Building Democratic Socialism in the US Requires the Long View

By Marc Cooper (March 4, 2020)

Sanders comes out of Super Tuesday an underdog (much to my dismay). While he needed to finish with a 200-300 delegate advantage to stay clearly and firmly in front, it is now projected that Sanders — under the best realistic finish in California– will finish about 25-30 delegates BEHIND Biden. Probably more as this is the best case scenario. This takes into account the three states of California, Maine and Texas where all the votes are not counted but can be reliably projected… at least roughly.

That said, and with no spin, the race is far from over though it is now Advantage Biden. Warren and Bloomberg are still wild cards that have no path to victory but who skew projections to some degree.

Nor is it in anyway clear if Biden can get a plurality let alone a majority of delegates to avoid a contested convention even if he continues a winning streak.

Bernie faces a stiff challenge now from Biden. But Biden also has to deal with Biden. I believe him a very weak and vulnerable candidate and only Heaven knows what SNAFU he can bring down on himself in the days and weeks to come. There is another debate coming soon and the key state of Michigan votes next week where Sanders might stage a comeback — or not. If you are a Berner, as I am, you must now redouble your efforts… no pouting, no complaining allowed. No resignation, no demoralization. Fueling a socialist to the presidency of the US is a Herculean task under any conditions, especially with Trump in office.

My humble suggestion to my fellow democratic socialists and other anti-Biden progressives: you MUST take the long view. It would be just short of a miracle to turn the political culture in this country around in just 4 yrs given there has been no significant socialist presence in the U.S. in a hundred years. So you continue your work for Sanders but you also understand that you are building something important for the future that might be years or decades away. Our immediate work is not finished with the primary. Next comes ousting Donald Trump. This does not make you a Biden Bot. It makes you a responsible citizen.


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Americans Can Learn About How to Make Social Change From Chile

By Marc Cooper (November 21, 2019)

As most of you know, as a young man I worked for President Salvador Allende as a translator so I could literally write a book on this month’s dramatic developments ( I already wrote one on Chile ). But I’ll keep this relatively short. In any case, this Al Jazeera piece is an excellent primer for beginners.

“Chile Has Awakened” is one of the slogans resounding in the streets this past month. For 40 plus years Chileans have been inundated with government propaganda, from Pinochet and then by his civilian successors, that Chile was special, that it was an oasis, that it was a miracle, that it was a global model, and so on and so on. Chileans have tired of the BS as their average salary is stuck at around $100 a week while the prices rival those of the U.S. The outcome: the most unequal economy among developed countries!

In 1980, dictator Pinochet imposed an abortion of a “constitution” that restricts many civil rights (like collective bargaining) and other anti-democratic measures. After Pinochet was forced from power a succession of “center-left” administrations tinkered with the constitution and, worse, accepted their roles as managers of an economic system forced on Chileans at the point of bayonets covered in blood.

The current administration led by right wing billionaire Sebastian Piñera (his second time in power), as expected, conducted no reforms. Ironic it is that the military-written constitution just died as it should have two decades ago during the first post-Pinochet civilian government — one that lacked the cojones to make the changes. I suspect that Piñera will also be forced to reform some of the more odious aspects of the economic model, probably in the area of education, pensions and labor law — all of them currently horrific for the average person.

Why will these changes be made under a right wing regime? Simple. Millions of Chileans escalated protests over metro fares a month ago into something resembling a wholesale uprising topped off by a general strike earlier this week. It’s a civic rebellion that garnered support from a whopping 80 percent of the population.

The ballon had finally burst and on Thursday night, really at 3 am Friday morning, a cross-ideological agreement was reached among the political class to capitulate to protest demands and to green light a two-step constitutional plebiscite and eventual re-write.

That’s a pretty stunning victory and, frankly, the major political parties of the opposition– including an emasculated Socialist Party (of which I was a member)– can claim no credit for this turn of events. The street protests were spontaneous and leaderless but somehow could bring a million people into the streets of Santiago.

There are lessons here for Americans who whine a lot but to whom it has never occurred that street protest and, yes, peaceful disruption and/or civil disobedience are indeed legitimate tools of any citizenry.

If you have followed the Chile story, you also know that not all the protests were peaceful. The initial repression was fierce. Tanks and troops in the streets, and one of Latin America’s most brutal police forces, the Carabiñeros were fully unleashed. Rubber bullets and even live ammo were fired point blank through the tear gas barrages and the cops stooped to targeting the eyes (!) of dozens of protesters. Two dozen people were killed. Hundreds injured. About 7,000 arrested.

The Chileans, especially the youth, fought back. They threw rocks at the cops, built barricades, lit bonfires, and smashed windows. Others took to looting. How amusing it has been to watch more comfortable and conservative Chileans express horror at these outbursts of street violence and called upon the govt to smash the “delinquents.” These are in great part the same sectors who sat silently as Pinochet murdered and tortured thousands and saddled Chile with two generations
of economic aggravation. No violence there, you see.

My point: with enough hard work, organizing and risk taking in the street you can stare down whomever is in power. Chileans know what real dictatorship feels like and they lost their fear a long time ago. When one “democratic” admin after another punted on deep reform needed and so many dreams were deferred, they awoke and vigorously took their destiny into their own hands. And they have won an important political and social victory. They did it in spite of a supposedly democratic political class, not with it.

Americans ought to try the same one day. They might be surprised by what they could accomplish.


What Political Weapons Does the Left Bring to the Fight?

By Marc Cooper (July 23, 2019)

No question that the monkey-see-monkey-do footage from Trump’s North Carolina rally is chilling. The sweaty chanters are clearly prime recruits for an explicitly fascist movement. No defense of Tump or his supporters, but the heated and over the top rally goers are a very small percentage of actual Trump voters.

i am not (yet) worried that we are about to succumb to Nazism or anything like it. Almost 70 percent of Americans found Trump’s tweets about The Squad to be racist. That’s the good news. Yes, he is whipping up his base, but that it is to be expected. and that alone is not enough to win anything except maybe a set of steak knives.


I’ll tell you what I DO worry about. It accomplishes next to nothing to characterize the rally mobs as this or that… deplorable, racists, fascists etc etc. it makes no difference what you call them and nobody really cares.

What is worrisome is that Democrats have almost no candidates who can evoke as much (positive) energy as Trump invokes the negative and the dangerous. The Dem candidates, compared to Trump, are mostly like dead fish. I make an exception for Bernie Sanders who is, in fact, the only opposition candidate that generates any real passion and who, at the same time, has a 100 percent clear program for change. Unfortunately, it seems that a major if not a majority chunk of Democrats have decided in their infinite wisdom that Bernie is some kind of devil and will not support him. Um.. like always…they are afraid (unlike the Trumpista core). If Democrats didn’t have such a miserable record in picking losers, i might be more convinced by what seems the — cautious– conventional wisdom. But they do not and therefore I do not.

Ok, fine. Pick somebody “safe.” Once your bed is made, you can then take a nice rest in it… if you are real unlucky you might even get another 4 year long nap.

The more loathsome you find the Trump rallies, the more you better start thinking about what political weapons you want to bring to this ugly fight. If you think you can get people to stand and cheer and race to the polls to soundly knock out Trump, you better show up with something more impressive than a rotting mackerel and a bunch of jibber jabber about pronouns and your frickin’ identity.


Bush 41: The Graceful and Polite Oligarch

By Marc Cooper (December 1, 2018)

Good grief! I just love the way liberals –and others– are now slavishly and shamelessly canonizing Bush 41 — one of the most mediocre presidents in history. And the very embodiment of POLITE Elitist, Corporate and Oligarchic Rule.

Driving home last last night I had the misfortune of tuning into MSNBC and almost driving off the road as I heard Steve Kornacki, Lester Holt and the insufferably pious John Meachum impersonate a North Korean newsreel in glorifying dear Leader Poppy. Gawd! Who knew he had walked on water?

The emerging official line on GHWB is what a nice, pleasant, and noble chap he was. I never met him but I have no doubt that is true. But Guess what? I spent a LOT of time with his son and candidate George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 and found him amazingly charming, chummy, jovial and even funny. Sort of like Alfred E. Neuman! But what’s that got to do with policy? Has the disgusting personal character of Trump and how they treat their staff become the current primary metric for judging presidents ??

I hope not. I am going to give credit to Bush 41 for a few minor accomplishments. I applaud him as a bona fide oligarch who took the great risk of signing up as a combat pilot in WWII. As President, he gets a couple of points for raising taxes knowing it would probably be lethal to his career (it was), for supporting the ADA and for his willingness to occasionally compromise. And he publicly quit the NRA after it flipped out over Ruby Ridge.

On the other side of the scale: 41 was heavily backed and supported by Dick Nixon. We can note his 1964 vote against the Civil Rights Act while serving as a congressman. He supported Nixon during Watergate up until it became impossible to do so. He was CIA chief (what the media calls a Spymaster when it refers to any of his foreign counterparts) at a time when The Agency was up its neck in cooperating with a South American network of death squads known as Operation Condor. There is more than credible material that he had some advance notice of the plot by Pinochet’s secret police to murder Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffett with a car bomb in Washington DC. While he was Spymaster for only a year, that period overlapped with the zenith of killings by the intel agencies in Operation Condor, all of them in communication (and more) with the CIA.

I remember GHWB as the toady VP to one of the most damaging of U.S. Presidents, Ronald Reagan. This was a pivotal presidency whose main accomplishment was turning Blatant Greed and Disregard for the Poor into American virtues.

I remember GHW Bush as the VP who, somehow, miraculously, escaped the maws of the Iran-Contra racket. Only Dan Rather had the balls to confront him directly on that murky chapter of his history and was crucified for doing so by his chicken-hearted peers.

I remember Willie Horton.

I remember his nomination of Clarence Thomas to SCOTUS.

And who can forget that early incarnation of Sarah Palin when Poppy elevated Dan Quayle (or is it Quayl?) to VP?

And, of course, I remember 41’s theatrical and totally pointless invasion of Panama that accomplished nothing except killing about 600 Panamanians. And there was, last but not least, Operation Desert Storm and the massacre of the Iraqi Army to absolutely no lasting effect — except for the horrendous US betrayal of the Kurds and the Marsh Arabs who were butchered after being abandoned.

And, just as a kicker, it was Mikhail Gorbachev, not Reagan and/or Bush that ended the cold war. That was something handed to them.

Yes, I remember George HW Bush failing in his 1992 re-election and winning only 38 percent of the vote — I think the worst showing in history by an incumbent president. I guess the American people hadn’t fully noticed his awesome job while in office.

But, I am sure, just like his son Dubya, the old man on a personal level was charming, humble and genteel. That’s what good breeding produces.


Take Your Victories Where You Get Them

By Marc Cooper (November 7, 2018)

I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t expecting a revolutionary seizure of power in the midterms. I was hoping that a significant step would be taken to stop forward movement by Trump.

It did. Taking the House by the Dems means that Trump is a legislative lame duck for the rest of his term. NO funding for the The Wall. No cuts to Medicare or Social Security. No more tax giveaways to the rich. No birthright bullshit. No funding for nor passage of ANY mad hat scheme. It also means a reopening of the House inquiry into the Russian portion of Trumpland. It means oversight and scrutiny and I would bet several resignations from the feudal empires that some of his cabinet secretaries have built. The Dems also won a number of Governorships in the Trumpian Heartland.

And mostly it means preservation of the basics of Obamacare and further expansion of Medicaid.

Look, I am not now and I have never been a Democrat. Personally, I expect(ed) NOTHING from them. In spite of their incapacity to build a robust opposition party, there were enough voters to jam up congress for Donald Trump. I’m sorry, but even for a non-Democrat that’s a huge victory!

WE now have two years to build a movement that speaks to the millions who still do not vote and feel abandoned that could lead to a better outcome for 2020.

Let me also remind you that the same people lamenting this wasn’t a blue tsunami, are mostly the same people who two years ago were crying that we were on the verge of fascist dictatorship and we would soon be locked up in FEMA camps. Please get a hold of your expectations!

The Senate was NEVER in play. Even taking the House was little more than a mirage two years ago.The map this year did not allow it. Electing black statewide Democratic officials in the deep south is still a steep climb but we came a lot closer then ever before. Beto was a good candidate but, frankly. I think he ran a poor campaign tacking too far to the left for Texas. He still made Ted Cruz sweat it out and gave him notice that this is Cruz’ last term as a US Senator.

In politics, there are NO short cuts. You don’t wish movements for deep social change inot existence, you have to do the hard work of building them brick by brick. They are not delivered to you from Nancy Pelosi via room service.

And, finally, I would say that every day you live in fear, in fear of Trump doing this or that, is one more day you have capitulated to Donald Trump’s agenda.

Take your victories where you can get them and keep pushing forward and with more effort.

Now is the moment for Trump, despite, his bluster, to live every day in fear. Whether he does or does not depends on YOU.


Democracy Demands It: A Review of Fire and Fury

By Marc Cooper (January 7, 2018)

Here’s my take on Fire and Fury: Wolff’s book reads much much better than I expected. To categorize it as tabloidy or gossip-ridden reveals only ignorance and/or envy. He is a graceful and incisive writer who demonstrates true talent in penetrating and explaining the psyche of his subjects.

The specific anecdotes, that can always be disputed (as in the case of every book churned out by Bob Woodward) are exactly that: anecdotal and incidental. The real value of Wolff’s book is his tightly drawn framing narrative and story through line that frighteningly portray a stunning picture of an ignorant, petulant, semi-literate fool that is unfit to be dog catcher let alone president.

One can argue, certainly, that almost all the individual pieces of this mosaic have been previously revealed to some degree or another by the myriad daily and beat reports not to mention some of the deeper investigative pieces of the last year. But therein resides the structural weakness of the MSM…. its incapacity and it “ethical” unwillingness to take all those jagged pieces of info and data, put them together in a razor sharp picture, and clearly call this most dangerous of presidents for exactly what he is.

As I noted before the whole book came out, Wolff was unbound from the he said/she said View From Nowhere shackles that imprison and retard daily mainstream reporting. And it makes a big difference. It’s the difference between reading a dry Labor Dept report on pay inequality and being immersed fully in the lives of the bottom 4/5 of the population by reading, say, Barbara Ehrenreich’s classic Nickle and Dimed.

Reading Fire and Fury is not a prurient experience. It is an immersive one in which the character of Trump and his bag of courtiers come alive on the page and stink up the whole room. It is the FIRST complete, whole, unvarnished, and no holds barred profile of this president and his administration and it will not and cannot be ignored except by those who are as illiterate as Trump himself.

Now.. a few words about methods and sources and, in turn, the truthiness or not of the more salacious anecdotes. I am going to put on my arrogant hat as a career practioner and retired professor of journalism specialized in interviewing techniques. I learned under fire 30 years ago when I did some Playboy interviews that required 10,000 printable words a minimum of 10-12 hrs per interview and news-making content. Get the bombshell or don’t bother sending in the copy, said my editor Barry Golson. And he meant it.

I taught my students that central to interviewing is SEDUCTION (and that is not the same as deceit). Wolff clearly seduced, weaseled, confused and finagled his sources to get them yapping. Just as he should. Can he be trusted? Yes, even if some anecdotes cannot be verified and some sourcing is hazy. I have no idea, but here’s my best guess about how Wolff got so much dirt. I SUSPECT that he was as ambiguous as possible with his sources as to what was and was not on the record. I’m OK with that. I teach that. Going off the record MUST be explicit and mutual otherwise it is fictional. When I talk to somebody who knows I am a reporter I do not say ‘OK now we will start the interview.” I get them talking ASAP and unless agreed to otherwise it is ON the record. I also suspect. with no hard evidence, that in some cases Wollf consciously took explicitly off the record material and put it on the record. Tsk tsk.

Ten members of the Society of Professional Journalists and several ethics nannies at Poynter just passed out hearing this. But, I am going to be straight with you and proclaim that if Wolff burned some of his sources, as I suspect, I have ZERO problem — in this case.

This is an exceptional administration that requires extraordinary measures and treatment. Burning sources, IN THIS CASE, is outweighed by the public service of telling the whole truth about this gang of chicken-brained delusional incompetents armed with nuclear weapons. I don’t give a flying fug if Wolff “betrayed the confidence” of Steve Bannon, or Steve Miller, or DIna Powell or Kelly Conway or Gary Cohn or Sam Nunberg or any other quisling lowlife that enables this monstrous man Good for him. Unlike the Peter Bakers, the Maggie Habermans or the Robert Costas of the world, Wollf doesn’t have to worry one minute about placating any of these assholes in order to keep beat access open and not be declared PNG by the ruling circle.

I want to be clear: when I taught interviewing as the art of seduction, I forcefully made it clear that there is always an ethical chalk line that should not be crossed (even if it is always not clear where that line was). I told them, do NOT cross the line once you have determined its whereabouts but when you come back to write your story there better goddamn be some chalk on the soles of your shoes as evidence that you at least came right up to the line and squeezed every drop out of your sources.

If I had been Wolff’s editor, I would have said, in this case there is no line. Do whatever you have to bring back the real story. Democracy demands it. And that’s what he did — though I hardly believe that was Wolff’s civic commitment. But he DID perform an invaluable public service no matter what Michelle Kottle wrote about him thirteen years ago. He isn’t going to get a job at The NYTimes in return nor will he be appointed Ethics Chair at Poynter but something tells me he really doesn’t give a shit.

Finally, a thought experiment. You know that I do not believe this is a fascist govt. Incompetent, arrogant, ignorant, racist, bellicose, and demagogic with authoritarian tendencies but still (barely) within the institutions of the Republic. But here’s my hypothetical: just HOW authoritarian or dictatorial would an American admin have to be for the MSM to drop its moth-eaten pose as “objective observers” and declare themselves, outright, to be an oppositional media (at great risk for sure)? My guess? Never. Wouldn’t happen. The Times, the Post and the networks would continue on, as is, under an openly authoritarian administration; they would comply with state imposed limits, they would “balance” their reporting with the “side” of the Fuhrer and that is precisely why we need outlaws and maybe even sleazy rule breakers like Michael Wolff.


The Senate Will Never Pass Trumpcare: Now is the Time to Fight

By Marc Cooper (May 5, 2017)

Time for a little mansplainin’….As I have been saying all along, the Senate will NOT pass anything near the House version of Trumpcare. Never. Indeed, many of the House members who voted yes today also severely disliked the bill.

The reason behind the House approval was simply to “move” the health care bill, any health care bill. First of all, to get it the hell out of the House. And, second, to allow the Senate to act. And many House members knew very well that they were approving a text that would never become law…which is one reason that some of these turds did not even bother to read the revised draft. They know it is fiction and YOU should also know that.

It’s now quite possible the Senate will act. But it will take months. And as it is now clear, the Senate bill will start from scratch and while I have no trust whatsoever in the GOP senators, I am sure they are evil but not insane.

They can do the same political math as you or I can. And when the CBO scoring comes in next week, revealing that MORE than 24 million people would lose their health care, and a huge deficit will be created the House version will become radioactive. There are also a number of Republican senators who absolutely oppose the slashing of medicare as the current program saves their respective states a lot of dough.

So here is what is going to happen:

1) There will be a massive negative reaction to the CBO scoring next week. Something the Senate will not ignore. Especially if the American people mobilize to underscore that affordable and comprehensive health care is a right, not a privilege.

2) Sometime down the road, probably in late summer, the Senate will come up with its own health care plan that, no doubt, will be noxious but will have very little resemblance to the House version.

3) If, and I repeat, IF the GOP can get 50 votes out of its 52 member conference, this Senate Trumpcare version will pass. Then the bill will go to a joint House/Senate conference committee that will have to compromise and agree on one version.

4) But we have two contending forces: the extreme conservatives in the House and Freedom Caucus and the relatively more rational cluster of so-called “moderate” Senators. One side or another is gonna be quite unhappy with the sausage that is produced….if indeed it gets that far.

5) If the congressional conference committee comes up with that hot dog, then it must go back to the House to be approved…. a big unknown given the intransigence of the Freedom Caucus and Little Bitch Paul Ryan.

6) If THAT hurdle is cleared then it goes back to the Senate and must again be approved. Then it becomes law when Trump signs it.

7) That’s a lot of friggin’ hurdles and this is not a high priority on the Repub agenda.

8) It’s impossible to guess what, if anything, the Senate will come up with. But what you can count on is that it will NOT approve a repeal and replacement that contains the worst of what the House did today. I am not pollyannish about the Senate Republicans but they are not going to jump off a radical plank like the House did today.

9) So let’s keep this in perspective and not go nuts.

10) Which brings me to my final point: As crazy as the House Republicans might be, the Democrats are outright pathetic. This notion that they or anybody else is “the resistance” is complete bullshit. And it is an insult to the memory of the real Resistance made up of people who risked life and limb to combat armed Nazi-Fascism. Don’t flatter yourself… wearing a safety pin or holding a placard is a long long way from taking up arms in the anti-Nazi Resistance.

What we need now is not a faux “resistance” but rather a pro-active “alternative.” If there was ever an historic moment to begin putting single payer on the table it is right now. And the Democrats don’t dare support that (or any other real “fixes” to what are the real insufficiencies of Obamacare). Singing bye bye today in the House was a juvenile, feckless act that does nothing to really confront the Republicans.

We now have several months of time to mobilize and bring pressure to bear on the Senate in a targeted and strategic manner that hopefully proposes some real alternatives. Depending on the Republicans to defeat themselves is not enough (no matter how good a job of self destruction the GOP has been conducting).

So eyes on the ball… this is a crucial juncture that will depend exclusively on the ability of civil society to defeat Trumpcare in the Senate. Neither the Democrats nor exaggerated fears will be of much help.

Time to fight.

Marc Cooper is a past contributing Editor to The Nation Magazine.


Trump’s Syrian Strike Has No Visible Strategic Goal

By Marc Cooper (April 6, 2017)

Purely for domestic consumption and with the usual unforeseen consequences.

One consequence for sure: This “retaliatory” strike will do absolutely nothing to stop or resolve the war in Syria. It MIGHT be the beginning of a deeper American intervention in days to come but, frankly, I doubt it. And as horrific as the gas attack was, it was not aimed at the U.S. so I don’t get how this is “retaliation.”

Almost half million Syrians have already died in this conflict and millions have been displaced into neighboring countries while this Big Orange Putz is banning all Syrian refugees.

At this point, and I might be wrong, this cruise missile attack is probably just punctuating one of his talking points i.e. that he’s “not weak.” There is no other visible strategic goal.

This is one case where some collusion or at least consultations with the Russians is actually in order as they maintain Syrian air defenses, fly Russian combat aircraft, and have “advisors” embedded among Syrian troops.

The Pentagon, I assume, knows better than to have struck any Russians tonight. I certainly hope that is the case.

In the meantime…. I heard a dozen military analysts today speculating on what this inevitable action would mean, what its objective might be, and the most they could come up with is what I said above: It’s Trump “sending a message” he’s a tough guy.


Marc Cooper, a Nation contributing editor, is an associate professor of professional practice and director of Annenberg Digital News at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.