Why Trump’s revolution succeeded, and Bernie’s fizzled
Philip Weiss, MondoWeiss, Jul 20 2016
The scenes from the Cleveland arena last night as the Republican convention nominated Donald Trump for president were truly staggering. Here were a lot of ordinary people, mere outsiders, who had wrested the party leadership away from the establishment. They looked hokey and they acted hokey, and the media made fun of their repeated demonstrations that they were unprepared for a national stage. But they had won. You can call them white nationalist, or isolationist, or populist, or racist, or plagiarist, and many of Trump’s followers surely fit the bill; but again, they won. They overturned the party leadership by using democratic mechanisms. Shunned by the establishment and often shamed by the media, they did not care, but ploughed forward to a partial victory. These people actually created a revolution in the Republican Party, and whether or not they lose in November, Trump’s revolution may well have historic political consequences. The obvious contrast is to the Democratic Party candidate who ran on a revolutionary message, Bernie Sanders. Next week in Philadelphia he will be an afterthought. A lot of his faithful will be in the streets, but how much of a role will they have in any of the pageantry? Very little. It is Hillary Clinton’s convention; and the media are sure to comply in the parade. The question that arises is, Why Trump’s revolution succeeded in dislodging an establishment and Sanders’s did not?
The two outsider candidacies mirrored one another. Both men gained crucial financial independence of their party, Trump by using free media and his own money, Sanders by using an internet army of fund-raisers at the famous average of $27 a pop. Both men sought support among middle class and working-class white voters with anti-free-trade positions. Both men staked out an antiwar position. There the similarities end. Trump exploited anti-immigrant and pro-law-and-order resentment to build his movement. Sanders did the opposite; he made bridges to Muslims and the Black Lives Matter activists to build his movement. And while the causes of Trump’s revolution will be debated for years (or decades, in the unlikely event that he wins in November), he plainly tapped into more resentment than Sanders did. It would seem to be obvious that Trump’s “Make Pindostan Great Again” message was a message to a white Pindosi nation in its dying throes (plus a substantial Hispanic & Asian upper-middle class – RB). Our country’s changing, and Trump’s forces don’t like that. When/if they lose in November, the change will be more formally memorialized than ever. Bernie didn’t have that 30% base of an alienated population to draw upon. Or did he? That brings me to my concern, foreign policy. Both candidates ran as antiwar candidates, and Trump’s victory must be seen as a rebuke to the Iraq war. The Republican Party gave us the Iraq disaster; and many of the Pindosis who suffered the most from that historic blunder are in Trump’s following. However freakish the candidate’s statements about Pindosi power and militarism, it seems highly unlikely that he will go to war. Trump was against Iraq, as was Bernie. Today the Republican establishment that supported war is in smithereens. While the Democrat establishment that supported war is stronger than ever. Hillary Clinton is building neocon support. Her new big television ad questioning Trump’s foreign policy smarts features her with right-wing strongman Bibi (above). Bernie Sanders never really took on that wing of the establishment. Yes, he made gestures, most importantly in the Apr 14 debate in New York in which he dared to say that Israel committed human rights atrocities in Gaza in 2014 and said:
There comes a time when if we pursue justice and peace we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time.
But that was about it. Sanders never did run hard against the neocons who were flocking to Clinton, never really took on Netanyahu, didn’t make an issue of Israel’s influence over Pindosi foreign policy-making, didn’t push the Palestinian human rights question. In the party platform debates, Sanders folded on these issues while hanging on to domestic social-justice questions. His prime surrogate Cornel West was left out in the cold. West tells our man in Cleveland, Wilson Dizard, that he’s voting for the Green Party, and the party establishment is surely saying good riddance. The party is against BDS, while West is for it. Sanders did not want to drive the neocon/BDS wedge. He was against BDS himself, an inexcusable position for a progressive who supports non-violent change in Israel and Palestine; and he surely has some generational attachment to Israel as a Jew in his 70s whose parents and he saw the Jewish state as the answer to the Holocaust and who had worked on a kibbutz in Israel as a young man in the 1960s before moving to Vermont. Sanders was more comfortable calling out Henry Kissinger than Netanyahu. Even though Netanyahu is one root of the Pindosi problem: he helped sell the Iraq war to Congress and tried to sell an Iran one too. And lo and behold, with the Sanders coup vanquished, Hillary Clinton is using her relationship with Netanyahu to run for president. This hawkish foreign-policy political material is still available to a left-wing renegade Democrat, to try and upend the establishment. But meantime that establishment is stronger than ever. In the fiftieth year of the Israeli occupation, the Democrat Party has refused to acknowledge its existence in its platform. Cornel West fought the leaders bravely, and told them that the Israel/Palestine question is the Vietnam war for young people. But the leaders stuck by Israel’s guns. And though both party platforms suck when it comes to Israel and Palestine, as matters stand, the Republican party platform on Israel may be more useful to critics of US foreign policy than the Democratic one. For while the Democratic platform suppressed reference to the settlements and the occupation, Trump’s revolution was evidently so dislocating that the party adopted a platform that gives Israel all the West Bank and gives up on the late lamented holy grail of the two state solution. Israeli settler Marc Zell is over the moon. While mainstream Zionist Rick Jacobs warns in the New York Daily News that the Republicans are serving the BDS movement:
The extreme right supporters of one state sadly mirror the extreme left supporters of BDS, who are also one state supporters who aim to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.
For anyone who believes as Cornel West does that this issue is the defining issue of our time, a big public battle over the causes and solutions of the conflict is just what Pindostan needs. The revolutionary Donald Trump may have done more to advance this hope than the revolutionary Bernie Sanders.
Freewheeling Trump has backed down on only one issue. Guess which one
James North, Philip Weiss, Jul 22 2016
Donald Trump’s long angry acceptance speech reaffirmed the Thug nominee’s obstinate refusal to back off from any one of the controversial positions he staked out during his campaign. Except for one, Israel. He’s done a long crawl-back on that one, unnoticed by the mainstream media. Let’s see:
- He’s called for a ban on Muslims entering Pindostan and has never backed off from that;
- He’s described immigrants as violent criminals, a claim he reaffirmed last night;
- He’s said he would build a “great border wall” on the border with Mexico and said it again last night;
- He’s said that thousands in Jersey City cheered the fall of the WTC and never backed off that crazy idea;
- He’s said that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake and never backed off from that wise but heterodox view;
- He has said that NATO is obsolete because members aren’t paying their fair share, and he has stuck to that position.
- He denigrated the heroism of Senator John McCain, and never apologized or backed off.
- He questioned the official story on the death of deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster in 1993, and not backed away.
But then there’s this. Back in late winter Trump said he was going to be neutral in his position on Israel and Palestine so he could negotiate that deal of deals as president:
If I’m going to be president, I’d rather be in the position, because I will try the best I can, and I’m a very good dealmaker, believe me, to try and solve that puzzle. You’re not going to solve it if you’re going to be on one side or another. Everyone understands that. If I’m going to solve the problem, I want to go in with a clean slate.
He also shocked Israel supporters by saying that Israel should help pay for the Pindo defense budget, not the other way around! There was huge pushback on those positions, challenges on the Sunday talk shows, and … Trump backed off both positions in his speech to the Israel lobby group AIPAC in March.
When I’m president, believe me, I will veto any attempt by the UN to impose its will on the Jewish state. You see, I know about deal-making – that’s what I do … We know Israel is willing to deal. Israel has been trying to sit down at the negotiating table, without pre-conditions, for years … When I become President, the days of treating Israel like a second-class citizen will end on Day One. I will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu immediately.
Trump backpedalled completely. Having made the simple point that you have to be even-handed, that wasn’t good enough for the lobby. Now the Thug Party platform all but awards the West Bank to Israel, and last night in his speech Trump mentioned Israel briefly and favorably. No talk of neutrality going in and the deal-maker making deals:
We must work with all of our allies who share our goal of destroying ISIS and stamping out Islamic terrorism and doing it now, doing it quickly. We’re going to win. We’re going to win fast. This includes working with our greatest ally in the region, the state of Israel.
Trump’s backing off has had a pronounced effect. Sheldon Adelson and other Israel hawks have gotten on board with the New York real estate mogul. Newt Gingrich informs us that Adelson will work “hard” for Trump because Hillary Clinton will “be a disaster… for the survival of the state of Israel.” A message that Hillary Clinton is already fighting, in her latest ad (above). This is the power of the Israel lobby. Mr Independent has challenged mainstream thinking in countless areas, and when the flak came, altered not one bit. But when the Israel lobby started coming after him, he dropped the challenge. This shows that supporting Israel is a sacred cow. And Trump got his reward. A few people walked out on him at the AIPAC speech, but most listened, and now he’s getting Israel lobby money. The lobby is also a discursive force. The press isn’t giving him any more pushback on this issue. Because he caved in.