Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Rigged 2016 Election Has Voters Feeling Helpless, Unheard, and Ashamed

Published on Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A new poll found that 90 percent of voters lack confidence in the country's political system

This year's presidential primary has left many voters feeling helpless and alienated from their political parties, according to a new poll, which found that Democrats and Republicans alike want to see major changes in the way presidential candidates are chosen.

The survey, conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and published Tuesday, reported that a full 90 percent of voters lack confidence in the country's political system while 40 percent went so far as to say that the two-party structure is "seriously broken."

Seventy percent of voters, including equal proportions of Democrats and Republicans, said they feel frustrated about the 2016 presidential election and 55 percent reported feeling "helpless."

The survey, which was conducted May 12-15, comes as voters on both sides of the aisle have expressed historic dislike for the two leading candidates, GOP nominee Donald Trump and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

The issue of superdelegates—elected officials and Democratic elites—has gotten a lot of attention this year because of the overwhelming number that, even before the primaries began, backed party favorite Clinton over challenger Bernie Sanders. According to AP's numbers, Clinton has won just 274 more pledged delegates than Sanders, but boasts having the support of 525 superdelegates to his 39.

According to the survey, 53 percent of voters say that the Democrats' use of superdelegates is a "bad idea" while just 17 percent support the system.

Moreover, 70 percent of voters said they prefer that primaries and caucuses would be open to all voters, rather than "closed" to all but registered party members.

"It's kind of like a rigged election," Nayef Jaber, a 66-year-old Sanders supporter from San Rafael, California, told AP. "It's supposed to be one man one vote. This is the way it should be."

Most Americans believe that neither political party represents the views of ordinary voters. Just 14 percent say the Democratic Party is responsive to the opinions of the average voter while 8 percent say the same about the Republicans.

Similarly, voters said that neither party is receptive to fresh perspectives. "Only 17 percent of the public say the Democratic Party is open to new ideas about dealing with the country's problems; 10 percent say that about the Republican Party," the survey reports.

And despite arguments that Sanders' refusal to step down has hurt Clinton's chances in the general election, 64 percent of Democrats say his bid for the nomination has been good for the party, along with 43 percent of Republicans.

Overall, the survey found that while the 2016 election has captured the public's interest, "only 37 percent are feeling hopeful about the campaign, 23 percent are excited, and just 13 percent say the presidential election make them feel proud."

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Hillary, Honduras, and the Murder of My Friend Berta

Just one year ago, I had a joyous reunion in San Francisco with a high school classmate from my native Honduras. Social justice campaigner Berta Caceres came to the Bay Area to receive the prestigious Golden Environmental Prize for her leadership among indigenous people opposed to mining and the construction of hydro-electric dams that would destroy their communities.

Unfortunately, in a time when Honduras has grown ever more violent and repressive since its 2009 military coup, Berta’s continued activism and global recognition put a bullseye on her back. On March 3 of this year, she was killed by gunmen in her hometown of La Esperanza, not far from where I grew up before I emigrated to the United States two decades ago.

This tragedy added Berta’s name to the long list of recent Honduran political martyrs—students, teachers, journalists, lawyers, LGBT community members, labor and peasant organizers, and even top civilian investigators of drug trafficking and corruption. More than 100 environmental campaigners have been killed in the last five years. This carnage, along with escalating gang violence, has led many Hondurans to flee the country, often arriving in the United States as unaccompanied minors or mothers with small children.

The world learned recently that four people have been arrested and charged with Berta’s assassination. The suspects include a retired military officer, an army major, and two men with close ties to Desarrollos Energeticos S.A. (DESA), the controversial dam builder. As The New York Times reported, Berta’s family and friends “questioned whether the investigation would ultimately lead to those who planned and ordered the killing.”

Flush with tens of millions of our tax dollars for “security assistance,” the Honduran army and national police have acted with impunity since U.S.-trained generals overthrew Manuel Zelaya, the elected president of Honduras, seven years ago. As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton toed the

White House line that this wasn’t really a “military coup” worthy of near unanimous condemnation by the Organization of American States. The United States was more concerned about maintaining its own military presence in Honduras than objecting to local human rights abuses that have increased ever since.

Today, candidate Clinton cites her foreign policy experience and describes her run for the presidency as a “campaign for human rights.” Yet, unlike her rival for the Democratic nomination, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Clinton believes that youthful refugees from violence in Honduras “should be sent back” rather than welcomed and assisted on this side of the border. Today, many still face deportation while languishing in U.S. detention facilities under poor conditions and without proper legal representation (which even Clinton agrees they should have).

As Democrats in California begin to cast their primary ballot now and on June 7, it’s particularly important that voters of Central American descent consider such differences between the candidates. We have no indication yet that Clinton favors suspending U.S. funding of the Honduran military and police until the Caceres case and other human rights abuses are addressed—a position urged by the San Francisco Labor Council and many other groups.

Instead, Clinton has remained silent on this subject, just as she failed to speak out and condemn the military take-over in 2009 that set in motion the cycle of resistance and repression that claimed the life of my friend Berta and so many others.

As our labor council noted in March, “[Berta’s] murder was a tremendous loss for Honduras, the region, and all those working for a more just and sustainable world.” Justice for Hondurans, trapped in or attempting to flee the most violent country in the world without a civil war, requires national leaders in the United States whose human rights rhetoric is matched by their actions.

Instead, Hillary Clinton has simply defended her stance on regime change in Honduras, claiming that she “managed a very difficult situation” in a way that was “better for the Honduran people.” My friend Berta did not agree, nor do the many courageous Hondurans following in her footsteps who need all the solidarity they can get from the good people of my adopted country.

Porfirio Quintano works at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and is a member of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, whose member–leaders voted to endorse Bernie Sanders for president. A version of this article appeared originally in the San Francisco Examiner.

Establishment Democrats Courting Disaster

In the 1964 film classic, Dr. Strangelove, Slim Pickens is seen riding a nuclear bomb down to his certain death – and perhaps to the end of us all – while he calmly inventories his survival equipment. 

The Democratic Party Establishment’s commitment to Hillary Clinton is a lot like that.

As Hillary falls behind Trump, the Establishment is doing all it can to to continue to discredit Sanders  -- who beats Trump handily -- and chase him out of the race.  Meanwhile, they comfort themselves with self-deluding lies to justify backing the only candidate Trump could beat.

Here’s some of the myths they’re spinning:

Myth #1: Sanders can’t win and his supporters can’t “do the math.” In an attempt to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy, the entire Establishment is declaring the race to be over. A typical slant used by pundits, the Party elite, the corporate media and the rest of the confederacy of dunces that has opposed Sanders from the start is that Sanders supporters “can’t do the math.”  To hear them tell it, he’s been mathematically eliminated, or he has “no pathway to victory” and holding on is just hurting Hillary’s attempts to beat Trump.

Here’s the reality: Sanders needs 885 delegates to get the nomination; Hillary needs 613; there are 930 delegates remaining to be won and it is unlikely that either candidate can clinch the nomination without the aid of superdelegates. Meanwhile, Sanders is surging, while Hillary is self-destructing, so many of those superdelegates may be rethinking their commitment to Hillary. And if they aren’t, they ought to be.

Sanders has pulled even in California, and by the end of June 7, there’s a good chance he may go into the Democratic Convention having won 19 of the last 25 primaries, and certainly he will have won the majority of states in the second half. Try doing that math.

 Myth # 2: Sanders’ numbers would drop in the general election: This is one of the Establishments’ favorite lines. According to them, he hasn’t been exposed to the kind of assault he could expect in the general election, and given his history as a “socialist” he’d be easy pickings for the Republican hit machine and Trump. 

There’s two things wrong with this story, however. 

First, Sanders has been under a concerted and systematic assault in the mainstream media and from the Democratic Establishment since he began to threaten Hillary’s “inevitable” candidacy, yet his numbers have continued to skyrocket up in the polls. There’s little more the Republicans could do in this regard.  Which brings us to the Establishment’s second error.

Any political consultant will tell you that the two most important numbers in predicting a candidate’s performance are their unfavorability/favorability ratings and how trustworthy voters perceive the candidate to be.  

Here’s why. 

If a candidate is widely trusted, and if he or she has a net positive favorability rating, it’s harder to gain traction with negative adds.  Sanders has the highest favorability and trust ratings of any candidate, and his freedom from PACs and corporate money, together with more than 30 years of consistently pursuing policies that favor the middle class and the working poor makes him all but bulletproof.  There are no flip-flops, no equivocations, no spins, no claims that can be made upon him by moneyed interests. That’s why Sanders’ numbers keep getting better even though the media is doing it's best to bury him.

Myth #3: Sanders needs to drop out; Hillary will do better when she can focus on Trump.  If Sanders’ numbers make him bulletproof, Hillary’s make her a sitting duck. A wounded sitting duck. She has a high net unfavorable rating, and she’s even more distrusted than Trump in some polls, so political attack ads will land on fertile ground. 

Her unfavorability and distrust issues are not just the result of the decades long assault on her by what she calls the “vast, right-wing conspiracy,” although that’s certainly real enough.  No, Hillary’s problem is that she’s a lousy candidate. In fact, in both 2008 and this year, she got less popular as soon as she began to campaign for the Presidency.  

That’s why Trump has overtaken her in recent polls, and why she’s unlikely to reverse her slide.  And while Trump is equally disliked and nearly as distrusted, he at least generates passion among his supporters.

But Hillary is seen as an over-scripted, cynically calculating, automaton at a time when people are craving authenticity and passion. This both plays into and increases the distrust and likability issue. And even while she continues to masquerade as a progressive, her campaign is contemplating whether and when to move to the center. Talk about tone deaf. As Krystal Ball  put it:

The very fact that her team is so publicly mulling these choices reveals that they have no clue that their biggest problem isn’t making the proper electoral calculations, but rather that their entire campaign is based on electoral calculations.

She’s the consummate insider at a time when people are demanding someone from outside the establishment.  She’s the Party favorite at a time when Parties mean less than they have, perhaps ever.   

Trump can only win if voter turnout is low, and Hillary Clinton all but guarantees a low turnout.

It doesn’t help that she has a history of lying, then doubling down on her lies when caught – something she’s doing again with the IG’s report on the emails.

The closer we get to the Convention, the clearer it is that Sanders is a far better candidate in the general election. 

So why is the elite Establishment clinging to Hillary like Slim Pickens clung to that plummeting nuke? Could it be they are so eager to retain power that they’d rather risk losing than backing someone who is not one of their own?

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John Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, an eco-thriller and Book One of a Trilogy centered on global warming. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the San Jose Mercury News and other major newspapers. Atcheson’s book reviews are featured on Climateprogess.org.

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