Popular Posts

Saturday, October 27, 2012

White Racial Resentment: The Elephant in the Room

AP Poll: A Slight Majority of Americans Are Now Expressing Negative View Of Blacks

By Associated Press
October 27, 2012

WASHINGTON — Racial attitudes have not improved in the four years since the United States elected its first black president, an Associated Press poll finds, as a slight majority of Americans now express prejudice toward blacks whether they recognize those feelings or not.

Those views could cost President Barack Obama votes as he tries for re-election, the survey found, though the effects are mitigated by some people’s more favorable views of blacks.

Racial prejudice has increased slightly since 2008 whether those feelings were measured using questions that explicitly asked respondents about racist attitudes, or through an experimental test that measured implicit views toward race without asking questions about that topic directly.

In all, 51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar 2008 survey. When measured by an implicit racial attitudes test, the number of Americans with anti-black sentiments jumped to 56 percent, up from 49 percent during the last presidential election. In both tests, the share of Americans expressing pro-black attitudes fell.

“As much as we’d hope the impact of race would decline over time ... it appears the impact of anti-black sentiment on voting is about the same as it was four years ago,” said Jon Krosnick, a Stanford University professor who worked with AP to develop the survey.

Most Americans expressed anti-Hispanic sentiments, too. In an AP survey done in 2011, 52 percent of non-Hispanic whites expressed anti-Hispanic attitudes. That figure rose to 57 percent in the implicit test. The survey on Hispanics had no past data for comparison.

The AP surveys were conducted with researchers from Stanford University, the University of Michigan and NORC at the University of Chicago.

Experts on race said they were not surprised by the findings.

“We have this false idea that there is uniformity in progress and that things change in one big step. That is not the way history has worked,” said Jelani Cobb, professor of history and director of the Institute for African-American Studies at the University of Connecticut. “When we’ve seen progress, we’ve also seen backlash.”

Obama has tread cautiously on the subject of race, but many African-Americans have talked openly about perceived antagonism toward them since Obama took office. As evidence, they point to events involving police brutality or cite bumper stickers, cartoons and protest posters that mock the president as a lion or a monkey, or lynch him in effigy.

“Part of it is growing polarization within American society,” said Fredrick Harris, director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University. “The last Democrat in the White House said we had to have a national discussion about race. There’s been total silence around issues of race with this president. But, as you see, whether there is silence, or an elevation of the discussion of race, you still have polarization. It will take more generations, I suspect, before we eliminate these deep feelings.”

Overall, the survey found that by virtue of racial prejudice, Obama could lose 5 percentage points off his share of the popular vote in his Nov. 6 contest against Republican challenger Mitt Romney. But Obama also stands to benefit from a 3 percentage point gain due to pro-black sentiment, researchers said. Overall, that means an estimated net loss of 2 percentage points due to anti-black attitudes.

The poll finds that racial prejudice is not limited to one group of partisans. Although Republicans were more likely than Democrats to express racial prejudice in the questions measuring explicit racism (79 percent among Republicans compared with 32 percent among Democrats), the implicit test found little difference between the two parties. That test showed a majority of both Democrats and Republicans held anti-black feelings (55 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans), as did about half of political independents (49 percent).

Obama faced a similar situation in 2008, the survey then found.

The AP developed the surveys to measure sensitive racial views in several ways and repeated those studies several times between 2008 and 2012.

The explicit racism measures asked respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements about black and Hispanic people. In addition, the surveys asked how well respondents thought certain words, such as “friendly,” ‘’hardworking,” ‘’violent” and “lazy,” described blacks, whites and Hispanics.

The same respondents were also administered a survey designed to measure implicit racism, in which a photo of a black, Hispanic or white male flashed on the screen before a neutral image of a Chinese character. The respondents were then asked to rate their feelings toward the Chinese character. Previous research has shown that people transfer their feelings about the photo onto the character, allowing researchers to measure racist feelings even if a respondent does not acknowledge them.

Results from those questions were analyzed with poll takers’ ages, partisan beliefs, views on Obama and Romney and other factors, which allowed researchers to predict the likelihood that people would vote for either Obama or Romney. Those models were then used to estimate the net impact of each factor on the candidates’ support.

All the surveys were conducted online. Other research has shown that poll takers are more likely to share unpopular attitudes when they are filling out a survey using a computer rather than speaking with an interviewer. Respondents were randomly selected from a nationally representative panel maintained by GfK Custom Research.

Overall results from each survey have a margin of sampling error of approximately plus or minus 4 percentage points. The most recent poll, measuring anti-black views, was conducted Aug. 30 to Sept. 11.

Andra Gillespie, an Emory University political scientist who studies race-neutrality among black politicians, contrasted the situation to that faced by the first black mayors elected in major U.S. cities, the closest parallel to Obama’s first-black situation. Those mayors, she said, typically won about 20 percent of the white vote in their first races, but when seeking reelection they enjoyed greater white support presumably because “the whites who stayed in the cities ... became more comfortable with a black executive.”

“President Obama’s election clearly didn’t change those who appear to be sort of hard-wired folks with racial resentment,” she said.

Negative racial attitudes can manifest in policy, noted Alan Jenkins, an assistant solicitor general during the Clinton administration and now executive director of the Opportunity Agenda think tank.

“That has very real circumstances in the way people are treated by police, the way kids are treated by teachers, the way home seekers are treated by landlords and real estate agents,” Jenkins said.

Hakeem Jeffries, a New York state assemblyman and candidate for a congressional seat being vacated by a fellow black Democrat, called it troubling that more progress on racial attitudes had not been made. Jeffries has fought a New York City police program of “stop and frisk” that has affected mostly blacks and Latinos but which supporters contend is not racially focused.

“I do remain cautiously optimistic that the future of America bends toward the side of increased racial tolerance,” Jeffries said. “We’ve come a long way, but clearly these results demonstrate there’s a long way to go.”


AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report. 

Online: Poll results: http://surveys.ap.org Academic analysis: http://tinyurl.com/8pzbebm

Monday, October 22, 2012

Statement From Leonard Peltier on Voting

'The Effort the Started with Obama's Election Should Continue'

October 21, 2012

Greetings my relatives and supporters of freedom everywhere,

I don’t know how many of you read my statements; but if you are looking for someone who thought about what he was going to say before he said it, I’m your man. People in my situation have a lot of time for thinking, and I try to catch the media as much as I can. Having said that, I would like to take just a minute of your time, maybe two minutes of your time and convey to you my thoughts on voting.

Our people, native people, were not citizens of this government until 1924. And because of our resistance to encroachment and our fight for sovereignty many of our people have a tendency to not vote because they don’t consider this government our government. And in growing up I must admit I was in the same frame of mind, but as I’ve aged and experienced different aspects of life and come across many other philosophies, I’ve realized that in some ways I’ve had kind of a tunnel vision view of the subject of voting. And I now recognize that we sincerely need to vote. Whether we embrace our own level of sovereignty or not or whether you are native American or not. If you are an American you need to vote.

There’s an old saying its better to redirect force than to fight force with force. This government is a force, this is a force throughout the world and with our vote, we can redirect that force. Tecumseh the first native person to advocate a coalition of all the tribes, said in a talk once, as I’ve read, he demonstrated that one arrow could be broken but a bundle could not. That is how it is with voting, one of us doesn’t go very far, but all together as a voting bloc, we make a strong force to redirect this force of this government. And if our arrow becomes one of a bundle of others who are seeking justice and equality in government, then its entirely possible that we can make a difference. And this would make a difference in the world.

Obama, being elected, was in its own way like the tip of an arrow in revolution. It was an effort by a multitude of people recognizing the need for this country to be more humanitarian toward other members of society than it has been. And it was an effort by the people to choose someone who cared about the people and was not just there for political power and monetary gain. I really truly believe this effort that started with Obama’s election could continue. Anyone who understands any level of government would know that this present administration could not totally clean up the mess that was created over a period of time, 8 years to be exact, under the Bush Administration. If you were old enough to remember things started to change when Ronald Reagan was in office and they started to break down labor organizations who kept up with workers’ rights and safety legislation as well as environmental legislation. And that trend has been going up and down ever since and if those powers elect another person of the Bush or Reagan mindset, it will hasten the downfall of this country’s economic situation – which until the Obama administration was in free fall. Its slowly working its way out, but we as a people need to do our part to help with that and we can do it by voting.

I also want to say, that the prison system in America has become an industry. It has become a bureaucracy. And in whatever state you live you need to become involved in changing that. The rate of imprisonment and incarceration of men and women is indescribably tragic. The rate of recidivism is somewhere between 65% and 85%, failure of the prison system, people coming back to prison. If you were needing health care, you would not be going to a facility that has a

65 to 85% failure rate. Any prison system that does not consider rehabilitation as a component is unjustifiable. Also the federal government and the state government needs to set up a system for people who manufacture American products to get an incentive of some sort to do that and put more Americans back to work.

It is a fact that I can’t vote, nor can any of the other 2 million people in prison in America can vote and countless others who have felony convictions. I want to say there a lot of people throughout this country who should not have felony convictions and should not have lost or lost their right to vote. Most of these people come from poor families who would normally vote Democratic. And the powers that be, that control this country, mainly corporations, know this. And I believe with this prison industry, as well with other systems they have in place, it is all part of the control mechanism to subjugate Americans, of all races and colors. The judicial system in America needs a massive overhaul. The constitution is no longer the foundation of this judicial system. It is no longer the plumb line of law. If all of us who care, and want to see change go do this one thing, we can successfully redirect the force of this nation. We must do this or we will succumb to the wealthy corporations that want to use us as poorly paid wage slaves to fund their lavish lifestyles.

Anyway, maybe I’ve held you too long, but think about what I’ve said, and I know theres a lot more information out there than I have. And you with your vote can do a whole lot more than I can in here, or the other 2 million people that are locked up. Exercise your right to vote. Get your family to vote, organize voting drives. Don’t let the corporations control us any longer. Don’t let the prison system remain an industry in America. If you’ve never attended a demonstration or a political rally or any other function that tried to bring light to an injustice you can at least do this one thing, vote. I don’t know how to close out this comment other than to say, “vote, vote, vote.”

And may the Great Spirit bless you with all you need and enough to share and the courage to do whats right and right whats wrong

Your relative, brother, friend and fellow citizen of the first nations, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse and Tecumseh and all those people who have stood for whats right, Leonard Peltier

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Get Out the Vote. Especially Women, Youth and Trade Unionists. It Matters…

New Poll Puts Presidential Race As A Dead Heat Between President Obama And Mitt Romney

NBC News calls it a 47-47 tie

By Glenn Blain

Oct 21, 2012 - The race for the White House is a dead heat.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday showed President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney tied at 47% with barely two weeks to go before election day.

Obama had held a 49-46 lead among likely voters in the most recent previous NBC/WSJ poll, which was conducted before any the presidential debates.

The new poll revealed Obama with a wider lead among all registered voters, 49% to 44% but showed his support weakening in key demographics.

Among women voters, Obama's lead had slipped to its slimmest margin yet this year, 51% to 43%. Romney leads among men 53%-43%. Mitt Romney lost some ground gained by first debate, according to polls, but still doing strong.

The two candidates are essentially tied among voters in the Midwest.

"You saw those numbers a moment ago, I think they are only going to get better," Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Romney supporter, said on NBC's "Meet The Press."

Obama supporters, meanwhile, shrugged off the numbers, saying they expected a close race.

"We feel good about where we are," said David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the Obama campaign. "We feel we are even or ahead in these battleground states." From NYDailyNews.com   

Local interview with Paul Ryan ends abruptly Saved by a hug: Baby Adam’s coma story Candidate's son apologizes for urging voters to send Obama back to Kenya Obama still a fan of Clint Eastwood despite chair speech: President praises 'great actor' after… Clint Eastwood’s daughter says she's not backing Mitt Romney

Monday, October 15, 2012

Dollarocracy vs. Democracy

Which Millionaire Are You Voting For?

Progressive America Rising via NYT Op-Ed

ELECTIONS are supposed to give us choices. We can reward incumbents or we can throw the bums out. We can choose Republicans or Democrats. We can choose conservative policies or progressive ones.

In most elections, however, we don’t get a say in something important: whether we’re governed by the rich. By Election Day, that choice has usually been made for us. Would you like to be represented by a millionaire lawyer or a millionaire businessman? Even in our great democracy, we rarely have the option to put someone in office who isn’t part of the elite.

Of course, many white-collar candidates care deeply about working-class Americans, those who earn a living in manual labor or service-industry jobs. Many are only a generation or two removed from relatives who worked in those fields. But why do so few elections feature candidates who have worked in blue-collar jobs themselves, at least for part of their lives? The working class is the backbone of our society, a majority of our labor force and 90 million people strong. Could it really be that not one former blue-collar worker is qualified to be president?

My research examines how the shortage of working-class people in public office affects our democracy and why there are so few former blue-collar workers in government in the first place. The data I’ve studied suggest that the working class itself probably isn’t the problem. It’s true that workers tend to score a little lower on standard measures of political knowledge and civic engagement. But there are many more workers than there are, say, lawyers — so many more, in fact, that there are probably more blue-collar Americans with the qualities we might want in our candidates than there are lawyers with those traits. If even only half a percent of blue-collar workers have what it takes to govern, there would still be enough of them to fill every seat in Congress and in every state legislature more than 40 times — with enough left over to run thousands of City Councils.

Something other than qualifications seems to be screening out people with serious experience in the working class long before Election Day. Scholars haven’t yet confirmed exactly what that is. (Campaign money? Free time? Party gatekeepers?) But we’re starting to appreciate the seriousness of the problem.

If millionaires were a political party, that party would make up roughly 3 percent of American families, but it would have a super-majority in the Senate, a majority in the House, a majority on the Supreme Court and a man in the White House. If working-class Americans were a political party, that party would have made up more than half the country since the start of the 20th century. But legislators from that party (those who last worked in blue-collar jobs before entering politics) would never have held more than 2 percent of the seats in Congress.

And these trends don’t stop at the federal level. Since the 1980s, the number of state legislators whose primary occupations are working-class jobs has fallen from 5 percent to 3 percent. In City Councils, fewer than 10 percent of members have blue-collar day jobs. Everywhere we look in government, almost no one with personal experience in working-class jobs has a seat at the table.

Their absence, moreover, has real consequences. Lawmakers from different classes tend to bring different perspectives to public office. John Boehner is fond of saying that he’s a small-business man at heart and that “It gave me a perspective on our country that I’ve carried with me throughout my time in public service.” And he’s right. Former businesspeople in government tend to think like businesspeople, former lawyers tend to think like lawyers, and (the few) former blue-collar workers tend to think like blue-collar workers. Edward Beard, a house painter from Providence, R.I., who was elected to Congress in 1974, always carried a paintbrush with him and tacked one to the wall outside of his Washington office — as a “symbol of who I am and where I’m from, the working people.”

Former house painters are the exception in Congress, of course. And although there are many white-collar lawmakers with good intentions, with so few leaders with experience in working-class jobs (from 1999 to 2008, the average member of Congress had spent 1.5 percent of his or her adult life in working-class jobs), economic policy routinely tilts toward outcomes that help white-collar professionals at the expense of the working class. Social safety net programs are stingier, business regulations are flimsier, tax policies are more regressive, and protections for workers are weaker than they would be if our lawmakers came from the same mix of classes as the people they represent.

The key is finding more lawmakers like Mr. Beard, politically adept working-class Americans. Or people like Representative Stephen Lynch, who worked as an ironworker in Boston for nearly two decades before attending law school and becoming a legal advocate for workers — politicians who worked their way up to white-collar jobs but who still remember what it’s like to push a broom.

My experience suggests that finding them will be the easy part. The hard part will be persuading the people with resources to help them. Many political gatekeepers still cling to myths about how there’s something “the matter with Kansas,” how workers are too backward to know what’s best for themselves politically. And people who value political equality already have their hands full with big challenges: mainly, the explosion of money and interest groups in Washington, and the large social class gaps in routine forms of political participation, including voting.

Even if we somehow stem the tide of money in Washington, even if we guarantee equal participation on Election Day, millionaires will still get to set the tax rate for millionaires. White-collar professionals will still get to set the minimum wage for blue-collar workers. People who have always had health insurance will still get to decide whether to help people without it. If we want government for the people, we’ve got to start working toward government by the people. The 2012 election offers us a stark choice between two very different approaches to economic policy. But it’s still a choice between two Harvard-educated millionaires. Even in an election that is supposed to be about the future of our economy, we don’t have a working-class option in the voting booth.

It’s time for citizens who care about political equality to start investing in working-class candidates. We know how to do this. In 1945, the House and the Senate were each 98 percent men. In the decades since, party leaders and interest groups have deliberately recruited many female candidates, and today women make up 17 percent of Congress.

If the old boys’ club isn’t invincible, the Millionaires Party probably isn’t, either. Changes like these aren’t rocket science. They just take a little hard work.

Nicholas Carnes is an assistant professor of public policy at Duke University and author of the forthcoming book “White-Collar Government: How Class-Imbalanced Legislatures Distort Economic Policy-Making in the United States.”

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Republicans Out of Touch with Reality—And What We Can Do

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Progressive America Rising via Precinct Reporter Group

I saw this astounding figure that approximately 70 percent of Republicans believe that the poll numbers on the presidential race are biased towards President Obama.  In other words, they are asserting that because President Obama has been—at least at the time of this column—ahead in most polls, this cannot be correct and the media must be mucking around.

It is important to put this sentiment in context.  This is the same Republican Party where more than 60 percent of its members believe that President Obama was not born in the U.S. Despite the incontrovertible evidence, most Republican voters wish to believe otherwise.  I would love to think that this was a comedy routine but it is reality.

To understand how 70 percent of Republicans would believe that the polls are biased, you have to appreciate their inability to recognize the nature of the changes underway in the country.  To the extent to which they believe that this is a ‘White republic,’ where the rest of us are barely-tolerated visitors, the polls don’t make any sense.  After all, from their perspective, there is no way that the U.S.A. should have a Black president, and, more importantly, there is no way that the demographics of the U.S.A. should be changing in the manner in which they are – towards a society where there is no White majority.

There is no way of knowing how the elections will turn out. The fact that President Obama has been ahead in most polls is striking, particularly given the depth of the economic crisis.  Such ratings have to indicate that large numbers of people have little confidence in the vision articulated by Romney/Ryan, but also that there is a sense when looking at the pictures of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, that this gathering (and this Party) bore no resemblance to the reality of the nation.  It looked like something very alien and for that matter, something very scary.

While President Obama may be slightly ahead in the polls, the only poll that really matters is to be held on November 6 when we actually vote.  Despite all of the efforts by the Republicans to reduce voter turnout by the elderly, the youth, by people of color, by union members and by gays/lesbians, the bottom line will be the determination of those same constituencies that were not in evidence at the Tampa Republican Convention to mobilize in the interest of justice.  This will take us further down the road, away from the racist and archaic notion of a ‘White republic’ (for the rich), and instead in the direction of a more consistent democracy.

Forget the opinion polls and just make sure to vote on November 6.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about unions.  He can be reached at papaq54@hotmail.com. Submit to Facebook Submit to Google Bookmarks Submit to Twitter Submit to LinkedIn Written by: Precinct Reporter Group

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Can We Defeat the Racist Southern Strategy in 2012?

By Bob Wing*

Progressive America Rising

*Bob Wing has been an organizer since 1968 and was the founding editor of ColorLines magazine and War Times/Tiempo de Guerras newspaper. He lives in Durham, N.C. and can be contacted on Facebook. Thanks to Max Elbaum for his always insightful suggestions. This article was posted on Oct. 11, 2012.

The 2012 election is a pitched battle with race at the center.

It may not be “polite” to say this, but far from an era of “post racialism”, the United States is in a period of aggravated racial conflict. Though often denied and certainly more complex than the frontal racial confrontations of the past, race is the pivot of the tit-for-tat political struggle that has gripped the country for the past twelve years and, indeed, for decades prior.

The modern era of this conflict jumped off with the white conservative backlash against the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and has been deepened by their decades-long fearful reaction to the dramatic change in the color of the U.S. that resulted from the civil rights-motivated immigration reform act of 1965.

The conflict heated to a boil when white conservatives flatly rejected the legitimacy of the “premature” victory of our first Black president in 2008. Nearly 40 percent of Republicans are so enraged they cannot even admit that Obama is a U.S. citizen. Isn’t this really another way of saying they refuse to recognize a Black man as the president? Or perhaps it is the white conservatives’ modern day Dred Scott decision declaring Obama a Black man that has no rights that they are bound to respect?

The bottom line is that we have now come to a point where voters of color are so numerous and so united behind Obama that, to be victorious, Mitt Romney must carry a higher percentage of the white vote than any modern Republican candidate has ever won. If recent trends among voters of color hold, he must carry about 63 percent of white voters. Not even Reagan won more than 61 percent.

The likelihood is that voters of color will continue to increase their percentage of the electorate by about two percent per election into the future. Political analyst Jonathan Chait concludes it is “2012 or Never” for the current bloc of white conservatives. (1) This is why they invested hugely in voter suppression legislation throughout the country (now largely but belatedly defeated by the courts. (2) This is why they have gone all out to unleash corporate money in elections.

Chait warns that the “2012 or Never” scenario for white conservatives suggests that if the Republicans win, they will be all-in for “Blowing up the welfare state and affecting the largest upward redistribution of wealth in American history.” This is the meaning of the rise of the Tea Party and the choice of Paul Ryan as Vice President.

On the other hand an Obama victory in 2012 on top of that of 2008 has the potential to mark an historic turning point U.S. politics: the defeat of the Republican’s powerful Southern Strategy by which the Republicans have dominated U.S. politics since Richard Nixon’s stunning victory in 1968. The heart of that strategy is to build a winning coalition based on racial fear and backlash in the South, the Southwest and Rocky Mountains. This strategy is rooted in slavery so it is no accident that the Electoral College map of 2004--and most other post Voting Rights maps--is a virtual replica of the pre-Civil War map of slave states and territories.

Free and Slave Territories Before the Civil War














Electoral College Map of 2004 Election


Compare these to that of 2008 when Obama defeated the Southern Strategy and carried four Southern and three Southwestern states, and took back Ohio, Iowa and Indiana.

Electoral College Map of 2008 Election


One hundred and fifty years after abolition, the scars of slavery are fresh upon us and we are fighting the contemporary Civil War.

The defeat of the Southern Strategy could create a major turning point in U.S. politics. It could mean the end of the white rightwing led Republican majority that has prevailed since 1968. And it could herald the potential, for the first time since the 1970s, of a more progressive future for people of color and other poor and working people.

However white racial conservatives in the U.S., especially the U.S. South, have no history of giving ground without protracted and intense struggle. Their 2010 comeback was the latest example. Although 2012 might be a turning point, we can expect intense racial conflict well into the future.

What is the Southern Strategy?

When all looked lost for the Southern segregationists after the Voting Rights Act of 1965, rightwing Republican political strategists concocted the Southern Strategy to crush the Civil Rights movement and reverse its victories. To the shock of just about everyone at the time, the seemingly dead and buried Richard Nixon rode the white backlash and the Southern Strategy to the presidency in 1968, the high point of the radical movement of the 1960s. Worse, the seemingly defeated and isolated Dixiecrats revived themselves and over the last few decades acceded to a greater political role that they had enjoyed since before the Civil War.

Since then the Strategy has been refined and updated, and brilliantly implemented, by Ronald Reagan, the Bushes and a host of Republican and rightwing political operatives like Lee Atwater, Ralph Reed and Karl Rove at all levels.

Wikipedia says the Southern Strategy “refers to the Republican Party strategy of winning elections or to gain political support in the Southern section of the country by appealing to racism against African Americans....In an interview included in a 1970 New York Times article, he [former Republican strategic Kevin Phillips] touched on its essence:

‘From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don't need any more than that...but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That's where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.

Historically, the Democratic Party was the party of Southern slaveholders that dominated the Republic from its founding until the victory of the new Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. After the Civil War the white South voted so uniformly Democratic the South was dubbed the “Solid South.” Even when the Democratic Party transformed itself into the party of the center/left during the New Deal, the Southern segregationists were powerful enough to force the Democrats to leave Jim Crow racial discrimination and segregation intact. In return they stayed loyal to the party.

The Republicans had virtually no presence at all in the South until the Democrats began to take civil rights seriously due to the pressure of the new Freedom Movement of the late 1950s.

Like the Civil War, the Civil Rights revolution of the 1950s and 1960s caused an historic realignment in U.S. politics.

Defeated, the boldest and most conservative Republican strategists concocted the Southern Strategy as the political roadmap to crush the then triumphant Democratic coalition of liberals, blacks and trade unions and return the white South to glory. It has succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

The crux of the strategy was to whip up the white racial backlash to the Civil Rights victories and the newly powerful black movement, and on that basis to realign to the Republicans the historically Democratic white South and other white Bible Belt conservatives in the former slave and Mexican territories of the Southwest, Midwest and Rocky Mountains. By popularizing newly sanitized versions of color blind racism and Christian fundamentalism, the new Republicans hoped to trump whatever class affinities and progressive impulses working class and poor whites had with the Democrats and get them to organize and vote Republican on the basis of white racial solidarity.

It was not the moderate Rockefeller-type Republicans of the early 1960s who organized these new recruits, but an ambitious new crop of far right ideologues. The mass migration of racial and Christian conservatives from the Democratic Party to the Republicans became the organized base of the far right. The Southern Strategy gave birth to New Rightism and the Christian Coalition, flanked by the “Right to Life,” a newly revived and politicized National Rifle Association, the suburban homeowners revolt and fiscal conservatism, not to speak of a new level of militarism. Their strength was redoubled by northern plant closures and capital flight from unions which turned the South into a dynamic demographic and economic growth center.

To be fully successful, this strategy required the leadership and funding of the majority of the corporate elite. After leaning Democratic from the New Deal to the 1960s, this elite lurched to the right when their formerly secure monopoly profit position came under intercapitalist challenge from Germany and Japan, the USSR, and the rise of the Global South led by the oil-producing countries and other former colonies starting in the 1970s. To protect their profits they set out to lower wages, eliminate regulations, crush unions, lower taxes on themselves, starve the social safety net and move their operations to the low wage south or out of the country.

This rightward moving corporate elite financed and, until recently, was the leading force in the new Republican coalition. And it was their alliance with the grassroots racist and fundamentalist backlash that gave power to the Southern Strategy.

The other big piece of this new Republican majority coalition was recruited from the affluent suburbs created by white flight throughout the country since the 1960s. The homeowners’ tax revolt became their battle cry. Even in the South the main social base of the far right Republican politicians is the affluent suburbs, not the stereotypical unreconstructed white small town or rural segregationists.

The post-Civil Rights Republican coalition has always been rife with factions and differences, but despite changing leaders and tactical emphases, it has held strong enough to defeat the Democrats. The Republicans have also used their newfound power to fragment and marginalize the main institutions of their opposition such as civil rights and immigrant rights groups, trade unions, reproductive rights and other feminist organizations, trial lawyers, students and journalists.

With each victory the Republican coalition became “dizzy with success” and migrated further and further to the right. The Ross Perot-led revolt of the political center in the 1990s heralded a loosening of the grip of white conservatives over the political majority and temporarily threw the presidency to Bill Clinton. Under George H.W. Bush the program of extreme trickle down economics and war mongering brought the country to crisis and was grist to the mill of Democratic challengers. Now they threaten Social Security, Medicare and public education.

Since 2000 the country has been rocked by tit for tat pitched political battles between this extreme rightist Republican Party and a Democratic party that finally senses victory. The Southern Strategy is in trouble.

The Changing Color of the Vote and the Southern Strategy

At a deeper level the Southern Strategy is imperiled by a combination of structural/demographic in the electorate and political changes in voting patterns.

The structural changes are that people of color and unmarried women now occupy much larger shares of the electorate than before, and continue to grow. The political factor is that the rightward lurches of the Republicans (e.g. stolen 2000 election, War on Terror starting 9/11 and 2009 Tea Party) have ignited the people of color vote. Black people in particular have mounted a real voter participation movement, and people of color are together voting Democratic in historically unprecedented numbers and percentages.

Despite the fact that George W. Bush had failed miserably on both foreign policy (Iraq) and domestic policy (the Great Recession) and run the country virtually into the ground, in 2008 whites still voted for McCain by 55 to 43. In stark contrast, blacks voted for Obama by 95 to 4, Latinos went for Obama by 66 to 32 and Asians backed Obama by 61 to 35. (3)

More importantly, people of color have surged to the polls in recent years. In 1976 they constituted just 10 percent of the vote; 24 years later, they had almost doubled to 19 percent in 2000. By 2008 the white share of the vote fell to 74 percent and that of voters of color spiked to 26 percent, a dramatic change in such a short time.


Chart of Changing Electorate and Changing Vote






Black %





Black Vote





Latino %





Latino Vote





Asian %





Asian Vote





Other Race % (4)





Other Race Vote





White Male %





White Male Vote





White Female %





White Female Vote






Surprisingly, the recent increase is not being driven by the burgeoning Latino or Asian populations, but by African Americans. Despite modest population growth and a horrific percentage of people barred from voting due to felony disenfranchisement laws, Blacks constituted fully thirty percent of all new voters in 2004, and another tremendous mobilization in 2008 brought them to 13 percent of the overall vote, a thirty percent increase over 2000.

This is strong evidence that Blacks continue to be the most politically progressive section of the electorate.

Many a pundit has dismissed this result as a knee-jerk racial solidarity vote for Obama. How soon they forget that the majority of black voters initially favored Hillary Clinton over Obama and that the pop in black voting began long before the 2008 contest.

A growing majority of African Americans live in the U.S. South. That region may be the heartland of white racial conservatives, rightwing corporate types and militarists, but it was also Jesse Jackson territory. Blacks have the greatest stake in defeating the Southern Strategy, and have moved to the forefront of that struggle. Indeed, contrary to Yankee stereotypes, the region is extremely diverse and a more nuanced analysis is key to progressive strategy.

Although the sheer numbers of Latino and Asian voters have risen significantly over the same period, their percentage share of the overall vote is little changed since 2000: from eight to nine percent for Latinos and two percent each election for Asians. (The percentage of the electorate that is under thirty years of age also remained stable, at 17-18 percent.)

The Civil Rights-inspired immigration reform act of 1965 finally eliminated racial discrimination from U.S. immigration policy and opened the way for an explosion of Asian and Latino immigration.

The Latino population now outnumbers that of African Americans and continues to surge due to high birth rates and immigration. This population increase is slow to be translated into voting power, largely because so many Latinos are ineligible to vote. However, according to Sean M. Rivas, California State Field Director of Voto Latino, “Every month 50,000 Latino youth turn 18 – that’s 600,000 Latino youth turning 18 every year.”

Latino voters have already transformed California politics and are likely to do the same to national elections in the years to come. Traditional conservative strongholds like San Diego and Orange County, the home bases of Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, are now blue areas. And although Latinos only slightly increased their percentage of the presidential electorate since 2000, they doubled from 1996 to 2008, from 5 to 10 percent of all voters.

Much of the mainstream media declared that Latinos were too racist to vote for Obama. They pointed to the large Latino primary vote for Clinton as “proof.”

Latinos resoundingly put the lie to these cynics by voting for Obama by 66 to 32, a huge sixteen-point swing to the Democrats compared to 2004. Even a 58 percent majority of Cubans in Florida, traditionally solidly Republican, went for Obama.

Latinas led the way toward Obama, casting 68 percent of their votes for him and only 30 percent for McCain. Latino voters under 30 went for Obama by 76 to 24, perhaps indicating the direction of future Latino voting patterns.

As with the South, progressives need a more accurate picture of the rapidly changing Southwestern political and economic landscape. Still, most Latinos still live in the region despite their nationwide migration of recent decades. The fight for equality for Latinos is totally bound up with the defeat of the Southern Strategy.

According to a Pew Research Center report of June 19, 2012, “Asians recently passed Hispanics as the largest group of new immigrants to the United States.” Numbering barely a million when the Asian American movement kicked off in 1968, by 2011 they were 18.2 million strong, encompassing a dazzling array of nationalities.

Asians strike a contradictory voter profile. Of all ethnicities, they have the lowest percentage of eligible voters (due to a lack of citizenship). Among eligible voters, they also have the lowest rate of voter registration. But Asian registered voters occupy the ballot in greater percentages than any other group. Also a greater percentage of Asian voters than any other ethnic group are registered non-partisan.

The political trajectory of Asian voters has also been remarkable. In 1992, only 31 percent of Asians cast their ballot for Bill Clinton. Responding to the rightward motion of the Republicans since then, especially as regards immigration and foreign policy toward Asia, Asian Americans have migrated Democratic. This reached a highpoint in 2008 when Asians voted for Obama 62 to 35, a fourteen point Democratic swing compared to 2004.

In the coming years millions of Asians will become eligible to vote not only in traditional strongholds like California and New York, but also Illinois, Texas and many other states. Asian political organizations and candidates are popping up all over the country, even in Georgia, to encourage, educate and leverage these new voters.

Unmarried Women Voters and the Gender Gap

The highest percentage of the white vote won by any Republican presidential candidate was 61 percent. The recent high-water mark was that of George W. Bush’s 58 percent in 2004. He “took” the election in 2000 when he carried 55 percent and whites were 95 percent of his total vote. McCain also won 55 percent, but was swamped by Obama due to a huge increase in the people of color vote.

For decades white feminist pundits have touted the gender gap as the defining feature of U.S. politics and society. However, to be more precise, Linda Burnham has show that there is no significant gender voting difference among people of color--and the majority of white women vote Republican. (5) It is arguable that income differences are a greater voting factor than gender among whites.

However, women now constitute a small majority of the overall vote, and by race and gender, white women are the single largest voter group, 39 percent in 2008. Even a small gender gap can therefore be of great political moment.

In 2008 white men favored McCain by 57 to 41 while McCain won the white women vote by 53 to 46. This is only a four-point difference, and takes place within the Republican column. The recent voting trends among white women voters are also not good. In 2004 they blundered to Bush by an additional seven points compared to 2000 and were in fact the decisive factor in his victory that year. And in 2008 they edged towards Obama by only four points, less than the swing of white men. After years of splitting down the middle, white women have tilted toward the Republicans since 2004.

Democrats and progressives must reverse this trend if they are to defeat the Southern Strategy once and for all. And there is a major new trend among women that has a unique potential to move the white women vote leftward: the rise of unmarried women voters.

Unmarried women now account for fully half of all women in the U.S. and along with Latinos is the most rapidly growing potential voter group. The group has grown due to the fact that women are marrying at an older age than before, the divorce rate is extremely high and more women than ever are remaining single for life. Exit polls do not sufficiently break down the vote to get a read on the voting patterns of unmarried white women, but in 2008 exit polls showed a seven point Democratic differential between all single women and all married women. It is likely that a good part of that differential can be explained by race, since African American women are a disproportionate percentage of unmarried women. But recent polls show even greater Democratic leanings by unmarried women than in 2008 and indeed among women in general.

The problem is that 39 percent of unmarried women are currently not registered to vote and are significantly outvoted by more conservative married women. However this growing group represents a major opportunity for Democrats and a major demographic/political threat to Republican electoral fortunes.

What Might a 2012 Victory Mean?

A 2012 victory by Obama is far from guaranteed. A loss would mean we will have hell to pay as the Republicans will likely seize what may be their last opportunity to implement the ominous Paul Ryan program.

What might the defeat of the Southern Strategy in 2012 mean?

A full and final defeat would mean the end of the historic period of extreme white conservative leadership stemming from the remnants of slavery. However, conservative Southern whites have time and again shown a tremendous will to survive, and even if they are defeated again in 2012, they cannot be counted out as a powerful factor in U.S. politics.

Exit polls after the 2010 election indicated that forty percent of voters supported the Tea Party. This year seventy percent of Republican primary voters shunned Romney in favor of far right candidates like Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Far right politicians dominate the Republican congressional delegation and have taken an “Our Way or the Highway” approach to lawmaking. Although their ability to command a national majority is in doubt, the far right is probably stronger than it has been in recent memory.

A 2012 defeat would likely cause them to lose some support from moderate corporate Republicans who are much more committed to having power than they are to the rightwing program, but other sectors are likely to continue or even redouble their support. The far right can also be counted on to lead or shape many state and local governments for decades to come.

A declining superpower like the U.S. is fertile ground for the rightwing. As I noted in “The Arab Spring and the Changing Dynamics Global Struggle,” the world is in a dangerous transition from a U.S. centered economy and politics to a more equal but unstable and uncertain future. World and national migration is changing the face of the U.S. and Europe, and the far right will continue to try to inflame and capitalize on white fear of the changing power dynamics at home and abroad. Peak oil and climate change are upon us, and fights over natural resources and “natural” disasters have accelerated. Technology and conflict make terrorist attacks a daily reality. Protestants have declined from two-thirds of the population to less than half, and almost all of the losses have been among whites. (6) The far right will try to take advantage of the instability, frustration and fear that attend these changes.

Still, a 2012 victory by Obama would throw the far right onto the defensive, inflame and infect already deep divisions within the Republican Party, block the full implementation of Paul Ryan’s draconian budget and reduce the possibility of deadly wars of choice. It might also moderate the Federal bench and protect ObamaCare and maybe Social Security. Of course Republican congressional moderates might reemerge and seduce Obama into a Faustian austerity bargain.

A victory in 2012 should open new vistas for the Democrats at the national level and in an increasing number of states and localities. The Democrats should be able to make steady gains well into the future. It would also create new opportunities for the development and maturation of an independent progressive wing within the Democratic Party.

In such a situation, agenda item number one will be to further split the far right from the center and to defeat their agenda in public opinion as well as Congress. The far right was able to strengthen itself and regain the ideological offensive in the face of the passage of historic health care reform and will retain that kind of potential. In addition the U.S. electorate is largely fiscally conservative and moderate, including many Obama voters. Indeed non-partisan voter registration, overwhelmingly centrist, is at an all-time high. Many moderate Democrats, probably including the Obama administration itself, will surely take this as a call to stay safely in the pro-corporate but moderate center.

There is certainly merit in some caution, but unless the Democrats take the initiative, the Republicans will continue to set the public agenda and shape public opinion. We are still vulnerable to a replay of 2010. However, the Democrats are unlikely to be bold without the emergence of a powerful national political force to the left of the Obama administration that can tussle with moderate Democrats as well as help anchor the fight with the right.

Toward a Progressive ‘New Majority’ of the  Rising American Electorate’

In recent years progressives have grown more united, more organized, more aggressive and strategically smarter. We are occasionally able to gain initiative (opposition to the War in Iraq, Wisconsin, Occupy) but we have not yet become a consistent and undeniably powerful force in national politics or even within the Democratic Party, two crucial and mutually interconnected tasks. In addition the traditional sources of progressive power—civil right organizations, trade unions, feminist groups, and liberal churches, universities, student groups and media organizations—have been greatly weakened over the decades in the face of corporate and rightwing attacks and policy changes.

Progressive have recently achieved wide agreement and increased working unity on the crucial importance of electoral politics and forging an independent progressive wing of the Democratic Party, though some on the far left still harbor abstentionist or third party dreams. Progressives and social justice forces are experimenting with bold new strategies and initiatives. (7) MoveOn.org, Progressive Democrats of America, Rebuild the Dream, Planned Parenthood, Take Back America, Wellstone Action, the Working Families Party, many unions and social justice groups like the NAACP, Virginia New Majority, California Calls, Florida New Majority, Oakland Rising, TakeAction Minnesota, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and Maine People’s Alliance are on the move with ambitious new agendas and increased unity. We are also beginning to orchestrate and coordinate our work inside and outside of the electoral and governmental arenas.

New coalition strategies are also being proposed. One of the most promising is the concept of the New Majority which has been adopted by people of color-led groups by that name in Florida, Virginia and New Mexico. I think the New Majority concept has great potential because it casts a spotlight on the need to realign new forces into a governing coalition and suggests a pivotal role for people of color, just as I have in this essay.

However, I also believe that a progressive New Majority strategy should not fall into the fatal trap of relying almost exclusively on voters of color. People of color are projected to become a majority of the U.S. population by about 2040. But they will not be a majority of voters anytime soon because so many Latinos and Asians will continue to be ineligible to vote for decades to come. For every 100 Latino residents in the United States, only 44 are eligible voters. Although people of color became the majority of the California population twelve years ago, today they still constitute only 34 percent of the electorate.

And even if or when voters of color become the majority, the divisions among them are likely to deepen. Political and social divisions along the lines of race (many Latinos are racially white) and ethnicity (including the growth of mixed race folk), economic status, ideology, age, gender and sexuality are already marked and deepening.

Consequently the quest to win white people to a progressive coalition is crucial. White progressives are not temporary or tactical allies of people of color, they are strategic partners. Too many progressives, especially on the social justice left, white and non-white, downplay or obscure this fundamental strategic and practical necessity.

Another intriguing progressive strategic concept is the Rising American Electorate. The Rising American Electorate refers to voters of color, unmarried women and young voters. These voters are estimated to be the fastest growing part of the electorate as well as the most politically progressive. Indeed the argument is made that they constitute more than half of the eligible electorate and that therefore they should be the main target of massive voter registration, education and mobilization efforts into the future. (8)

The usefulness of the Rising American Electorate concept is that it is specific about which sectors of the population we might focus on to build a progressive New Majority. However, I would supplement it with this: many people of color and unmarried women also make up a big part of an important and even larger group: the poor (working and non-working) and the struggling middle class.

Since 1970 the U.S. corporate elite’s economic strategy has produced increasing inequality which, among other things, has split the unusually large and stable middle class of the 1950s and 1960s between the truly affluent and the struggling. It has also increased the number of poor, including working poor. These voters largely vote Democratic, but the Republicans have intercepted a section of de-classed white working class voters to their side and thereby cut into the former New Deal/Great Society working class coalition. Progressives can only be successful in the future if we win increasing numbers of these voters back.

This newly deindustrialized, financialized and unequal economic structure has cut deeply into union membership. But is has also energized and moved unions to the left compared to the many decades when the labor movement was dominated by the conservative building trades. The largest, most dynamic and most powerful unions are now the SEIU, AFSCME and others that represent more minority, lower paid and less stable sectors of the working class. They have adopted more progressive policies on health care, immigrant rights, organizing the unorganized and other issues that reflect this. And finally they are starting to show signs of working with other sectors of the progressive movement in real partnerships.

Although weaker than before, it is hard to imagine a powerful progressive force to the left of Obama without a revitalized and dynamic labor movement.

Deploying a class/economic lens on the population and the society is also important from an ideological and programmatic point of view, as dramatically illustrated by the power of the 1% slogan popularized by the Occupy Movement. Even the Obama campaign has essentially adopted it. Particularly in a historical period when inequality is deepening among all people and when economic divisions are growing among people of color and women, it is crucial to weave race, class and gender together. Adding a class perspective also lessens the possibility of dividing over racial or gender identities. Indeed, in this period of great economic instability, the fight for economic justice is front and center.

Another positive sign is that in recent years many social justice groups are busting out of complacent small group thinking and fearlessly moving on to the big fields of battle. Caring Across Generations, initiated by social justice groups National Domestic Workers Alliance and Jobs with Justice, has formed a giant labor, senior, community alliance to defend Social Security and Medicare while simultaneously organizing new workers and winning passage of Domestic Workers Bills of Rights at the state levels. New Bottom Line led by social justice community networks National Peoples Action, the Alliance for a Just Society and PICO, have united with labor and others to take on the banks. And in the electoral field numerous social justice groups which I named before are fighting for real electoral power and running candidates and initiatives rather than confining themselves to non-partisan voter registration and Get Out the Vote.


There are huge stakes in the 2012 election. A defeat would be disastrous but a victory would be a major blow to the Southern Strategy and the power of white conservatives. A full political turn will require progressives to massively step up our game inside and outside of the electoral arena not only in 2012 but in the years to come. Isolating the far right and building the progressive movement must go hand in hand. If we can make some headway on these twinned tasks, we have a chance to emerge as a real force in national politics in what are sure to be perilous and volatile times shaped by demographic transition, imperial decline and environmental crisis.



(1) Jonathan Chait, “Team Romney’s White Vote Push,” Daily Intel, Aug. 27, 2012.

(2) Ethan Bronner, “Voter ID Rules Fail Court Tests Across the Country,” NY Times, Oct. 2, 2012.

(3) Voter statistics and commentary for the 2000, 2004 and 2008 elections can be found in my earlier articles on those contests which can found through Google. The statistics are from the single national exit polls of those years.

(4) It is impossible to determine exactly who identified as “Other Race” in 2008. If many Latinos chose this identity in the exit poll it may mask a significant additional rise in the Latino vote.

(5) Linda Burnham, “No Mandate from Women of Color,” www.commondreams.org, Jan. 8, 2005.

(6) See the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life poll released on Oct. 9, 2012: http://www.pewforum.org/Unaffiliated/nones-on-the-rise.aspx Barack Obama is the only Protestant among the current candidates for president and vice president but, characteristically, conservative white Protestants denounce him as a Muslim.

(7) I discuss some strategy issues based on an analysis of the U.S. electoral system in, “Notes Toward a Social Justice Electoral Strategy,” www.organizingupgrade.org, March 13, 2012.

(8) See for example, www.voterparticipation.org

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Class Struggle over Budgeting

Cut Deficit, But Not on Backs of Needy

By Sen. Bernie Sanders
Progressive America Rising via Politico

October 1, 2012 - Yes. We must address the very serious problem of a $16 trillion national debt and a $1 trillion federal deficit.

But at this pivotal moment in American history, it’s essential that we understand how we got into this deficit crisis in the first place and who was responsible for it. More important, we must address the deficit in a way that is fair and does not balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor — people who are already hurting.

Let us never forget that when Bill Clinton left office in January 2001, this country enjoyed a healthy $236 billion surplus, and the projections were that this surplus would grow by a total of $5 trillion over a 10-year period.

What happened? How did we go from a significant federal budget surplus to a massive deficit? Frankly, it is not that complicated.

President George W. Bush and the so-called deficit hawks chose to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq and put the funding for those wars on our nation’s credit card. By the time the last wounded veteran is cared for, those wars will end up adding more than $3 trillion to our national debt.

During this same period, Bush and the “deficit hawks” provided huge tax breaks to the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans who were already doing phenomenally well. These tax breaks for the very rich will increase our national debt by about $1 trillion over a 10-year period.

In addition, Bush and the “deficit hawks” established a Medicare prescription drug program written by the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. This program, which is far more expensive than it should be because it prohibits the federal government from using its purchasing power to negotiate cheaper drug prices, was not paid for. As a result, about $400 billion will be added to our national debt over a 10-year period.

Further, as a result of the deregulation of Wall Street, and the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior of the major financial institutions, this country was driven into the worst recession since the 1930s, which resulted in a massive reduction in revenue coming into the federal government.

And now, as we approach the election and a lame-duck session of Congress, these very same Republican “deficit hawks,” the folks who, to a significant degree, created the deficit crisis, are presenting some horrendous ideas about how we should get out of the mess that they caused. Sadly, they have been joined by some Democrats.

First, in order to cover the cost of the unpaid-for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they want to make significant cuts to Social Security that will affect not only seniors but disabled veterans as well. They want to do this despite the fact that Social Security is funded by the payroll tax, has not caused the deficit and has a $2.7 trillion surplus. Their favorite approach to cutting Social Security is through a reformulation of the way cost-of-living adjustments are calculated through the creation of a so-called chained consumer price index. Enacting this policy would result in a $560-a-year cut in Social Security benefits for 65-year-olds once they turn 75 and about a $1,000-a-year cut when they reach 85. The chained CPI will also make substantial cuts to the benefits of more than 3 million veterans, with the largest cuts affecting young, permanently disabled veterans who were seriously wounded in combat.

Second, in order to cover the cost of tax breaks given to millionaires and billionaires, they want to increase the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 and throw millions of families with children off of Medicaid.

Third, in order to cover the cost of the Medicare prescription drug program, they want to cut Pell Grants, student loans, nutrition and other programs vitally important to working families.

Fourth, at a time when the United States has the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider, their deficit-reduction plan calls for lowering the top tax rates for the rich to about 28 percent or even lower.

Fifth, while the United States military budget has virtually tripled since 1997 and we now spend nearly as much as the rest of the world combined on defense, they want to increase defense spending.

There are fair and sensible ways to reduce deficits, but balancing the budget on the backs of the weak and vulnerable while lowering tax rates for the rich and increasing military spending are not among them.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is an independent from Vermont.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Why a United Front vs.Finance Capital Matters

Goldman Turns Tables on Obama Campaign


Wall Street Journal

Oct 9, 2012 - When Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, no major U.S. corporation did more to finance his campaign than Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

This election, none has done more to help defeat him.

Prompted by what they call regulatory attacks on their business and personal attacks on their character, executives and employees of Goldman Sachs have largely abandoned Mr. Obama and are now the top sources of money to presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the Republican Party.

In the four decades since Congress created the campaign-finance system, no company's employees have switched sides so abruptly, moving from top supporters of one camp to the top of its rival, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of campaign-finance data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Employees at Goldman donated more than $1 million to Mr. Obama when he first ran for president. This election, they have given the president's campaign $136,000—less than Mr. Obama has collected from employees of the State Department. The employees have contributed nothing to the leading Democratic super PAC supporting his re-election.

By contrast, Goldman employees have given Mr. Romney's campaign $900,000, plus another $900,000 to the super PAC founded to help him.

Underscoring the magnitude of the reversal, Goldman has been the No. 1 source of campaign cash to Democrats among companies during the 23 years the Center for Responsive Politics has been collecting such data.


In interviews with more than a dozen past and current Goldman executives, many said they felt betrayed by Democratic lawmakers and the White House, for years considered friendly allies. Several Goldman executives said they didn't want to speak out publicly against the president, and that their donations speak for themselves.

Jim Donovan, a banker formerly in charge of Goldman's relations with Bain & Co., the private-equity firm run by Mr. Romney, helped draw his colleagues' attention to the GOP candidate. "As a longtime friend to Mitt and Ann, I can attest that his conviction and strength on fixing the U.S. economy is compelling as are his values," said Mr. Donovan, who handles Mr. Romney's personal investments. "That is why there has been such a strong outpouring of support for Mitt from all sectors."

A Goldman spokesman said, "Donations are made by individual employees according to their own views." Goldman is prohibited by law from making corporate donations to political candidates; the firm also has a rule against donating to super PACs and other independent entities.

Resentments against the White House began, said senior Goldman executives, because the firm thought it would be consulted when the Obama administration began crafting regulations in response to the financial crisis. They weren't. Instead, they were surprised by a measure dubbed the Volcker rule, which would damage one of Goldman's lucrative businesses.

Goldman executives, especially those who had raised millions of dollars for Mr. Obama's election, said they were offended by the president's populist rhetoric, including his famous quip about "fat cat bankers."

"Look at what he did—he attacked those guys and made it personal," said Rick Hohlt, a financial-services lobbyist. "In the old days you give money because you want to have a seat at the table even if you get screwed. But they weren't even offering a seat at the table."

Both the White House and the Obama campaign declined to comment on the Goldman contributions.

The alarm sounding Goldman's shift came during a May 2011 Romney fundraiser at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Manhattan, not far from the firm's headquarters in Battery Park. The private luncheon was attended by so many senior executives that people referred to it as Mr. Romney's "cotillion," his debutante-style introduction into Goldman society.

Goldman's changing allegiance reflects a broader turnabout in the financial-services industry, once a top source of campaign cash for the Democratic Party.

Employees of J.P. Morgan Chase JPM -0.12% & Co., Citigroup Inc., C +0.03% Bank of America Corp., BAC -0.43% Morgan Stanley MS -0.29% and Goldman Sachs—five politically active banks—donated $3.5 million to Mr. Obama in 2008. They have given Mr. Obama $650,000 for the 2012 race, while sending $3.3 million to Mr. Romney.

Financial services was the second-largest source of campaign money to Mr. Obama's 2008 election, donating a record $43 million. This election, people in the industry have given him $12 million. Mr. Romney, meanwhile, has received more than twice as much, making the financial-services sector his top source of campaign money.

At Goldman, the switch goes beyond the presidential contest. In 2008, its employees gave 75% of their $6 million in donations to Democrats; this election, 75% of their $6.5 million in contributions has gone to Republicans.

Both presidential candidates have plenty of campaign money. Mr. Obama announced this weekend he had raised a record $181 million in September.

Republicans haven't yet said how much Mr. Romney raised last month. In August, both sides broke previous records: the Obama campaign and its affiliates raised $114 million; Mr. Romney and his affiliates took in $111 million.

In total, Democrats have raised $742 million for the 2012 presidential election, while Mr. Romney has raised $638 million. Super PACs supporting Mr. Romney have far outraised those backing Mr. Obama, but labor unions are countering that spending with their own.

"Government Sachs," as the firm is known to its detractors, has long seen executives move seamlessly between Washington and Wall Street. Goldman has supplied, for example, two former Treasury secretaries—Democrat Robert Rubin and Republican Henry Paulson—and a former U.S. senator, former chief executive Jon Corzine, a Democrat in New Jersey.

The mingling of finance and politics began in the 1930s with Sidney Weinberg, a self-made man who ran Goldman for three decades and was a top fundraiser for Franklin D. Roosevelt. With Mr. Roosevelt's blessing, he formed the Business Advisory and Planning Council, the trade group that introduced executives to government leaders.

Since the Center for Responsive Politics began tracking campaign donations by company employees in 1989, people at Goldman have given more than $22.4 million to the Democratic Party and its candidates. That is the most among employees of all companies and on par with the largest labor unions. Goldman is between the AFL-CIO, $18.5 million, and the United Auto Workers, $27.5 million—totals that include donations from both employees and the unions. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is the largest contributor to Democrats at $45 million.

In March, the company's CEO, Lloyd C. Blankfein, sent a companywide email to Goldman employees encouraging them to donate to the Goldman PAC, which doesn't give to presidential candidates. Mr. Blankfein has identified himself as a Democrat but hasn't donated much to the party since a $35,000 contribution in 2007.

Goldman president Gary D. Cohn gave $75,000 to Democrats in 2008. In this election season, he has given $35,000—75% to Republicans. Newly named Chief Financial Officer Harvey Schwartz has spent more than 90% of his donations this season on Republicans after a lifetime of Democratic giving.

After the financial crisis, Goldman became politically toxic, its name increasingly associated with greed and excessive pay. Politicians from both parties began returning donations.

Goldman executives complained they weren't being heard in Washington, and one reason cited was the Dodd-Frank financial services regulation bill supported by Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats. Analysts say the new rules—including demands on how much cash cushion banks must store, their use of derivatives and limits on risk-taking—have shrunk bank profits in the past two years.

Wall Street pressed hard against the new rules, but many investors were heartened by the increased oversight. Goldman's shares have rebounded 35% since their low point in October 2008, closing Monday at $119.46 a share. The S&P 500, measuring the largest U.S. companies, has rallied 62% in the same period and has more than doubled since its rock bottom in March 2009.

Four years ago, Goldman shared in bailout funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, money the firm said at the time it didn't need. The capital helped rebuild investor confidence, but made Goldman more accountable to regulators.

One part of the new law, the Volcker rule, was designed to limit risk-taking—in particular, trading by banks for their own profit rather than for customers, known as proprietary trading.

Though the final rule has yet to take effect, Goldman has already shut down proprietary trading desks, divested other investments and shed securities. The desks had generated about $200 million in revenue a quarter. Revenues from this business unit accounted for as much as 10% of revenue some years.

The rule wasn't targeted at Goldman, but it hit the firm harder than other Wall Street firms because Goldman Sachs doesn't offer such retail services as credit cards or home mortgages to make up for lost profits.

In April 2010, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused it of financial misdealing in a mortgage-related deal. The SEC said the firm misled some clients by selling them mortgage-related securities months before the crash of the housing market. They alleged it was unfair to not disclose that another client, a hedge fund, had helped design the securities and bet they would fail.

After the SEC filed charges, Democrats called Mr. Blankfein and other Goldman executives to Capitol Hill for days of televised hearings. Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan accused Goldman of "unbridled greed" and, a year later, of lying to Congress.

Goldman agreed to pay a $550 million fine. It acknowledged mistakes but not any wrongdoing. The Justice Department said in August that it wouldn't investigate Mr. Levin's allegation of contempt of Congress.

The last straw for many came two weeks later. At the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, the president drew laughs at their expense. "All of the jokes here tonight are brought to you by our friends at Goldman Sachs," Mr. Obama said, referring to the SEC allegations. "So you don't have to worry—they make money whether you laugh or not."

A year later, Goldman senior executives held their Romney fundraiser at the Ritz-Carlton, drawing 80 people.

Mr. Romney was introduced by John Whitehead, a former Goldman chief who served as a deputy secretary of state in the Reagan administration. Mr. Whitehead is what Goldman partners call a "credentializer," someone whose political opinions matter at the firm. Executives attended from all arms of Goldman—including investment banking, money management and technology banking.
Political Moneyball: A Portrait of Money in Politics

The event raised about $70,000. But to Goldman executives, more important was the signal that it was acceptable to support the Romney campaign.

Muneer Satter, then a Goldman partner, encouraged his colleagues to open their wallets. Based in Chicago, Mr. Satter supported Mr. Obama before his 2008 presidential bid. Mr. Satter also donated to Mr. Romney's unsuccessful effort to win the Republican nomination that year.

This election, Mr. Satter is backing Mr. Romney. He is helping with fundraising and donated $310,000 to a super PAC supporting Mr. Romney. "There are people on both sides of the aisle and there always have been at Goldman," he said. "People make their own judgments about who can actually solve problems." He said he believed Mr. Romney was best suited to help the economy and the nation.

Mr. Satter, who left Goldman in June on good terms, had worked in private-equity funds imperiled by the Volcker rule.

Goldman partner Henry Cornell donated to Mr. Obama in 2008 and is now a vocal Romney supporter. Soon after Mr. Romney announced he was running for president, Mr. Cornell sent him a check for $2,500.

In May, Mr. Cornell held a fundraising dinner for Mr. Romney at his apartment in Manhattan's Upper East Side. There were four dinner tables, each seating 10 people at $75,000 a plate. Among the guests was Mr. Cohn, the president of Goldman, who didn't pay to attend.

Bruce Heyman, a 32-year Goldman executive based in Chicago, is one of the firm's few outspoken Obama supporters. "I am sensitive to the emotions" of Wall Street, he said. "But if you look at the facts, Mr. Obama is pro-business."

Mr. Heyman serves as a top fundraiser for Mr. Obama, and his wife is helping run the president's re-election campaign in Illinois. Last month, he was one of a handful of Goldman executives in Charlotte, N.C., to attend the Democratic National Convention.

On the night of the keynote speech by former President Bill Clinton, Mr. Heyman met with two other Goldman executives: Jennifer Scully-Lerner, a former staffer at the Democratic National Committee, and Jake Siewert, a former aide to both Mr. Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

At a party that night, they joked they were probably the only Goldman people at the convention.

Write to Liz Rappaport at liz.rappaport@wsj.com and Brody Mullins at brody.mullins@wsj.com