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Exposing Trump's Trade Appeal To Working-Class Voters For What It Is

Dave Johnson   |   July 1, 2016   11:03 AM ET

Donald Trump is selling himself as the champion of working-class voters. He says Democrats and their presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, are selling them out with trade deals. But Trump is just a fraud.

Unfortunately, President Obama is pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and Clinton is not confronting him for doing so.

That has to change - fast. Clinton must publicly, directly and loudly challenge President Obama and demand that he withdraw TPP from consideration by Congress.

Trump's Trade Speech

Trump's speech on trade and "globalization" issues attempted to frame Clinton and Democrats as being on the side of the "Wall Street" forces that have pushed low-wage policies on working-class Americans. He is using the upcoming and hated TPP being pushed by President Obama as an example of this, saying Clinton is only "pretending" to oppose TPP in order to get votes.

From the speech:

The legacy of Pennsylvania steelworkers lives in the bridges, railways and skyscrapers that make up our great American landscape.

But our workers' loyalty was repaid with betrayal.

Our politicians have aggressively pursued a policy of globalization -- moving our jobs, our wealth and our factories to Mexico and overseas.

Globalization has made the financial elite who donate to politicians very wealthy. But it has left millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache.

[. . .] The people who rigged the system are supporting Hillary Clinton because they know as long as she is in charge nothing will ever change.

In Trump's usage, the words "trade" and "globalization" mean one and only one thing: moving American jobs and factories to low-wage countries. This movement of jobs in recent decades, pitting American workers against exploited workers who are paid squat and can't do anything about it, has been used as one lever to intentionally create unemployment, break the unions and force down wages. (Inflation panic leading to Federal Reserve interest rate increases, deficit scares leading to austerity -- especially the refusal to spend on infrastructure - and obstruction leading to minimum wage stagnation are others.)

Trump is appealing to disaffected working class workers who used to vote Democratic, but have seen their jobs shipped out of the country and/or their wages cut or stagnate. These workers see Democrats as complicit in adopting free-trade deindustrialization policies. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), pushed and signed by President Clinton, has become a catchall symbol of this disaffection with free-trade policies, but Democrats are generally seen as having done little to fight such policies.

President Obama contributed to the problem by campaigning with a promise to renegotiate NAFTA, then reneging on this promise once elected.

Trump also went after the Chamber of Commerce for their TPP support, implying they back Clinton. The New York Times reports:

Pressing his staunch opposition to trade deals, Donald J. Trump escalated his attacks on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, saying it was "totally controlled by the special interest groups."

"They're a special interest that wants to have the deals that they want to have," he told a packed arena at a rally here, to whoops and cheers. "They want to have T.P.P., the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the worst deals, and it'll be the worst deal since NAFTA."

[. . .] saying the Chamber was "controlled totally by various groups of people that don't care about you whatsoever."

Obama Pushing TPP As Election Nears

Clinton has said she is opposed to TPP, and opposed to letting TPP come up for a vote in the "lame duck" session of Congress that follows the election. But as Trump makes trade a centerpiece of his campaign, her opposition and trade focus has not been particularly vocal. She has not asked Democrats in Congress to oppose the TPP, and thanks to past Democratic betrayals many in the public just do not believe her.

Unfortunately, as the election nears, President Obama is pushing and pushing hard to get the TPP passed. Doing this directly conflicts with Clinton's need to show that Democrats are on the side of working people and provides Trump with powerful ammunition.

Making matters worse, efforts to write TPP opposition into the Democratic Party platform were voted down - by Clinton delegates. Unlike Trump, Democrats do not appear to understand how much this matters to voters.

Brexit Warning

The recent "Brexit" vote should serve as a warning to Democrats to take issues like this more seriously. Working-class voters in the UK voted to leave the European Union (EU) for reasons similar to the appeal Trump is making to working-class voters here.

Analyzing the "Leave" vote in "A Working-Class Brexit," University of Kent Professor Tim Strangleman writes the following. As you read it, substitute "Democrats" for "Labour", "Bill Clinton" for "Blair", "elites supporting free trade agreements" for "remain", "anti-TPP" for "leave" and "Trump" for "UKIP":

Resignation, despair, and political apathy have been present in many former industrial regions since the wholesale deindustrialisation of the ... economy in the 1980s and 1990s. The election of the Blair-led Labour administration ... masked the anger felt in these areas as traditional labour supporters and their needs were often ignored, while traditional Labour supporters were used as voting fodder. Over the ... years of Labour power, that support ebbed away, first as a simple decline in votes, but gradually turning into active hostility to the Labour party. Many embraced the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

...for unskilled workers with only a secondary school education, three decades or more of neo-liberalism has left deep scars socially, politically, and culturally, with little hope or expectation that anything would change for the better.

This opposition, so skillfully drawn on by the leave campaign, is in part a working class reaction not only to six years of austerity but also to a long and deep-seated sense of injustice and marginalisation. Most of the remain side, which was a cross party grouping, didn't seem to understand this before the referendum and, even more depressingly, doesn't seem to understand it fully now. A stock characterisation of working-class people who intended to vote leave was to label them as unable understanding the issues, easily manipulated, or worse, racist 'little Englanders'.

Doesn't this sound just like the working-class voters in places like Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania and other "deindustrialized" parts of the country? These voters used to reliably vote for Democrats, the party that watched out for working people. Donald Trump is appealing directly to these voters. Democrats should not dismiss these voters as "ignorant" or "racist."

Trump Is A Fraud On Trade

The Economic Policy Institute's (EPI) Robert Scott, speaking to VICE, summed up why Trump only appears to have the correct analysis on trade:

"Like a drive-by shooting, he fires enough bullets, he's going to hit some things that might look like a policy that works," Scott told VICE. "But it doesn't have a coherence."

"The problem with NAFTA is that we failed to effectively help Mexico develop as part of the agreement," Scott continued. A good model, he said, was what wealthier European nations did for their neighbors like Greece and Spain decades ago, pumping money into their economies to create new markets for goods, thus making a Pan-European economy possible.

"We could create such a vision and implement a truly united North American economy that worked for everybody but nobody's put that on the table," he said. "Certainly Trump is not talking about that--he's talking about building walls."

EPI's president Lawrence Mishel goes further, pointing out who got us into this mess:

It's true that the way we have undertaken globalization has hurt the vast majority of working people in this country--a view that EPI has been articulating for years, and that we will continue to articulate well after November. However, Trump's speech makes it seem as if globalization is solely responsible for wage suppression, and that elite Democrats are solely responsible for globalization. Missing from his tale is the role of corporations and their allies have played in pushing this agenda, and the role the party he leads has played in implementing it. After all, NAFTA never would have passed without GOP votes, as two-thirds of the House Democrats opposed it.

Republican efforts to drive wages down are the real culprit here:

Furthermore, Trump has heretofore ignored the many other intentional policies that businesses and the top 1 percent have pushed to suppress wages over the last four decades. Start with excessive unemployment due to Federal Reserve Board policies which were antagonistic to wage growth and friendly to the finance sector and bondholders. Excessive unemployment leads to less wage growth, especially for low- and middle-wage workers. Add in government austerity at the federal and state levels--which has mostly been pushed by GOP governors and legislatures--that has impeded the recovery and stunted wage growth. There's also the decimation of collective bargaining, which is the single largest reason that middle class wages have faltered. Meanwhile, the minimum wage is now more than 25 percent below its 1968 level, even though productivity since then has more than doubled. Phasing in a $15 minimum wage would lift wages for at least a third of the workforce. The most recent example is the effort to overturn the recent raising of the overtime threshold that would help more than 12 million middle-wage salaried workers obtain overtime protections.

Trump in his "trade" speech also called for getting rid of corporate taxes and getting rid of regulations on corporations. He also opposes having any minimum wage at all. Trump and the Republicans are hardly friends of working people.

Opposing TPP Must Be In The Democratic Platform

British elites were surprised when working-class voters decided to "Brexit" and "Leave" the EU. They had been more-or-less complacent about the anger that working people are feeling out there as jobs leave the country, wages are stagnant or falling, work hours get longer for those who have jobs, and the rich just get richer.

Voting against opposition to TPP in the Democratic platform shows that Democrats appear to have the same complacency on trade.

Democrats must get this right. They have to stand up for working people and demand that our trade policies start helping people instead of hurting them. That starts with Clinton demanding that the president withdraw TPP from consideration by Congress.

Clinton must pledge to renegotiate all of our trade agreements, this time with labor, environmental, consumer, human rights and other "stakeholder" groups at the table. This is the best way to show the public that she is on their side.

Here are ways to help Democrats get to the right place on this, and put TPP opposition in the platform:

● Campaign for America's Future: Sign our petitions to Leader Nancy Pelosi. Tell her she and other democrats to send Obama a message: Don't undermine our nominee. No vote lame duck vote on TPP.

● CREDO Action: Sign the petition: The Democratic Party platform must include unequivocal opposition to the TPP

● Keith Ellison via Democracy for America: Will you sign my petition to the DNC's Platform Committee and join me and DFA in asking them to adopt an anti-TPP amendment when the full committee meets in Orlando on July 8-9?

Also see Bill Scher, "Trump is a William McKinley Protectionist, Not a Bernie Sanders Populist."


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Warren Is Hillary's Best Bet For VP

Earl Ofari Hutchinson   |   June 26, 2016    4:57 PM ET

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is Hillary's best bet for VP. Why? Despite the relentless lampooning, ridiculing and name-calling of Trump, and the smug writing of his political obituary, the election will be a close run up. The big GOP donors and handlers, the hate driven passion to beat Hillary, Trump's skilled fear mongering and pander to bigotry, the never-ending media fawn over him, and GOP dominance in the majority of the state's legislatures and state houses will insure that.

The fatal mistake is to assume that simply painting and then writing off Trump as a kook will be enough to scare millions to storm the polls to defeat him. Clinton's campaign is a political textbook study in business like organization, precision, and professionalism. But it's not a campaign of passion.

Its passion that pushes people, especially young people, and minorities, out the door and to the polls on Election Day. These voters made the White House a wrap for Obama in 2008 and 2012. But Clinton is not Obama, and in the handful of swing states that will decide the election, the numbers and turnout will mean everything.

Warren provides the passion needed to get younger voters out the door Election Day. This was evident the moment that she fired up the imagination of millions by hammering on the corruption, gaming, and greed of Wall Street, and lashing the tepid, faint hearted effort by Washington to rein it in. Wall Street quickly warned that Warren was toxic for the Democrats, and reminded that a lot of its campaign money has gone to Obama and other Democrats, and that includes Hillary. The Wall Street saber-rattle about Warren cinched it.

Progressives had long last found their champion and hero, and screamed for her to toss her hat in the presidential rink. Warren said no, and Sanders stepped into the breech. Though millions eagerly and fervently rallied to his bandwagon, Warren's name was still on the lips of many. With the Democrat's tight party rules on voting in primaries, and core Democrat and super-delegate allegiance firmly in place for Clinton, Sanders never really had much chance to outduel her for the party's presidential nomination.

However, the brutal reality is legions of Sanders' backers tar Clinton as a war monger, Wall Street and corporate shill, party hack, and untrustworthy. A significant number of them vow that they will not vote for her, write in Sanders' name, vote Green Party, or stay home. That's OK if they are all in California, New York, or Massachusetts, lock down Democratic states, but if more than a few of them are in Ohio, Pennsylvania or Florida that could spell real trouble for Clinton. The potential ice breaker with them is someone on the Clinton ticket who is totally acceptable to Sanders and just as acceptable to Sander's Clinton wary supporters. That obvious someone is Warren.

Clinton is mindful of the loathing that legions of Sanders' Democrats have for her Wall Street connection. So early on at a Democratic gubernatorial campaign rally in Massachusetts last year she was effusive in her praise of Warren and in the process took a big shot at Wall Street and the corporations minimizing their role in job creation. Later she walked it back claiming she had "short-handed" her comments. In the general election she will be continually challenged to tell which Clinton Sanders backers are to believe; the Wall Street or the populist Clinton.

Warren will compel Clinton to spell out her position on the issues and tell how a Clinton administration will differ from Obama's and husband Bill's. She will also have to spend time making assurances that she is not the unreconstructed hawk on foreign policy issues that progressive Democratic critics lambaste her as. She'll have to talk even more boldly about tough financial regulations and reforms, and putting real meaning into her oft stated embrace of the label "progressive."

A slew of unnamed Wall Street insiders recently loudly warned Clinton that if she picked Warren as your VP, she could kiss our cash good-bye. But this is just so much hot air. Policy as always will be made by the president, not the vice-president, and if they didn't give their campaign cash to Clinton, who would they give it to, Trump, with his digs at Wall Street, doubtful. But even more, Wall Street also likes a winner, and it will not dare risk being cut out of the Washington loop by folding up its financial tent on Clinton, solely because of VP Warren.

Core Democrats and the party establishment are solidly behind Clinton. That's the good news. The bad news is that this masks the weak enthusiasm or outright opposition that many Democrats and independents who backed Sanders have to a Clinton presidential bid. Warren will do much to dispel that. Again, that makes Warren Clinton's best bet for VP.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of Let's Stop Denying Made in America Terrorism, (Amazon Kindle) He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.

Britain Sends A Message To You, Hillary

James Marshall Crotty   |   June 26, 2016    3:06 PM ET

Early morning, June 24th, Great Britain did what few polls, and politicians, predicted it was capable of doing: stand up for itself. "The result," as Brits call scores in sporting matches, was roughly 52% for leaving the European Union (EU) and 48% for remaining. Over 72% of eligible British voters turned out to vote in the mother of all electoral matches.

There are many bureaucratic details to sort out. The UK has, per Article 50 of EU treaties, two years to unwind its formal relationship with the Union. Moreover, there will be near-term economic fallout, as the pound plunges to its lowest level against the U.S. dollar in years.

The externalities will be manifold: hurting U.S. and European export-based industries, strengthening exports of UK-based companies, creating doubt as to whether London will remain a hub of global banking (a fear that might be overstated) and the financial gateway for Chinese firms seeking to do business with Europe.


In an odd twist, Brexit might boost real estate values in the suddenly popular Republic of Ireland - and marriage prospects of Irish passport-holders) - which, unlike Northern Ireland, will remain part of the EU. Can the long-awaited marriage of Northern Ireland (which voted overwhelmingly to Remain) and Ireland be far behind?

Moreover, with the crashing pound sterling, expect more visits from us ugly Americans looking to re-live our post-punk youth (too bad about John Peel, but is Monochrome Set still around?).

At some inchoate level, Leave proponents must feel like Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) and Elaine Robinson (Katharine Ross) in The Graduate. Having gone for love, instead of status quo safety, they are last seen staring blankly at the back of a bus, wondering, "What have we wrought?"


On the Remain side, folks are not feeling very shagadelic, especially young voters (75% of whom voted to Remain). In fact, Remain backers the world over are likely shedding muffled British tears of disbelief, as the sundry implications of Brexit sink in.

The closest U.S. parallel I can think of is the dumbfounded shock rational Americans felt when a shamefully incompetent and racially biased Los Angeles jury found the egregious O.J. Simpson innocent of the brutal murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Or the dismay and humiliation many Americans felt when George W. Bush invaded Iraq, even though all reliable evidence suggested that Iraq President Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11 and had no weapons of mass destruction.


These were undeniable tragedies in American history, with inexplicable causalities that only became clear over time. Now we are told that the O.J. verdict was payback by mostly black jurors for years of real or perceived black mistreatment by the LAPD. And the deceitfully sold Iraq War is now spun as a desperate attempt by a frightened nation to lash out at a familiar Mideast bogeyman after the attacks of 9/11.

However tragic Brexit might seem to Remain voters, and for the European Project as a whole, the long-term upside might be bright, once the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat wears off and the task of re-nationalizing thousands of laws - from food safety to consumer protection - is complete. And bright not only for the lawyers who stand to gain mightily from this monumental rewriting of the British legal code.


By standing up against EU paternalism, Great Britain, in a nod to Austin Powers, might have just gotten its emotional and psychological mojo back. Can a World Cup championship be close behind?! No.

While the Leave Campaign's stereotype of "faceless Brussels bureaucrats" was likely belied in general practice by diligent civil servants working to streamline regulations for the benefit of all members, there is something to be said for one's own people making those decisions, especially in highly sensitive matters like immigration and national defense. For better or worse, Britain now gets to make those decisions regarding border control (a huge flashpoint that affected the Brexit vote), trade, taxes, royalties, treaties, regulations, customs, defense, and more.

Moreover, Britain will be free from some of the more absurd Brussels edicts in a range of areas. Per EU mandate, eggs can't be sold by the dozen, but only by the kilo; diabetics are banned from driving (turns out EU experts decided they were a danger); prunes and prune juice cannot be marketed as laxatives, nor can bottled water be pitched as a solution to dehydration. Moreover, bananas "must be free of abnormal curvature," and it is illegal to sell strawberries with "misshapen calyxes."


While some of these EU edicts have been killed or modified, it's from such over-meddling micro-insults that macro revolutions are born (see: Tunisian street vendor and Arab Spring).

Indeed, there is now an increased likelihood of a robust trade agreement, maybe even a free trade zone, between the suddenly independent UK and the USA. It makes sense. The two nations enjoy a shared language, measurement system, and long historic military, political and economic ties. Moreover, we Yanks accept misshapen calyxes and regularly buy eggs by the dozen. And we don't give a toss if your bananas bend like Beckham.

As a matter of personal experience, I have long struggled with thinking of the proud and inimitable UK as part of the collectivist EU. It felt like an odd, if beautifully idealistic, cultural mismatch from the get-go, despite their geographic proximity.

However, underneath the immediate discussion of how Brexit will affect financial markets, international affairs, and consumer life, flow deeper currents that merit mention in relation to the upcoming U.S. general election. These lessons need to be learned by those who hope to avoid a similar result on this side of the pond come November.

First, polls show that Leave voters were nonplussed by claims of economic hardship. You might say they voted, as most economists warned, against their immediate economic interest.

However, what the Remain campaign did not grasp about these voters - just as U.S. Democrats do not grasp about the under-reported, and often silent, Trump voter - is that when citizens are sufficiently vexed, they often vote against their economic interest. See how often Central American, South American, Asian, and African voters elect leftist demagogues, who, once in office, quickly tank the economy.


Despite this fact, the Remain camp kept touting the economic benefits of staying in the EU, calling on various politicians and celebrities - including Tony Blair, Danny Boyle, Richard Curtis, Jude Law, Keira Knightley, and many others who can afford London's stratospheric cost-of-living - to make that case. But that's like touting the economic benefits of remaining married to a wealthy spouse who's cheated on you, made major unilateral decisions without fully consulting you and isn't altogether in love with you. In other words, as in relationships on an individual level, so too with those on a multinational level. Some principles are higher than getting Romanian workers to do one's dirty work for cheap.

Moreover, economic benefit as a selling point rings hollow when Brits perceive that many parts of London are owned by foreigners, and corrupt Russian and Middle Eastern "oil-i-garchs" at that.


And some of that flowery rhetoric of European unity went out the window when Germany - in a noble, if inappropriate, attempt to expiate some of its lingering WWII guilt - unilaterally decided, against enormous opposition, to take in one million refugees, even though this decision, within the context of a common economic zone in which citizens travel easily between member states, could adversely affect Britain.


You might say that well intentioned German Chancellor Angela Merkel - with an assist from an overreaching Barack Obama (we'll get to that later) - helped snatch defeat from the jaws of Remain victory. After all, nothing is more sacrosanct, and more essential to nationhood, than the freedom to manage one's borders.

This is especially felt in Britain against the backdrop of disturbing terrorist attacks in neighboring France and Belgium, whose perpetrators were only a short Chunnel ride away from London. Thus, with the Union's mission creep into massive refugee resettlement, many older Brits felt that the EU had gone far beyond its original economic mandate.


As a prominent member of London's investment banking community told me on Friday, it wasn't as if the British oppose immigration. Many Brits had simply grown resistant to the new crop of immigrants, "who didn't speak English and didn't embrace English values." As my friend described the sentiments of such Leave proponents, "These new immigrants accept our hospitality, but do not integrate into our communities, and appear to disdain us. As a result, unlike immigrants of the past, they are fundamentally changing the character of our communities."

The same complaints can be heard in the U.S. Many Americans also say they "want their country back," even if they have to pay more for lettuce, lawn maintenance and housecleaning. This should be a red flag for Democratic elites, who ignore this 3AM wake-up call at their peril.

Secondly, anecdotal reports suggest that Leave voters were particularly dismayed by Professor Obama's lecture to them about the economic consequences of leaving the EU. President Obama actually had the temerity to say that Britain will go to the "back of the queue" in trade.


It is hard to believe that any American who understood the long-standing American-British "special relationship" would say something so patronizing and daft. Nevertheless, that's par for the course for many liberal American elites who think they know best when it comes to your taxes, security, health care, sovereignty, and values. And it's especially par for the course for globalists who are not all that invested in the idea of a special relationship, let alone British or American exceptionalism.

Having lived and studied in England from 1979-1980 (at the then leftist University of Sussex in Falmer), and visited the UK and continental Europe many times since, I can assure you that the British do not take kindly to being lectured by their American "cousins," even if those cousins might occasionally be correct. President Obama should have known that, though, to his credit, he wisely walked his comments back after the surprising Brexit result.

But there's a pattern here. As Republicans well remember, and as Hillary Clinton (whom I backed in the 2008 Democratic primary) pointed out, the normally circumspect Obama made this mistake before. During the 2008 primary, he dismissed the values of small-town Americans as well, when he said, in an unguarded, non-TelePrompTer moment recorded by an Obama supporter: "They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

I am a socially liberal Earth Firster, and a lapsed Catholic turned Zen Buddhist, but I too was bothered by Mr. Obama's patronizing remarks, since they were directed at God-fearing friends and family back home in Nebraska (or in Iowa, Michigan and Kansas), whom I hold dear to my heart. To this day, taking their cue from our President, intolerant American liberals all over Facebook, on CNN, MSNBC, Politico, NBC ABC and PBS publicly denigrate anyone who dares to disagree with them as "racist." They just casually drop the term, as if a person must be racist if he wants sane and rigorous enforcement of our immigration laws. As if a person must be racist if he or she opposes a policy, any policy, advocated by our nation's first African-American President. As if a person must be racist if he or she believes that cops are often unfairly demonized by Black Lives Matter protesters. As if a person must be racist if he or she believes that the lives of Rust Belt workers - whose jobs have been outsourced en masse to low-wage, non-unionized China and Mexico - matter too.


This liberal elite bias was seen most starkly in CNN's early morning Friday coverage of the Brexit vote. On this momentous occasion, the liberal network repeatedly turned to their crack foreign affairs reporter, Christiane Amanpour, outside Parliament. Over and over, Ms. Amanpour (whose husband, James Rubin, I previously interviewed for Playboy, and whose father is a Shiite Muslim from Tehran) kept invoking the terms "Islamaphobia" and "xenophobia" to explain the Leave vote, as if Leave voters were unschooled, decidedly un-posh, dirt-eating peasants who voted based on nativist bigotry.

She could not help herself. After all, her social circle likely includes multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, London-based, cocktail-swilling, kale-eating elites, many of whom attended English boarding schools like herself and who don't have a bloody clue about the nuances of how people think, feel, and live in the English hinterlands.

It's the habit of arrogant liberal elites over here - from Barack Obama to Hillary Clinton to Van Jones, Rachel Maddow and their fellow liberal group-think Clerisy in politics, government, media, tech, fashion, entertainment, and, above all, academia - to dismiss anyone who dares to question their proactively policed speech codes regarding illegal immigration, transgendered bathrooms, gun control, and leftist hate groups like F*** the Police.


If you happen to disagree with the new liberal orthodoxy, you are some imbecilic home-schooled retrograde who recently crawled out of the primordial muck and must be hectored and guilt-tripped into submission for holding to such rearguard apostasy. This public shaming, even if slightly based in fact, was clearly counterproductive in the Brexit vote.

If a voter feels publicly shamed for having legitimate concerns about, say, the cost of integrating a sudden influx of refugees, or the growing threat posed by immigrants who believe in Sharia law, or, Allah forbid, about one's country losing control over its borders and laws, let alone its national identity, that person does not feel safe to utter those views in public, let alone to pollsters. Therefore, these voters keep their trap shut and exact their revenge in the polling booth.


That seems to be precisely what happened with Brexit. London, in league with Brussels and Berlin, had become the poster child for dismissive, arrogant globalism. And English and Welsh citizens residing outside of London let them know it.

Who can blame them? Older pro-Leave voters in England's North and Midlands, who had lived through WWII and the Cold War, must have wondered what kind of surreal union was this EU, whose leaders seemed more worried about rhetorically upsetting Muslim immigrants than blocking the free and easy cross-border travel of radical Islamic terrorists. These voters must have been doubly mystified about EU member nations that seemed more interested in keeping low-cost Russian natural gas flowing than striking out against the clear and present danger posed by Russia's bellicose Vladimir Putin. Had the EU stood up to Putin in the Ukraine, maybe he wouldn't have felt emboldened to prop up Assad in Syria, furthering the refugee crisis that helped propel the Leave campaign.

In the U.S., we see the same pattern emerging. Those who do not reside in the liberal power centers of New York City and Washington, DC, and who do not give off the liberal elite signals that the new Ruling Class looks for in hiring into its media and political upper ranks (Ivy League social indoctrination, calling "illegal immigrants" by the deliberately misleading "undocumented immigrants," and incessantly talking about "diversity" as the remedy for all social ills), then you are out. Your voice is literally not heard, or, often, deliberately silenced and mocked.

I saw this most clearly in the early 2016 Republican primaries, when liberal elites like Anderson Cooper were bumfuzzled that voters found outsider candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz so appealing. Those voters out in America's Heartland - a.k.a. Flyover Country, from where I hail - were treated like alien life forms who spoke a guttural nationalism that didn't compute in an age when the homes of the liberal elite are cleaned by Guatemalans, their meals cooked by Mexicans, and their condo buildings guarded by smiling men from El Salvador.


God help liberal Establishment poster woman, Hillary Clinton - who has fed at the trough of wealthy liberal benefactors, and a few foreign dictators, for years - should the erratic Donald Trump start running a measured, disciplined campaign that is quickly responsive to those who want to help it. If this happens, then Brexit could indeed be a bellwether of the upcoming U.S. election.

You see, many voters in the U.S. hinterlands of Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania (in the latter two states, Trump is virtually tied with Clinton, despite a disastrous two months for the gaffe-prone real estate tycoon), like those in the pro-Brexit strongholds of Wales and non-London England, have been ground down by the wage-deflating, job-destroying effects of globalization and open borders. Because of this, secret Trump voters, like secret Leave voters in the UK, might already be lying to pollsters.


This should be worrying news for Mrs. Clinton and her liberal Democrat backers, who continue to run by the 2012 playbook they used against the decent, if hapless, Mitt Romney. If they just demonize Trump enough, goes conventional Democratic wisdom, they can bury all the bad news about Secretary Clinton's private email server, the Clinton Foundation cash for influence allegations, the lies about Benghazi, and all her other failures, personal and professional.

That strategy worked swimmingly for Obama in 2012 because gentleman Romney tried to remain above the fray against a Democratic party that had learned well from Lee Atwater, Karl Rove and other GOP strategists to launch white lies that could destroy an opponent on his most appealing quality (in this case, Romney's stellar business record and generous, self-effacing nature). Moreover, by engaging in misleading caricature (e.g., deliberately taking Romney's "binders of women" comment out of context), they could shift the discussion from President Obama's policy failings.


However, in 2016, Trump has played vicious hardball right out of the gladiator gate. He learned the lessons of Romney's loss and, as evidenced by Mr. Trump's scathing, if fact-challenged, June 22 speech in New York's Soho, is deploying a scorched earth strategy against Mrs. Clinton, dumping the entire GOP corruption dossier on her.

Meanwhile, by sticking to their 2008 and 2012 playbook of race-baiting, gender-pandering, telling tall tales about the opponent, and digging up and blowing out of proportion any kind of misstep, the Dems are playing right into Trump's low-brow, low-blow Twitter-happy wheelhouse.

This gutter strategy might work again. But, given the unequivocal message of Brexit, it seems more "prudent," as Mrs. Clinton might intone, to champion policies that actually bring manufacturing jobs back to the Rust Belt and that empirically protect our porous southern border from the current invasion of human traffickers, horrific drugs, potential terrorists, dangerous diseases, and, yes, those kind, hard-working, law-abiding illegal immigrants.

But there are other issues the Democrats faces that might "Trump" even a suddenly chastened and centrist Mrs. Clinton.

First, the Dems have a flawed standard-bearer, who still might be recommended for indictment by the FBI.

Secondly, American voters are fed up in ways they never were in 2012. Over 70%, in a string of polls, believe that the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Thirdly, these voters already know the myriad negatives of the narcissistic, self-aggrandizing, and incurious Mr. Trump (I've written about his boorish defects in this very space). As one Nebraska customer service representative recently told me by phone, "I hate Trump. He's just horrible." When I asked her if she is going to vote for him, she replied, "Of course!"

That sentiment reminds of my late Great Aunt Elsa English, a violist for the Omaha Symphony, who cursed at the TV when watching the TV show Match Game. Aunt Elsa was visibly upset at what she considered the "pervy" salacious behavior of grabby British-American host Richard Dawson. However, that didn't stop her from watching Match Game every single day.

In other words, there are millions of voters out there so angry with the arrogant, paternalistic status quo that they are willing to vote against their economic interests in the hope of getting their borders and jobs back, and their country confident, strong, respected and, yes, feared again.


It's a long way between now and November. The economic headwinds that the UK now faces could dissuade many Americans from voting for the protectionist Trump. But the warning from Brexit is clear: unless Democrats start talking directly to voters harmed by open borders, bad trade deals, and globalization, and stop lecturing Trump voters about how stupid and racist they are, they could meet the same fate as the Remain camp, no matter what kind of unhinged policy lightweight Donald Trump is.


Abraham Lincoln Predicted Brexit and Trump's Rise. Hillary Should Pay Attention

  |   June 24, 2016   10:43 PM ET

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Trump's McCain Moment: #Brexit

Mark Silva   |   June 24, 2016    4:01 PM ET


Arriving in Scotland today to tout his golf courses, Donald Trump praised the British vote to exit the European Union -- even the immediate turmoil it was spurring in international currency and stock markets: "When the pound goes down,'' Trump said, "more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly.''

Back home in the United States, the Dow Jones Industrial average lost 2.5 percent of its value by midday, as markets assessed the impact of the #Brexit vote on a surging U.S. dollar -- and, with that, a gloomier prospect for American exports -- in addition to global economic unrest in general.

In what could prove to be an economic inflection point for the 2016 presidential campaign, the presumptive Republican nominee has run the risk of repeating the mistake that Sen. John McCain, the party's 2008 nominee, made at the start of the worst recession since the Great Depression when he declared that the "fundamentals'' of the American economy were "strong.''

"There's tremendous turmoil in our financial markets and on Wall Street," McCain said hours before Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy in September 2008. "People are frightened by these events. Our economy, I think still, the fundamentals of our economy are strong. But these are very, very difficult times."

While the instant reaction of international markets to the British referendum was not widely viewed as the threshold of another recession -- but rather a short-term sell-off -- the immediate events were being portrayed on cable TV at home as a good time for everyone to check the status and investments of their 401k's. The fundamentals of our retirement savings may not be so sound.

It also offered Democrat Hillary Clinton a prime opportunity to redouble her warnings this week about what impact a Trump presidency might have on the U.S. economy. Citing an assessment by Moody's Analytics about the likelihood for 3.5 million jobs lost to Trump's vision of international trade agreements, Clinton has dubbed it "the Trump Recession.''

"This time of uncertainty only underscores the need for calm, steady, experienced leadership in the White House,'' Clinton wrote in a personally signed note on her Twitter account today. Her campaign retweeted the words of another Clinton campaign account, @TheBriefing2016: "Asked whether he talked to any foreign policy advisors about #Brexit, Trump says 'there's nothing to talk about.'''

While echoing the White House's statement of respect for the decision the British have made -- a withdrawal from the European Union which President Barack Obama forcefully opposed before the vote -- Clinton said in a statement issued by her campaign: "It also underscores the need for us to pull together to solve our challenges as a country, not tear each other down.''

(Updated at 3:45 pm ET: And before the day was done, the Clinton campaign circulated a web video about Trump's comments in Scotland: "In it Fore Himself.'' ‏@HillaryClinton: "Hours after the #BrexitVote, Donald Trump was in the U.K. Talking about how he, personally, would benefit.'')

While Trump is away pitching his golfing enterprises at his renovated Turnberry course and visiting another at Aberdeen, Clinton is seizing a unique opportunity to underscore the contrast in her rival's world view of the economy with her own.

Trump is attempting to frame the referendum in a broader picture of global frustration with the misguided leadership of the elite political class. The British have "taken their country back,'' Trump said today in Scotland, and Americans will have a similar chance to "make America great again.''

"Come November, the American people will have the chance to re-declare their independence,'' Trump said in a note at his Facebook page after the #Brexit referendum. "Americans will have a chance to vote for trade, immigration and foreign policies that put our citizens first. They will have the chance to reject today's rule by the global elite, and to embrace real change that delivers a government of, by and for the people. I hope America is watching, it will soon be time to believe in America again.''

"I really do see a parallel between what's happening in the United States and what's happening here," Trump told waiting reporters at Trump Turnberry today. "You just have to embrace it, it's the will of the people."

Still, in the midst of roiling financial markets at home -- however short-lived or long-lasting it proves to be -- Clinton will be missing a distinct opportunity not to seize on the self-promoting aspects of Trump's endorsement of #Brexit.

While touting the benefit of a slumping pound for tourists at Trump Turnberry, he also suggested that running a golf course -- like this historic course that he has refurbished -- is comparable to running a nation: "You'll be amazed how similar it is. It's a place that has to be fixed."

As the Washington Post reported it, Trump "provided a widely broadcast infomercial for his newest luxury golf club, standing in front of a bagpiper and wearing a white 'Make America Great Again' cap. Resort staffers were instructed to wear red caps reading, "Make Turnberry Great Again."

When asked if he was traveling with his foreign policy advisers or consulting them, Trump said that he had been in contact with them but 'there's nothing to talk about.'''

As McCain learned in 2008 -- suspending campaign activities for a time in October to return to Washington and consult with his economic advisers about the unfolding economic catastrophe -- Trump may soon find there's a lot more to talk about when he returns home.

McCain was quickly changing his tune about the sound fundamentals of the American economy back then. As the New York Times chronicled at the time: By the next day, "he was calling the economic situation 'a total crisis' and denouncing 'greed' on Wall Street and in Washington. Meantime, he moved from adamant opposition to resigned acceptance of the big government bailouts.''

"The sharp turnabouts in tone and substance reflected a recognition not only that McCain had struck a discordant note at a sensitive moment but also that he had done so with regard to the very issue on which he can least afford to stumble,'' the Times' Michael Cooper wrote. "With economic conditions worsening and voter anxiety on the rise, McCain has had to labor to get past the impression - fostered by his own admissions that the subject is not his strongest suit - that he lacks the experience and understanding to address the country's economic woes.''

If the Clinton campaign plays its own economic hand right, Trump will find himself having to explain the same thing this summer.

Trump vs. Clinton, True, False or "Pants on Fire"

  |   June 23, 2016    5:01 PM ET

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Still Honoring Muhammad Ali -- And Why That Matters

Rabbi Michael Lerner   |   June 21, 2016    8:07 PM ET

Can you imagine my surprise when I got a call from a representative of the Muhammad Ali family a few days before his memorial in Louisville, telling me that Ali had remained a "fan" of mine and of Tikkun magazine for decades (long after we had been friends and allies challenging the war in Vietnam in the 1960s and early 1970s --both of us were indicted by the federal government for our anti-war activities -- and two decades after I had received a note from him praising the book Jews and Blacks: Let the Healing Begin that was a challenging conversation between me and Cornel West)! Ali, I was told, had decided some seven years before that I would be the person he would want to represent the Jewish world and speak at his memorial. I felt honored and humbled by the invite.

Ali knew me well, and would have only invited me to speak if he wanted me to continue articulating the Jewish prophetic tradition Tikkun magazine has been representing for the past thirty years -- in a voice that, as my mentor at the Jewish Theological Seminary taught me, is meant to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." Ali knew that there would be powerful people both in the audience (in the actual reality, it was Bill Clinton and the heads of state of some other countries who heard my talk) and among the ten million who viewed the talk live around the world. In choosing me to speak (and others as well) Ali obviously wanted his memorial service to go beyond kind words about what a wonderful a person he had been through much of the past several decades, and instead reach for the discomforting ideals that he and I shared. Or as his wife Lonnie put it, this memorial was intended to be "a teaching moment."

And as I said in my talk, the best way to honor Muhammad Ali is to BE Ali now in our own lives, and I was trying to model what that could possibly look like. And that is why it matters to still be honoring the memory of Muhammad Ali--because doing so means taking on ourselves the responsibility to speak truth to power even at the risk of real loss of money, influence, or friendships from those around us who think that doing so is irrational or whatever else they come up with to justify their own passivity in the face of evils that in their heart they know to be wrong.

Of course, I also knew from much past experience that when one speaks in this prophetic way, the powerful who are being critiqued tend to pull their normal tricks: either by saying that it was rude to speak in this discomforting way at this (or any other) particular occasion, or by trying to discredit the speaker rather than address the ideas being put forward. I've found this second response particularly distressing when coming from those in the Jewish world who give blind support to the right-wing politicians in Israel who refuse to negotiate a peace treaty enabling the Palestinians to have a politically and economically viable Palestinian state -- an issue that particularly concerns Muslims like Muhammad Ali who have expressed to me and many others their belief that Israel could live in peace and security if they would treat the Palestinian people with respect, and if Israel's main military supplier and political defender at the U.N. -- the United States of America -- would stop trying to overthrow the governments of (or invading and bombing) Muslim countries. These right-wing Jews have consistently attacked Tikkun magazine and me personally (a rabbi who teaches Torah on Shabbat to my Berkeley, California based synagogue-without-walls Beyt Tikkun and has people from around the world coming to our High Holiday services) of being self-hating Jews, or anti-Semitic, or wanting to see Israel destroyed (the opposite of the truth, since my criticisms of Israel are motivated precisely by my love of God and Judaism, with its strong Torah command "when you come into your land, DO NOT OPPRESS THE STRANGER -- the OTHER -- remember that you were strangers in the land of Egypt -- and my desire to protect the Jewish people from the anti-Semitism Israel's oppressive treatment of the Palestinian people is generating around the world, unfairly I insist, but still actually, among people who never had any bad feelings about Jews till they learned about the fate of the Palestinians).

I had another motive in giving this talk. I wanted to use this as a moment to communicate to the Muslim population of the world 2 important messages that are not communicated by President Obama's drone warfare or by the U.S.'s failure to open our gates to Muslim refugees from the war in Syria and Iraq, nor by the overt fear and hatred of Muslims expressed by Donald Trump.

The first message: that we in the U.S. do not support Islamophobia, and that a majority of us want to live in peace with Muslims.

The second: that we in the Jewish world will not allow the Muslim population in our own country or around the world to be demeaned or Islam characterized as essentially a religion of hatred-- that we will stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters, recognizing that the way all Jews were blamed for the behavior of a few is now being repeated in the way that (very legitimate) anger at Boko Haram in Africa and at ISIL/ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and the Taliban in Afghanistan (whose combined numbers are less than 100,000 people max) are now being blamed on the entirety of the world's 1.5 billion Muslims. I knew that Ali would have wanted these kinds of ideas to be presented, and at a memorial which had already taken a clear political direction after the first speaker detailed how Ali had helped African Americans in the U.S. overcome some of the ways that they had internalized negative stereotypes put on them by the racism of American society.

You can listen to what I actually said with the full feel of the response by going to

Or you can read it below.

But in either case, after reading or listening to it, please come back to this page to read what I had to cut out from my talk because of the amount of time taken up in the few allotted minutes we had to speak by (in my case, certainly unexpected) applause and standing ovations from the audience. So come back to this page if you would after listening to my talk -- it is printed here after the talk itself.

TRANSCRIPT of Rabbi Michael Lerner's talk at Muhammad Ali memorial June 10, 2016

Master of compassion, god of compassion, send your blessings to Muhammad Ali and send
your blessings to all who mourn for him and send your blessings for all the millions and millions of People who mourn for him all over this planet. I come here speaking as a representative of American Jews -- and to say that American Jews played an important role in solidarity with African-American struggles in this country and that we today stand in solidarity with the Islamic community in country and all around the world. [applause]
We will not tolerate politicians or anyone else putting down Muslims and blaming Muslims for a few people [standing ovation].

We know what it's like to be demeaned. We know what it's like to have a few people who act against the highest visions of our tradition to then be identified as the value of the entire tradition. And one of the reasons that we in Tikkun magazine, a magazine of liberal and progressive Jews but also an interfaith magazine have called upon the United States to stand up to the part of the Israeli government that is oppressing Palestinians [applause] is that we as Jews understand that our commitment is to recognize that God has created everyone in God's image and that everyone is equally precious and that means the Palestinian people as well as all other people on the planet. [standing ovation]

I know the people of Louisville have a special relationship to Muhammad Ali and I had a personal relationship in the 60's when both of us were indicted by the federal government and for our various stands against the War in Vietnam. I want to say that although he was cheered on as the heavyweight champion of the world, you know the truth is -- and all the honor to him -- but heavyweight champions of the world come and go and sports heroes come and go. There was something about Muhammad Ali that was different. At the key moment when he had that recognition, he used it to stand up to an immoral war and say no, I won't go. [applause]
And it's for that reason that tens of millions of Americans who don't particularly care about boxing do care about Muhammad Ali, because he was the person who was willing to risk a great honor that he got and a great fame that he got to stand up for the beliefs that he had, to speak truth to power when the rest of the people around him said No, no, you're going to lose your championship, and it was taken away from him for five years, but he stood up and was willing to take that kind of a risk because of that kind of moral integrity. [applause]

So I want to say how do we honor Muhammad Ali? And the answer is the way to honor Muhammad Ali is to BE Muhammad Ali today. [applause]

That means us, everyone here and everyone listening. It's up to us to continue that ability to speak truth to power. We must speak out, refuse to follow the path of conformity to the rules of the game in life. We must refuse to follow the path of conformity. Tell the 1% who own 80% of the Wealth of this country that it's time to share that wealth. [applause
Tell the politicians who use violence worldwide and then preach nonviolence to the oppressed that it's time for them to end their drone warfare and every other form of warfare, to close our military bases around the world, to bring the troops home.

Tell those who created mass incarceration [Lerner looking directly at Bill Clinton in the front row] that it's time to create a guaranteed income for everyone in our society. [applause]

Tell judges to let out of prison the many African-Americans swept up by racist police and imprisoned by racist judges. [applause]
Many of them in prison today for offenses like possessing marijuana that white people get away with all the time. [standing ovation]

Tell our elected officials to imprison those who authorized torture and those who ran the big banks and investment companies that caused the economic Collapse of 2008.

Tell the leaders of Turkey to stop killing the Kurds.

Tell Israeli prime minister Netanyahu that the way to get security for Israel is to stop the occupation of the West Bank and help create a Palestinian state.[applause]

Tell the next president of the United States that she [sustained applause]-- tell the next president of the United States that she should seek a constitutional amendment to make all national and state elections funded by congress and the state legislatures and all other sources of money be banned, including money from corporations, from individuals, all other money, make it all public funding. Tell her that the way to achieve homeland security is not for us to try new ways of domination, the strategy of domination of the world of the other to get security has been tried for the last 10,000 years and it doesn't work. The way to get security is for the United States to become known as the most generous and caring country in the world, not the most powerful. [applause]

We could start with a Global and Domestic Marshall plan to once and for all end global and domestic poverty, homelessness -- hunger, inadequate education, inadequate health care. [applause]

So I want to, as chair of the interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives, come and join us at I want to affirm our commitment to the well-being of all Muslims on this planet as well as the people of all faiths and secular humanists as well. We wish to pay honor to Muslims of the world as they continue today the fast of Ramadan and join with them in mourning the loss and celebrating the life of Muhammad Ali, a great fighter for justice and peace. Peace be upon him, peace be upon the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon all of humanity and peace on all of us. Amen. [prolonged applause and standing ovation]


I have a few regrets about this talk, having left out the following points that I had planned to make:

1. The way to get to a world of justice and environmental sanity is to first popularize a New Bottom Line for Western societies based on replacing money and power as the criteria of success, efficiency, productivity or rationality by instead focusing on the degree that our economic system and its corporations, our government policies, our legal system, our educational system and even our personal behavior tends to produce the Caring Society: Caring for Each Other and Caring for the Earth by encouraging more love, generosity and kindness, environmental sensitivity and sustainability, enhancing our capacities to view others as fundamentally valuable (rather than through a utilitarian framework of how much they can "deliver" for us something we want or need from them) and our collective capacity to respond to the universe with awe, wonder and radical amazement (not in terms of being valuable only if we can turn some of it into commodities that we can sell and make money with or into something that will satisfy human wants). Please read about our campaign for the New Bottom Line--and why you should not dismiss it as "unrealistic" by reading our approach at

2. That in listing what we wish the next president to do we should advocate not only for a guaranteed annual income for everyone and free health care for everyone, but also free child care, free elderly care, and free education from pre-kindergarten through college and graduate and professional schools (and with a corresponding commitment from those receiving these benefits to give a few years of their lives after graduating to using the skills and understanding that they've obtained to serve those in this country and around the world who would benefit from their skills or understandings). We should forgive all previously taken college loans for any remaining payments beyond $10,000 per person.

3. The U.S. should stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia or other countries that deny their citizens fundamental human rights or oppress their minorities.

4. We should affirm a commitment to nonviolence as central to our replacing the Strategy of Domination, which has been our failed approach to Homeland Security, with a Strategy of Generosity (including a Global Marshall Plan). It is impossible for people around the world to hear our condemnation of terrorists as anything but narrowly self-serving as long as we continue to bomb people whom we call terrorists, in the process acting as a state using terror against civilians (whom we dismiss as "collateral damage") and never having publicly atoned for the genocidal war against Vietnam. If terror (attacks on noncombatant civilians) is wrong, it is universally wrong, no matter how righteous the alleged or real motivation for it. In this same light, we have to critique those on the Left who do not critique the use of terror by some participants in liberation movements. And I want to add that though I fully support the struggle of Palestinians for freedom and a viable Palestinian state, I oppose and critique every use of violence including that of random Palestinians against random Israeli civilians and violence by Hamas intended to hurt Israeli civilians (to be condemned even when their efforts are thwarted by the Israeli army). Understanding the pain in the lives of Palestinians is important for motivating an end to the Occupation, but it is not meant to be a license for or subtle approval of acts of terror.

5. We stand fully committed to the notion that Black Lives Matter, remain outraged at the persistence of racist practices at every level of our society, believe that there should be systematic financial as well as spiritual and psychological reparations for slavery, and that this notion is consistent with, and affirming of, the idea that "All lives matter," and that the pain and suffering of working class people in this country deserves real attention and repair.

And finally
6. We must respond to those who are haters of the traditionally demeaned others of our society and who manifest racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism, and/or religio-phobia, not only with rational counter-arguments, but with a sincere empathy and desire to learn what are the underlying rational needs in their lives that have been frustrated which then sets them up to be manipulated into support for hate-oriented behaviors and/or worldviews. In short: look for the decency in people, even in people who are acting in hateful ways, and then find ways to help people return to that decency rather than be mired in the false solutions that have been sold to them as ways to alleviate real pain and suffering (a point that is central to understanding the reason so many millions of people in the U.S. and around the world respond to merchants of hate). To fully understand this point, please start getting Tikkun magazine In our Fall 2016 issue of the magazine we give a full psycho-spiritual analysis of the psychopathology of American politics in the 2016 election -- not focused on the candidates but on why millions of people respond to the most perverse of them.

This is what I wish I had had time to say. And what I have time to say to you, if you managed to stick with me to this point, is: if what I'm saying makes sense to you, please please please join our NSP (interfaith and secular-humanist-and-atheist-welcoming, just as we welcome people of every religious or spiritual tradition) Network of Spiritual Progressives and work with us to build the kind of world discussed here -- at And if you are on principle someone who never joins anything, make a tax-deductible (in the US at least) contribution to our movement at .

P.S. Some people misinterpreted my statement "tell the next President of the United States that she....." as meaning that I was endorsing Hillary Clinton. This talk took place after the California primary at a time when even many of the most passionate supporters of Bernie Sanders recognized that Hillary had won the majority of the popular vote and that given her likely opposition she was very likely to be the next president. I did NOT mean to be endorsing her--as the chair of the nonprofit which sponsors both Tikkun and the NSP, I am forbidden by IRS regulations in supporting any candidate or political party. So all I was suggesting was that she would likely be the next president, not that I personally was endorsing her or anyone else.

Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun magazine, chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue Without Walls in Berkeley, Ca. and author of 11 books, including two national best seller: Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation and The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right. His most recent book, Embracing Israel/Palestine: A Strategy for Middle East Peace, can be ordered at

Rabbi Lerner welcomes opportunities to work with anyone who has joined the NSP and/or subscribed to Tikkun.

You Felt The Bern. Now May I Introduce You To Hillary Clinton?

Farrah Alexander   |   June 21, 2016    3:34 PM ET

Clinton is considered the presumptive Democratic nominee after beating Sanders by nearly 4million votes. The Sanders campaign planned a massive layoff of at least half its staff. After meeting with President Obama, Sanders pledged to work with Clinton to defeat Trump. The mission to defeat Trump was solidified during a meeting between Sanders and Clinton after the D.C. primary.

Sanders has not conceded and some supporters are energized by his tenacity to keep the dream alive. But while the dream of a Sanders presidency is not dead, it's clinging on life support and even the most ardent supporters are ready to mercifully plug the plug.

The majority of Sanders supporters will support Clinton in the general election. But some are considering all their options, some even shockingly considering voting for Donald Trump. (shudder) So, while yes, for many voting for the Democratic nominee who shares many of the same goals and beliefs seems like the natural choice. But to others I must ask--have you considered Hillary Clinton?

Like Sanders, Clinton believes abortion is a woman's right.

Like Sanders, Clinton believes women should have access to and funding for contraception.

Like Sanders, Clinton believes in expanding stem cell research.

Like Sanders, Clinton supports providing contraceptives for low-income women.

Like Sanders, Clinton advocates reducing teen pregnancy by providing education and contraceptives.

Like Sanders, Clinton wants to reinforce anti-discrimination and equal-pay requirements.

Like Sanders, Clinton is committed to fighting for minorities, immigrants and women's rights.

Like Sanders, Clinton wants to increase America's commitment against global AIDS.

Like Sanders, Clinton wants more funding and stricter sentencing for hate crimes.

Like Sanders, Clinton would consider a constitutional amendment against Citizen's United.

Like Sanders, Clinton believes presidents should reveal donations to their foundations.

Like Sanders, Clinton supports banning campaign donations from unions and corporations.

Like Sanders, Clinton believes assault weapons should be off the street.

Like Sanders, Clinton believes businesses should be legally required to hire women and minorities.

Like Sanders, Clinton strongly supports same-sex marriage.

Like Sanders, Clinton believes voter registration should be an easier process.

Like Sanders, Clinton does not believe citizens have an absolute right to gun ownership without restrictions.

Like Sanders, Clinton believes in expanding Obamacare.

Like Sanders, Clinton wants to prioritize green energy.

Like Sanders, Clinton believes in taxing the wealthy at a higher rate.

Like Sanders, Clinton believes in a pathway to citizenship.

Like Sanders, Clinton does not support privatizing social security.

Like Sanders, Clinton supports a clean power plan.

Like Sanders, Clinton supports cap and trade.

Like Sanders, Clinton is committed to defeating Donald Trump.

Look, I get it. I was not a Clinton supporter from the beginning. I felt the Bern and voted for Sanders in the primaries. When examining every issue, Sanders shared more of my views than Clinton and I valued his record, goals and consistency. But the primaries are over and he didn't win. And please put your tin foil hat away because she won outright-- fair and square. This isn't a hanging chad situation. We're talking about a lead of almost 4 million votes. The end is nigh.

Before you gorge yourself on Bernie's Yearning ice cream or weep into your favorite "Feel The Bern" t-shirt while mourning, please know all hope is not lost. Take a look at the list above again. Many of those key issues you feel so strongly about are also important to Clinton and she shares your commitment to accomplishing those common goals. For that reason, I'm with her.

Read more of Farrah at

Rachel Anspach   |   June 15, 2016   11:42 PM ET

The nation is still reeling from the horrific massacre at Pulse -- a queer club in Orlando celebrating Latin Night -- that left 49 dead and 53 injured. This senseless loss of life in the name of homophobic hatred is so sad and scary that it’s difficult to even begin to process. Making the situation even scarier are the responses we are seeing from both of our presumptive presidential candidates.

In his reprehensible response to the massacre, Trump congratulated himself for being right about “radical Islamic terrorism” (failing to acknowledge homophobia) and goaded Hillary Clinton, saying “If Hillary Clinton, after this attack, still cannot say the two words 'Radical Islam' she should get out of this race for the Presidency.”

Trump’s outlandish and bigoted comments -- while alarming -- are not surprising. What is surprising -- and equally alarming -- is that Instead of ignoring Trump’s reactionary rhetoric and sticking with the White House’s policy of not using the term due to its blanket demonization of Islam, Clinton caved to Trump. In an interview with CNN on Monday, Clinton stated: “radical jihadism or radical Islamism, I’m happy to say either.” She went on to argue that, “from my perspective, it matters what we do, not what we say. It matters that we got Bin Laden, not what name we called him.”

Clinton’s reaction is troubling and problematic. In fact, it does matter what the prospective leaders of a global superpower say. And given the delicacy of the current moment as we struggle to make sense of this unprecedented tragedy, the words our leaders share with the public have even higher stakes than usual.

Instead of following President Obama’s lead in refusing to use the term “radical Islam” and condemning Trump for using “language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complicit in violence,” Clinton gave in to Trump’s pressure. Through pursuing what she views as politically expedient, Clinton has sent the dangerous message that Trump’s fear-mongering is based in legitimate concerns.

These latest comments from Clinton remind us that we should be concerned about her commitment to combating Islamophobia and protecting the lives of Muslims in the US and abroad. Clinton also asked us to look to her actions, which don’t provide any comfort either -- she supported the Iraq War, unsuccessfully lobbied Obama to arm rebels in Syria, and approved nearly every drone strike carried out by the CIA while she was head of the State Department, signing off on the deaths of hundreds of civilians.

We are living in a time in which acts of terror rooted in hatred of a group of people -- be they LGBTQ people, women, and/or people of color -- feel painfully frequent. To combat bigotry and violence in this country we need a president who understands the vital importance of rooting out hatred through words and actions. We need leaders who champion the notion that we can’t fight hate with more hate. It’s hard not to feel hopeless about the state of American politics when our only choice in these painful times is between bad and worse.

Why Calling Trump A Pig And A Thug Won't Work

  |   June 14, 2016   10:59 PM ET

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THE WILDCATTERS: A Choice of Scoundrels

Kirby Goidel   |   June 14, 2016    9:10 AM ET

At long last, the 2016 presidential primaries are (mostly) over. Before anyone breathes a sigh of relief or imagines that we'll get a break before the general election campaign kicks into high gear, forget about it. The 2016 presidential campaign will continue to swirl around democracy's drain. By November 9th--the morning after Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is elected as the 45th of the United States--we'll all just be glad it is over. And, by January 2017, the 2020 race will have already begun.

Before we become too undone about the 2016 train wreck, we thought we might offer a simple reminder. Dissatisfaction with the process, the candidates, and the outcome is a defining characteristic of American politics. 2016 is likely to be special, but it will be a difference in degree rather than kind.

The Broken Process: Let's start with the process. In 1994 in his now classic book, Out of Order, Harvard political scientist Thomas Patterson offered a simple solution for fixing our electoral process: Shorten it. The length of the presidential campaign assured the electorate would grow weary of the election long before the final ballots are casts.

The media, Patterson argued, were largely to blame though not entirely at fault. Thanks to the oddity of the U.S. nominating process, U.S. elections were increasingly structured around the media rather than the political parties. As a result, the long campaign process and journalists' penchant for objective "game frame" news stories focused attention away from the issues and toward the horse race while the media's anti-politics biases assured voters were exposed to large doses of negative and cynical press coverage. In those rare moments when issues were covered, they were treated--not as the result of careful deliberation--but as an attempt to cynically manipulate voters.

Much has changed since 1994. The media system has been transformed by the growth of digital media and an increased choice in media content. Simultaneously and not coincidentally, the political parties have been neatly sorted into competing ideological camps. The affective distance between Republicans and Democrats has widened as the number of conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans has dwindled to near extinction.

These changes might have made for more sensible, issue-based campaigns. This, however, was not to be. First, as the Trump campaign powerfully illustrates, media decisions regarding news coverage may have played an even larger role in the 2016 primaries than in previous Republican election cycle. By some estimates, Trump received the equivalent of $2 billion in earned (or free) media coverage overwhelming the fundraising, political experience, and partisan networks of his opponents.

Second, the capacity of unlimited news coverage might have allowed for greater issue based news coverage of the candidate while also altering the balance of positive to negative tone in news stories. Instead, it appears to have primarily opened the door for unlimited partisan screeds and click bait headlines. Consider, for example, this non-random sample of news stories on the frequently visited political websites.

  • Trump Change: Donald Short on Cash (Huffington Post)
  • Newt Gingrich has a Theory about why Sanders is still in the race (The Blaze)
  • Trump Full-Speed Ahead: "Feel like I am 35" (Drudge)
  • Romney: Trump Will Inspire Trickle-Down Racism as President (News Max)
  • 5 numbers that matters this week (Politico)
  • American cynicism is reaching a boiling point and the electoral system is to blame (Salon)

This selection of stories is immediately self-serving but hopefully it illustrates the larger point. There is little in the news coverage of contemporary political campaigns to inspire confidence in the political system, the candidates, or the eventual outcome. The audience demands that long made the news media a poor vehicle for structuring campaigns have only grown as competition has intensified, assuring a constant barrage of negative, personal, and mostly issue-less news. Even if the process yielded better nominees (however one might define such a term), a substantial proportion of the voting public would still be unhappy about the process and the choices.

Unlikeable Candidates: Dissatisfaction with the candidates is nothing new. In most years (see Figure 1), roughly a third of voters express dissatisfaction with their final choice of candidates just prior to the election. In 1996, nearly half (46 percent) of voters said they were dissatisfied with the decision between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole.


2016 is still likely to be special. The last candidates standing - Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton - are not just widely disliked, they are the most widely disliked major party nominees on record. Consider that based on most recent polling data, 56 percent of voters have an unfavorable opinion of Hillary Clinton. This would be remarkable if she were not running against Donald Trump, a candidate viewed unfavorably by 59 percent of voters. Indeed, Hillary Clinton's most effective campaign appeal will be that she is not is not Donald Trump. The same will also be true of Trump. In this election cycle, voters will be primarily voting against (rather than for) candidates.

This is not, however, as unusual as it sounds. In 1966, V.O. Key famously noted that "the people only vote against, never for." Within political science, much scholarly attention has been paid to negative or anti-candidate voting. Midterm election cycles, for example, are driven largely by out-party voters who turnout in greater numbers to cast a ballot against the in-party president (but see Fiorina & Shepsle for evidence that this is an artifact). Modern campaigns are similarly built on the principle that voters suffer from negativity biases in how they allocate attention and make decisions. As a result, negative campaign appeals are often thought to be most effective in moving the day-to-day polling averages. Finally, studies of previous election cycles have found (based on self-reports) high levels of voting motivated by a desire to vote against a candidate. The high-water mark in these studies was 1980 when 46 percent said they were motivated to vote against Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan. In 1964 and 1984, by comparison, negative voting was much lower (30 percent) but still accounted for nearly one of every three votes cast.

Overall, what is special about 2016 is not that negative voting will occur. It's the number of voters who will cast a ballot not to promote a candidate or issue position but primarily to keep the other side from winning. Such high levels of negative voting will likely further influence attitudes about the fairness of the outcome.

Unfair Outcomes: Election night losers are not only typically unhappy with the result, they often believe the process itself was rigged. If only the game were fair, their side would have won. They similarly express less trust in political institutions and--more broadly--in the political system.


Bernie Sanders' supporters provide the best example from the 2016 primary season, believing the cards were stacked against him from beginning. (see Figure 2). Curiously, these perceptions hold even in light of evidence that Clinton won the most votes, pledged delegates, and unpledged superdelegates; despite the fact that Sanders' only recently claimed an affiliation with the party he is was trying to lead; and even though some rules (e.g., low turnout caucuses) clearly favored his campaign.

Sanders supporters are not entirely unusual. Existing studies have linked winning (or losing) with satisfaction with democracy, and have also noted that candidates play an important role in perceptions of the fairness of the process. With Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each claiming the other is unfit to serve as president, the 2016 election may also be notable in its long term consequences in terms of support for democracy.

A Choice of Scoundrels: Democracy, by its very nature, is deeply dissatisfying. It not only requires a citizenry mature enough to realize that one side never wins all the time but also that they will often have to make imperfect choices between undesirable options. Turning to V.O. Key yet again, "when given a choice of scoundrels they will likely pick one." This is the nature of democracy: Even when the choices are not very good, the decisions are ours.

Trump vs. Clinton: The New 9/11 Moment

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Trump Cannot Define Us With a Hyphen

Jim Moore   |   June 11, 2016   10:47 AM ET

I watched the Clinton and the Trump speeches on Friday, June 11. Clinton at Planned Parenthood, Trump at the Faith and Freedom conference. Both in DC. So many points to fact check. But one thing that Trump said that got my immediate attention was his reference to "Christian-Americans. " Once again, Mr. Trump demonstrated his core conviction that Americans can be easily, carelessly, hyphenated...this time according to our religious beliefs.

In a speech given before an audience of men and women with deep and firm religious foundations, foundations upon which I'm sure are built rich lives of charity and fellowship, why would Trump carefully, pointedly, put political parentheses around just one category of Americans of faith? Are not Jewish-Americans, and Muslim-Americans, and Buddhist-Americans also trying to live lives of freedom and faith? Don't Americans who embrace Shinto, Tao, or Sikh ideals as spiritual foundations also aspire to lives of freedom and faith?

Here is my disclaimer: I am a Christian. I am an American. I do not believe in conflating the two. My faith and my nationality cannot be defined by a hyphen. Americans cannot be defined by hyphens. In America, we do not say, "I am a farmer-American, or a banker-American, or a nurse-American, or a mother-American, or a soldier-American." I am not a writer-American. Even when a hyphen seems imperative, we need to resist its application to our conditions; a disabled veteran does not need to be further defined, or possibly stigmatized, by a piece of ambiguous punctuation.

Trump's use of the hyphen in Christian-American inserts just such an ambiguity into the national conversation about the role of religion in politics. His goal at the Faith and Freedom conference was crystal clear: to lift up Christians as a special, preferred, subset of all Americans of faith. In doing so, he purposefully swept the rest of the nation's religions into pile of remnants...leftover material he has decided is not necessary to the fabric of his version of the American quilt, a quilt that is overwhelmingly white and featureless. A quilt that serves only to cover Trump's gilded bed.

I certainly don't believe that my Christian faith deserves elevation above others, or has somehow earned the right to be viewed as politically exclusive of all other faiths. What brand of arrogant would that be? Trump's brand, I guess.

Mr. Trump cannot seem to articulate a personal value system that accepts or, at the very least, acknowledges, the value systems of others. He demonstrates over and over again a reluctance to accept the possibility--no, the reality-- that Americans, in the main, reject classification; that we abhor being pigeonholed by race, creed, origin, social and economic standing, and religion.

Even when I factor in the history of the audience to whom he was speaking -- devoutly Christian, deeply conservative -- it was clear to me that Mr. Trump, in those simple two-words, Christian-American, does not get who we are, what we stand for, and more importantly, what we will not stand for. He had an opportunity, in a speech keyed to Freedom and Faith, to show the bigness of his spirituality. Instead, he once again illustrated the smallness of his mind.