Andru Volinksy and Ron Abramson discuss whether Hillary Clinton will take up any of the issues that were at the forefront of the Sanders campaign – From TRNN’s Livestream of the DNC
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: We’re back at the studio. As I said, we’re having some trouble with our cell phone technology. We’re going to join our guests in the studio. So now joining us are–let me see. Do I have it on the Teleprompter? Who’s joining us here? It’s not Bernie Sanders, I’m quite sure. No? No. OK. Alright. Hang on here. I’m about to be able to–. I’ll tell you what. OK, here we go. Ron Abramson is an immigration lawyer from Bow, New Hampshire. And this is not working at all. Why don’t you introduce yourself? ANDRU VOLINSKY, LAWYER REPRESENTING SANDERS IN NH: I’m Andru Volinsky. I’m a lawyer from New Hampshire as well. And I happen to have been Bernie’s lawyer during the New Hampshire campaign. JAY: Oh. Very interesting. So let me start with you. We’ve been interviewing people that have mixed feelings about what happened here tonight. We interviewed Portia Boulger, a woman whose video’s gone crazy viral, who almost cried when Bernie endorsed Hillary Clinton. What were your emotions in this moment? Yeah, you’ve been, I assume, very invested in this campaign and understand what the Clinton candidacy means in terms of what section of the party she represents, what kind of interests, economic interests she represents. How did you feel in that moment? RON ABRAMSON, IMMIGRATION LAWYER, BOW, NH: It seems to me that it’s only natural, if you give a year or more of your life to a particular effort, a particular cause, and you fall short of your ultimate goal, that you’ll experience some sense of disappointment. And I don’t begrudge anyone else their feelings or their emotions. But politics, and more importantly policy, is about channeling your disappointment and channeling your energy in a productive way. So was part of my heart sad when we realized the numbers weren’t there after California and when Bernie came to New Hampshire a few weeks ago, a couple of weeks ago, and endorsed Hillary Clinton in Portsmouth? Of course. But we’re here. He is the leader of this movement. The movement will, hopefully, outlast him well, well, well beyond his years. And it just seemed a bit shortsighted to get too wrapped up in the disappointment. And although there are a number of valid reasons to be skeptical and to be concerned, we need to move forward. And the only way we’re going to move forward is to build some bridges. JAY: Well, what were your emotions? VOLINSKY: You know, when I signed on to the Sanders campaign, I thought he had no chance of breaking 10 percent. JAY: Let me ask you this, ’cause you were Sanders’ lawyer. So you were in this from the beginning? VOLINSKY: From the beginning of New Hampshire. So getting him on the ballot as a Democrat was a little bit of a challenge because he was an independent and a socialist. JAY: Did he have any clue, and the people around him, that it could go this far? I mean, did he not think originally this was going to be symbolic–I’ll get a platform, I can say some things? VOLINSKY: If he had a clue, he didn’t let on. So I didn’t believe that I was doing this for a candidate who could win; I was doing it because I have similar ideals to Senator Sanders and supported them and wanted those ideals in the conversation because I thought the process that Secretary Clinton had started decades ago, leading to Thursday night, will take the country in a certain direction and would have avoided things like living wage and health care for all. And I was comfortable volunteering my time to get those issues in the conversation. As it turned out, things went in a lot different direction and we actually did have a chance. There were lots of things in our way, but–. JAY: So, as a lawyer–and you continue to be involved in the Sanders campaign up until today–. VOLINSKY: We’re delegates. JAY: You’re delegates. But from a legal point of view, how much of this vote was rigged? The accusation is, to some extent, if you take out the superdelegates the actual vote may have been stolen. Do you think there’s any validity to that? VOLINSKY: When you ask me that as a lawyer, I think you put the wrong spin on it. I think the secretary has spent decades directly and indirectly putting her hand on the levers of power that control the outcomes of campaigns. That’s not illegal. That just means she’s been thinking about it for a very long time. And Senator Sanders was late to the election. It’s only been a year and a half, two years for him. JAY: But if you’re–I’m not saying there’s evidence or not. I’m saying that a lot of the people I’m talking to certainly think this, that what happened in the Bronx, that what happened in Arizona, what happened in some of these places, there were deliberate kind of voter fraud. Is there any evidence of that? VOLINSKY: I think we have a broken election system. Nowhere in the country has default registration. All of the rigmarole to get registered, and the disqualification of people who have completed prison terms and things of that nature, all of that’s designed to suppress the vote. Secretary Clinton took advantage of all of that. But I wouldn’t say it’s illegal. JAY: What about you, Ron? ABRAMSON: I agree. I think the real issues were sort of institutional and systemic challenges to full access. He was the only major candidate not to have any PAC money behind him. That is a major, major factor. And there has been a nonpartisan effort in many places to make access to the ballot more difficult–the advance voting periods have been cut, the number of polling places have been cut. If we wanted to be a truly participatory democracy, we do what many other countries do and have the vote either be a holiday or be on a weekend, when people don’t have to worry about going to work. But that’s not how we’re designed to function. JAY: So where are you now? As I say, a lot of Sanders delegates I’m talking to, they not only won’t work for Hillary Clinton; they don’t want to vote for Hillary Clinton. I don’t know if they’re going to change their mind about that now, but certainly that’s where a lot of them are today. Where are you? ABRAMSON: I would like to process the events of the last couple of weeks, and this week in particular (this was my first convention; it’s an overwhelming amount of information and stimulus to take in), and then see. But I’m not going to lose sight of the fact that whether or not she is the ideal candidate, there is a substantive, qualitative difference between her and the Republican nominee in terms of not just the direction the country’s going to go, but the way individual people’s lives will be impacted. And that matters to me more than any particular one issue or one candidate. JAY: For example? ABRAMSON: For example, I am an immigration lawyer. I don’t want to see a giant wall built on the southern border. I don’t want to see immigrants falsely scapegoated for problems that have nothing to do with them because we create fear and we take isolated examples and turn them into policy decrees. I want to see better access to health care. I want to see a living wage for anybody who works full-time. JAY: Andrew, when Bernie says in his endorsement–he said it again last night–that Hillary believes that we should get to universal health care, Hillary believes in these various values, I don’t know how many people believe that’s true. I would say most Sanders supporters don’t think she believes in those values. Hillary’s been saying over and over again this campaign–and you hear it in the media, her surrogates say–no, we’re really 99 percent on the same page as Bernie Sanders, we have the same progressive objectives; we just have different ways to get there. But Bernie came pretty close to saying at various times–in fact, I interviewed him once and he kind of did say this–that Hillary really does actually represent the billionaire class–that’s where her values are. And when I asked him in the interview what happens if you don’t win and what are you going to do, what are your supporters going to do, and he said, if she doesn’t come out against the oligarchs, they’re not going to support her. Well, that’s a different thing than saying she believes in all these things. I mean, is he kind of framing this in a way–is he going a little too far, more than he needs to? I understand he promised to endorse her. I understand if he believes Trump is essentially like a neofascist danger–and personally I think that is the case. I understand. But he’s framing it in a way that sort of some people suggest creates kind of illusions about who she is, ’cause he kind of knows she isn’t that. VOLINSKY: Let me first say that I disagree a little bit with Ron in that I’m voting for Hillary. I’ve decided I don’t think there’s much of a choice, for the reasons that you said about Trump. I think Bernie’s framing the issue is going to work in one of two ways: either it leaves the secretary to endorse the positions that he’s articulated, and that would be great; and if it does not, that moves all of his support to a new front working on the revolution, not supporting the centrist candidates, and pursuing this kind of agenda that really will make a difference in the future. So either way he’s set out some really clear examples of what he’s been told. And if people don’t follow through by putting good people in office that will implement those ideals, then the revolution goes in one direction. And if people do follow through, all the better. It’s not a matter of taking credit for it; it’s a matter of getting things accomplished. And if we can do that with Hillary Clinton and her cabinet, that’s a great thing. JAY: But I thought one of the main contributions he made other than–maybe one of the most important contribution was on the money side. I mean, he actually showed you don’t have to wait for the law to change to fight. You can actually raise money by getting people excited enough that you can compete. VOLINSKY: You have to give them something to care about. JAY: Yeah. And I’m not saying it’s the only thing that was accomplished in this campaign, but it’s enormous to show that actually people in their millions can contend on the money side. VOLINSKY: Right. JAY: But the other thing I thought was very important is just actually use the words billionaire class, ’cause nobody wants to talk about that there’s even such a thing. Everyone can talk about middle class, but it’s like some donut hole: there’s no upper, there’s no lower, there’s only middle. So he says billionaire class. But when he starts talking about Hillary after all these months of campaigning and tying her to Goldman Sachs and her connections to Wall Street and all her totally in the web of the billionaire class, did he need to frame it this way? She believes in this, she believes in–essentially says, she believes in the same things we do. VOLINSKY: I would hope to give the secretary an opportunity to prove that her endorsement of the platform is real. And so I’m perfectly comfortable giving her that opportunity, because the alternative is even worse. So I’m really not going too far out on a limb here. But let’s see what happens with the opportunity. I think it may lead us to more than some people expect. JAY: There’s been little discussion about foreign policy. And one of the things that concerns a lot of Sanders supporters is the foreign policy record of Clinton. And it also makes her vulnerable, frankly, to Trump, even though, I mean, he’s a complete, essentially, liar about his own foreign policy views. He claims he was against the Iraq war; it’s not really true. On the Libyan war, he attacks her on destroying Libya and being responsible and how bad the regime change was, except at the time of Libya we’ve seen video where he actually called for all U.S. troops in the Middle East to be sent into Libya. But all that being said–. ABRAMSON: He’s proposed war crimes as a foreign-policy tenet by going after the families of suspected terrorists. JAY: But Hillary Clinton, and, frankly, Barack Obama, but with Hillary’s pushing, we’re led to believe. The Libyan war was a war crime. The United Nations resolution was for the defense of Benghazi. And at the time, President Obama, Secretary Clinton, Cameron in England, everybody said this isn’t about regime change, this is just about the defense of Benghazi. And they went further. I mean, this whole Benghazi thing got so distracted by the Republican attack–you know, the issue of the embassy and so on and so on–but the real issue was the UN resolution did not authorize the overthrow of Gaddafi. And when they did that, they violated international law. And when thousands of people were killed, it’s a war crime. So a lot of Sanders people are saying, how do you get your head around that and that Bernie hasn’t talked much about that? ABRAMSON: It was a difficult position for him to be in, because what he had was a track record of strong opposition, from conscience and from a value on preserving human life and focusing on domestic policy first, but no, he couldn’t compare quantitatively to her experience in the area. So just from a sort of campaign tactics point of view, it was a tough issue for him to pursue as a line of promoting his own qualifications in that area. But give me the person with the values and the conscience who will keep most of our members of the Armed Forces out of harm’s way most of the time, and that’s a pretty good start to a foreign-policy platform for me. JAY: Yeah. I’m kind of more of the issue, again raising this issue of how you talk about Hillary in this context that–. I mean, on The Real News, I’m not shy about saying what I think about these things. I mean, I think there’s no question Trump represents a neofascist danger. I think he is in the position to be what he is because of eight years of the Obama administration, where there’s been such an economic inequality–we know the numbers. What is it? Ninety percent of the benefit income increase since ’07-08 has gone to 1 percent of the population and so on, African Americans are more dispossessed now than they were eight years ago, so on. Without that fertile soil, a Trump couldn’t have grown very far. That being said, in terms of the education of all these young people that have entered the Sanders movement and the disillusionment they’re feeling now, doesn’t this message need to be crafted in a way that there isn’t kind of untruths said about who Hillary is? And the foreign policy thing’s a big deal for a lot of the people in this situation. VOLINSKY: Well, I still think it’s a question of who she brings in with her. I think we need to see who the cabinet is if she’s elected. That’ll tell us a lot about her commitment to the Sanders values. They’re certainly being articulated almost on every level of her leadership. They’re very complimentary of the platform. A lot of them are now saying the economy’s rigged, which is an adoption of the Sanders position. So I’m waiting to see how much beyond pure words it goes. JAY: OK. Thank you both very much for joining us. VOLINSKY: A pleasure. ABRAMSON: A pleasure. JAY: And I hope you come back again. Hang on just one sec. But thank you very much. So I think we’re–let me look. Are we wrapping? Wrapping wrapping. OK. One more time, we can’t do any of this if you don’t give us dough. There’s a Donate button somewhere around here. I hope you participate. They’re tax-deductible in U.S. and Canada. We have $100,000 matching grant if we get there by the end of the summer, It will trigger–every $1 you give will trigger a dollar. And we’ll be back tomorrow live. We’re not exactly sure what time. Check the website and we’ll have some information. But we will be back live on The Real News Network from the DNC in Philadelphia. Thank you very much for joining us on The Real News Network.
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