WATCH: Dem. Strategist Angela Rye Takes Chris Christie Apart

For much of Donald Trump’s presidency, Chris Christie was close by his side. For his efforts, the former governor of New Jersey contracted a bad case of COVID-19.

These days Christie frequently appears on cable news programs to deliver Republican talking points. He is also on a bit of a rehabilitation tour after being so closely aligned with Trump.

This Sunday the former governor appeared on a panel on ABC’s This Week. And Democratic strategist Angela Rye very much got the better of him.

The group was discussing whether Joe Biden‘s infrastructure plan was “socialist.” Rye said, “Yes, there are some social things that need to happen in infrastructure. Because it just so happens that discrimination and inequtible conditions exist even in our infrastructure. That was not something that was originated in this administration.”

Christie jumped in, “The capitol gains issue is nothing more than income redistribution. It’s socialism. Let’s remember that that investment income, they’ve already paid taxes on it. You paid taxes on it before you invested it and now you’re going to pay taxes on it again.”

Rye shot back:

“It’s so interesting to hear this allegation of socialism. I know these are buzzwords that work very well with the Republican Party so congratulations for using them this morning. But we have people in a pandemic that you said wouldn’t matter by the time you get to the fall, and on the left there’s a conversation happening about student loan debt. How much should be forgiven? $50,000 vs. $10,000. And we’re talking about a capital gains increase when you all just had basically the reparations we’ve been asking for [in] your last tax proposal. So I don’t even understand what we’re talking about here.” read more

Coronavirus Can Teach Us the Value of a Democratic Economy Heading into November

Wise people always remind us to never let a good crisis go to waste.

Wise people with evil inclinations have, of course, taken this sage advice to heart, often exploiting crises, sometimes even arguably manufacturing them, in order to achieve nefarious ends. Naomi Klein, for example, in her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, develops precisely this thesis. She studies crises, such as the Iraq War or Hurricane Katrina, as moments when political and economic leaders took advantage of people’s physical and emotional distraction, their fear and vulnerability and desperate need, to push through neoliberal policies that effectively rolled back civil rights and democracy, furthered economic inequality, and basically consolidated power even further in the hands of the few.

So, the question before us is whether we can make the crisis of the coronavirus outbreak an opportunity to clearly see the flaws, or perpetual and ongoing crises that are typically less visible, in U.S. society that any major crisis tends to draw into relief, or whether the coronavirus outbreak will further threaten the health of our already weakened and teetering democracy in America.

What can we learn from what is going on, if we are paying attention?

Well, here are a few thoughts:

Perhaps the defining hallmark of neoliberalism, as I’ll discuss throughout this piece, is its rejection of any concept of a determinable public good and its insistence that there are only private interests.  This neoliberal kernel of thought undergirds the bootstrap ideology so prevalent in American culture, the idea that people need to pull themselves up through their own efforts and stop asking for help or blaming societal conditions for their miseries and deprivations.  On a more extreme level, this thought kernel is also the premise for attacks on the social safety net, on so-called “entitlement” programs like Social Security and Medicare, and generally on progressive policies that want to leverage tax dollars to provide vital social services, programs, and infrastructure for the American people. Neoliberal voices frequently refer to this package of programs as “free stuff,” even though the programs that provide safety nets are typically insurance programs into which most Americans pay.

The conditions drawn into relief by the coronavirus make clear, however, that we cannot separate private interests from the public good, or, more to point, that serving the public good is vital to our abilities to pursue and further our private interests.  The two are intimately intertwined. We must ensure others are taken care of if we are to be taken care and be able to take care of ourselves and get the care we need.

Let’s look at the situation in concrete terms. A person with coronavirus without paid sick days who can’t afford to miss work shows up to your workplace, to the school your children attend, or to the cafeteria where you eat. What’s worse, the person has poor or no health insurance so he can’t get tested, and there are no public provisions for testing.  You are now at risk. Your private interests are impacted by the fact that we do not have an adequately resourced public health system and response.

Or, think about the healthcare workers who contract the virus because of an inadequate public health response and thus cannot be available to treat you when you are in need.

It is not uncommon in our American world to hear people complain about taxes to help support someone else or give someone else a lunch or a doctor’s visit. But the bottom line is that we all need to participate in taking care of each other out of our own self-interests. And the reality, if we’re honest, is that we already do this.

Stop and think about all the people you depend on—whether you ever see them or not—for the food you eat, the medicine you get, the information communicated to you, the heat in your home, the water you drink, and so on and so on.

Albert Einstein stopped to think about our inevitable interdependence in 1949 when he reflected on what he termed “the essence of the crisis of our time.”  He wrote:

“It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration.”

Einstein profoundly asserts that dependence is not weakness but strength—and, more to the point, undeniable reality.   Our fear and denial of this dependence is actually what threatens us.

If I deny my dependence on others, will I seek to make sure those others are healthy, well-fed, housed, have the basic conditions necessary to sustain their lives?  If I don’t do that, I actually end up endangering my own existence because I need them to make my life possible.

As Einstein reminds us, “In relatively densely settled populations with the goods which are indispensable to their continued existence, an extreme division of labor and a highly-centralized productive apparatus are absolutely necessary.”

We tend to de-value others and their labor in the U.S., arguing over which lives matter, often insisting some don’t.

And yet, as Einstein explains in the essay I’ve been quoting titled “Why Socialism?,” valuing others’ lives is essential to sustaining our own.

Recognizing the reality of our mutual dependence may be the basis for actually developing a democratic economy that properly values people’s lives and labor, including our own, ensuring access to all the resources that make our lives possible.

If we pay attention, the developments of the coronavirus crisis might provide the insight and impetus to realize this transformation.

Opinion: Militant Moderates and Bernie’s Revolutionaries Are Donald Trump’s Best Friends

The only people who were more excited about Bernie Sanders’s win in Nevada than Sanders and his supporters were Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Trump wants a second term so that he can stay out of jail and kill American democracy once and for all. Putin wants a weakened America so that his Russia can regain status as an important player in the world’s politics. Both, rightly or wrongly, believe that of all the Democratic candidates, Bernie Sanders is the easiest one for Trump to beat.

Most democrats fear that if Bernie is the nominee, we’ll merely be choosing between oppressors.

Often we equate the Bernie wing with ideological purity, but it seems to me that argument can also be made of people who conflate democratic socialism, authoritarian socialism and communism.

I come at this with contradictory views about Sanders. I’m working through what a Sanders win would mean as much as everyone else is. And I think that like most things political, the result of a Bernie win is one of many shades of gray. But key to it is knowing to what extent, if any, Bernie has authoritarian tendencies.

I don’t want to offend anyone. But the reality is we didn’t ask hard questions in 2016 and we’re paying for it. If we agree on nothing else, let’s at least agree that we need answers to the scariest question. Are we choosing between democracy and tyranny or are we choosing our oppressor?

If Bernie is, as his surrogates claim, a democratic socialist, it’s possible his ideas can address socio-economic inequities that were institutionalized by Republicans and entrenched by Donald Trump.

It’s just as possible that Sanders may opt for a more authoritarian approach – especially if Congress is as resistant to his ideas as it is to Trump’s. It’s this possibility that concerns me. And that concern grew when we learned that Sanders knew about Russian efforts to help his campaign for a month before he said anything.

To be fair, his response was near perfect – except for the part where he blamed the Washington Post.

I saw him dismiss concerns about Castro because he had this really awesome literacy program, I’m more uneasy about him than I ever was, and the same is true of the prospect of including Russia in NATO. We heard that before from Donald Trump.

Anyone who says they know with certainty if Sanders is, in fact, a democratic Socialist, or an authoritarian version isn’t telling the truth. Sanders does conflate supporters of other candidates with establishment Republicans in a way that’s similar to Trump’s deep state references.

A moment came when it looked like the twin pillars of authoritarianism – extreme left and extreme right – were beginning a stare-down. Some pundits suggest Bernie doesn’t need to build a consensus beyond his base. He has enough support there. Everyone else, like the older African American women who do the work it takes to win elections, and to a far lesser extent educated white women who are alienated by Trump, ultimately don’t matter. They’ll take it because they don’t have any other options.

Of course, that assumption was wrongfully made before and Donald Trump’s presidency was the result.

Meanwhile, there is talk of lists segregating the Trump loyalists from the “deep” state in the civil service. This prospect of a politicized civil service has implications too numerous to list. Suffice to say party affiliation and real or imagined loyalty to dear leader would define all aspects of life. You could be deemed insufficiently loyal simply because you know someone who is deemed disloyal.

It’s like McCarthy woke from the dead and married Clarence Thomas.

We’re running out of second chances. Trump is hollowing American democracy out. His followers are all too happy to bully and threaten anyone perceived to be disloyal to Trump into submission, as reflected in death threats the Ukraine whistleblower’s lawyer is getting solely for doing his job protecting the whistle blower’s legal rights.

Bernie says he envisions a more equitable America that addresses climate change, brings the American dream back and expects the wealthy to pay its share in taxes. And there are people who are with him for that. If he wins, they’ll be happy. If not, they’ll still vote for the person who wins the nomination because they, like most Democrats, see defeating Trump as the most important moral imperative of this election.

But there are other kinds of Bernie supporters.

As Megan McCardle explained, there are three broad categories of Bernie Supporters. Aside from the realist-idealist who will vote blue no matter who but hope it’s Bernie; there are bandwagoners who are also more likely to vote blue no matter who; and then there are the revolutionaries.

It’s the revolutionaries who “resemble the new voters President Trump brought into the GOP”. McCardle met them in person, independently confirming some accounts I’ve been told by some individuals who went to Bernie rallies.

I suspect it’s the revolutionaries who resort to bullying and intimidation, often on line, but not exclusively.

You may have heard of them as Bernie Bros and Bernie or Bust people. Either they get Bernie or they’ll wait for revolution the way some Evangelicals wait for the end days. They don’t think of Trump as all that bad, just as Bernie doesn’t think Castro is all that bad. In the words of one Bernie or Bust supporter;

“Donald Trump is not worse, for one reason: He’ll destroy it faster than they will. And then we can rebuild.”

The threat to America democracy got more complicated as Bernie Sanders won Nevada. It’s not because healthcare or a more equitable economic policy automatically means the end of democracy and freedom. It’s because we don’t know how much of the Sanders base is comprised of revolutionaries whose approach is more consistent with authoritarianism.

If you lived through the cold war, I could tell you a million times there is a difference between Soviet communism and democratic socialism or social democracy. It won’t matter, just as it won’t matter if we tell younger voters that while they have valid concerns, it’s possible that Bernie is as authoritarian and uncaring as Trump. (Both are seen as authentic by their followers.)

Younger voters feel the sting of an economic system that has no good place for them. They hear of the possibility of a system that will give them economic opportunities and remove the fear of financial ruin if they get sick or have an accident.

Some of them will vote blue because they see the destruction by Trump and are just as repulsed as most of America. But even if democratic forces prevail this time with the help of realistic Bernie supporters, it’s all but certain they’ll change sides if we don’t address their concerns in ways that produce concrete results.