Monday, March 28, 2016

It's the Corruption, Stupid

Given that Bernie Sanders has won five out of the last six Democratic primaries (and possibly lost in Arizona because of massive voter suppression) rumors of his political demise have been rather exaggerated. He even won by huge margins in Hawaii, the home state of Hillary-supporter Barack Obama.

But delegate-rich New York, which votes next month, is really the do-or-die state for Bernie. He plans to barnstorm the state as the Brooklyn native versus the Native Stepdaughter, a/k/a  the once and future carpetbagger (Arkansas by way of Illinois and D.C.) and presumed nominee.

If the recent  Democratic primary challenge to incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo by law professor Zephyr Teachout is any indication, Bernie should clean up in upstate regions, but perhaps not do as well in New York City, where Cuomo prevailed and won the primary, despite literally hiding under a stinking cloud of corruption at the time of his re-election.

Teachout, who like Bernie was strong-armed by the Democratic party machine in efforts to damage her candidacy, won by landslides in 20 upstate counties, including that of the state capital, Albany. She ultimately received more than a third of the vote -- which, given Cuomo's incumbency and national standing, was actually a huge blow to him. It put a permanent dent in any plans he might have had for a presidential, even a vice-presidential, run. She was a political neophyte who'd never before run for office.

Like Sanders, she ran on an anti-corruption, anti-centrist platform. Like Hillary Clinton, Cuomo was the inevitability candidate. Like Hillary Clinton, he balked at even debating his challenger. Like Clinton, he enjoyed the bountiful financial support of what Sanders labels "the billionaire class."

Matt Stoller wrote at the time:
Cuomo won for one reason — his opponent had no name ID, and he spent between $11M and $15M on this election. Money in politics is used to talk to voters through mail and TV. Without it, you are mute. Zephr Teachout didn’t do one piece of mail, or a single TV ad. There was a lot of evidence that primary voters, when given a light persuasion message, flipped to Teachout. She got a big chunk of the vote without spending very much at all. But there was no money to deliver such a message. Given a bit more money, or a bit more time, the outcome would have been different. To put it another way, Cuomo paid roughly $48 for every vote he got, where Zephyr paid roughly $2.70. That’s a very big differential, in terms of the power of the messaging. If Zephyr had had a bit more money, she could have easily won.
Oh, and Teachout is now running for the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Chris Gibson, the liberal Republican who himself won re-election in 2014 against a self-financed centrist carpetbagger Democrat from Illinois named Sean Eldridge. Eldridge, of whom I wrote a couple of years ago, was the very model of a plutocratic pol. He was one of the precursors of the reality that is now biting the Establishment right in its well-padded ass: Citizens United or no Citizens United, actual people are still worthy competitors against wads of cash. Just look at poor Jebbie Bush.

Teachout, for her own part, literally wrote the book on political corruption. From David Cole's review of Corruption in America:
As Teachout makes clear, the framers themselves predicted that corruption would be a constant threat. George Mason, for example, warned that “if we do not provide against corruption, our government will soon be at an end.” It was a preoccupation of the founding debates. In James Madison’s notebook from the summer of 1787, “corruption” appears fifty-four times. As Teachout puts it, “corruption, influence, and bribery were discussed more often in the convention than factions, violence, or instability.”
By corruption, the founding era did not mean simply the explicit exchange of cash for a vote, what the Supreme Court in its campaign finance decisions has come to call “quid pro quo corruption.” Teachout notes that the word “corruption” came up hundreds of times in the Constitutional Convention and the ratification debates, yet “only a handful of uses referred to what we might now think of as quid pro quo bribes,” constituting “less than one-half of 1 percent of the times corruption was raised.”
That lack of a quid pro quo necessity is precisely why Hillary Clinton's insistence that her millions of dollars in Wall Street speaking fees will not translate into political favors for Wall Street is so disingenuous. The bankers and oil companies and pharmaceuticals and defense contractors are not looking for immediate gratification. They are very patient greedsters. They know that good things come to them if only they can stand to wait a minute.

And do wait just a minute, plutes! It's not over yet. Gird your asses for some more swift kicks coming your way with much strength and accuracy and anger. There are still 18 states left to vote, with half the delegates still up for grabs. Bernie would need to win 57 percent of these delegates to achieve a majority heading into the convention. Not impossible, although the probability of Hillary winning the nomination is still at a daunting 92 percent.

But a little bird tells me not to believe the odds-makers. They have been so oddly wrong lately. 


Pearl said...

It's good to know that decent honest people are fighting the system more and more and I would like to think should Bernie not make it presidentially he has created the legacy for others to continue the struggle with him. Teachout's ability to stymie Cuomo's plans is an inspiring example of what could and should happen more often. There are simply too many citizens who are aware of the truth and are not going to fade away.
But here is such an opportunity for change to happen faster with Bernie which may be stalled which is so frustrating. And I still wonder about Trump's role in it all.
Thank you for all the important information in your column, Karen. Hope it reaches people far and wide.

Ste-vo said...

Thanks Karen.

little bird, little bird, in the cinnamon tree.

I wrote here several weeks ago about how grouchy and funked out I was, with out-of-town guests feeling it was them that was making me grouchy and funky! That feeling has lessened to some degree. I am stilling posting on a daily basis negative stuff about HRC, but in a way I am preaching to the choir with my Facebook friends. The several days that I was phone-banking for Bernie, scheduling people to canvass in Washington State over-the-top exhilarating. The energy and excitement was palpable. One women I spoke with was knocking door-to-door in Boise and she would return to her home in Portland on Monday and wanted to be scheduled for three days door-to-door canvassing in Vancouver, WA.

I have taken a detour from my usual practice of reading Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winners, in fact this year - 2016, I made a resolution to read only from the list of winners, but I have broken that due to that stupid trip my wife and I made to LA, CA to read Joan Didion, "Slouching Towards Bethlehem," Reyner Banham, LA: The Architecture of Four Ecologies and Mike Davis, "City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in LA," for the noir version of LA to read "It Can't Happen Here" by Sinclair Lewis (yes I have read his Pulitzer Prize winner, and, personally I think "Main Street" should have been given the honor.) I am only about 1/4 the way into it, but it is happening right now. Today. One of the national conventions, in the book, was even hosted in Cleveland! How is that for prescient! The book was written in the 30s at the depths of the GREAT DEPESSION - we only had the GREAT RECESSION.

For years I have been following James Howard Kunstler's blog "Clusterfuck Nation." It is updated every Monday and for a long time I always joked that until I read the update I could not start anything. So with your update today, and his. already read, I am ready to tackle the week! Thanks again.

annenigma said...

If Bernie could get more media exposure in NY, more people could become familiar and comfortable with him and cast their vote for him. I just sent in another donation so he can buy some more air time.

Let's win it for Birdie!

paintedjaguar said...

I just sent in a few dollars too. Win or lose, I'm hoping to see this go all the way to the convention and beyond.

pipin said...

thank you Karen for your comment on Paul Krugmans hit peice in Fridays paper. (sorry this comment is slightly out of place!) It was a raft in a rough sea. I think the papers editorial staff has done a big dishonor to itself to pick a bunch of sympathetic comments favoring them to the top of the pile. Because not for nothing, why wasn't yours picked as a special NYTimes Picked? I can't remember yours ever being picked now that I think of it. To think New York could be the swing state in a primary is astounding. Hillary may not be the end of the world. But that depends on how long the end of the world is supposed to be. Loved and needed your input. (from Rochester NY myself- a hellhole of conservatives for a very long time. Look up Maggie Brooks and her husband sometime OMG). Peace be with you.