine’s proposal for “Agrarian Justice” may not seem so radical, but in its day it most certainly was—which is why it was never instituted, either in Europe or America.  Bear in mind, in Paine’s day the Industrial Revolution had only just begun and land was still the primary measure of wealth and power.  In fact, not just wealth and social status, but voting rights and office holding were also dependent on the possession of land, even in the United States.

The other side of the equation in Paine’s plan was the taxation.  The improvements to the land would not be taxed, just the value of the land itself.  The “land rent” of 10% was a once time assessment for a direct descendant inheriting property, although higher for “indirect” descendants.  When that owner died in turn, an additional assessment was made.  Paine estimated that the effective turnover in property would be about every thirty years, so that over time any concentrations of property and wealth would gradually be equalized, or at the least the extremes of wealth and poverty minimized.  People would work still for their daily bread, but the extreme want and misery that existed would be eliminated.

Many aspects of Paine’s Agrarian Justice sound similar to our Social Security Insurance program begun by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930’s, although Social Security consists of an equal contribution between employee and employer and does nothing to fight inequality and the creeping Oligarchism of modern American politics.  In recent years even Social Security has come under incessant attack by reactionary politicians and the billionaires who bankroll them.

Paine’s Agrarian Justice resembles another American Socialist’s ideas.  Henry George, writing during the period when big business and monopolies were taking over the economy and the political establishment, penned Progress and Poverty in 1879.  He advocated a Single Tax on land as a cure for the growing disparity between rich and poor similar to Paine’s tax.  George, however, wrote in an industrial age and had a more elaborate political and economic program than Paine’s, and which also included proposals such as having all utilities being publicly owned and a secret ballot for elections.  Many of George’s criticisms of industrial society remain relevent, although his Single Tax solution found less favor among both socialists and economists.

Whether or not one believes Thomas Paine’s Agragrian Justice would have been a practical means of achieving social and economic justice, he remains a notable early American Socialist and Patriot, whose ideas remain a cornerstone of American political philosophy.

Hero Patriot and Paine in the Butt