Salon.com columnist Bill Curry says the presidential election is a battle for the votes of the dispossessed whose interests are not being served by Democratic or Republican elite
JAISAL NOOR: I’m Jaisal Noor for the Real News Network in Baltimore. Party front runners Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump won big on Tuesday, adding to their super delegate leads on Republican and Democratic primaries. Clinton in fact, swept all 5 states after being declared winner in a close race in Ohio and Trump knocked Marco Rubio out of the race after taking his home state of Florida. Well now joining us to discuss all of this is Bill Curry. He’s a columnist for salon.com and he was White House counselor to President Clinton. Thanks so much for joining us. BILL CURRY: Great to be with you. NOOR: So Bill, let’s start with the Republican side. So we all saw, the world saw, all the violence that erupted at the Trump rallies across the country really, over this weekend, starting on Friday in St. Louis and Chicago. Yet that doesn’t seem to have been an issue with the voters in the Republican side. Trump coasted a victory, except for Ohio, where governor John Kasich won his own state. CURRY: Yeah, as I said earlier today, the first look certainly is that it didn’t cost him much. The Republicans looked at this really kind of neo-fascist kind of behavior inciting people to violence. All this condemning of the other, all this divisiveness. For the Trump part of the party, which is substantial, those guys said well that’s fine. But the Republicans have a bigger problem in that Trump could well end up with 40% of the vote in all these primaries and over 50% of the delegates. There is, in Florida, half the Republicans walked out of those polls, told exit pollsters that they might not vote for the Republican nominee. Most of those were anti-Trump people expressing their opinions. That’s half of the primary base walking out of the polls and saying that if they didn’t get their way they might not stick with the party. So one of the things about Trump is we watch his antics. We look at this man with a palpable narcissistic character disorder, a pathological liar, what many of the symptoms of fascism unabashedly on display. We think god, the whole country’s going to hell in a hand basket. But not even all the Republicans are sold on him. And you’re watching this thing about the conventions now, you know, what will the convention be like? I think Trump may get to his 51% and if so he’ll probably be their nominee. But they ought to stop afterwards and ask themselves, they rigged this with winner take all primaries thinking that it would help their party insider elite candidate. Instead its bringing about the possible even realignment of their parties. Certainly their own defeat, the defeat of the insiders. They ought to ask themselves, who knows if they will muster up the moral conviction to do so, but they ought to ask themselves what all this anti-Democratic process that they have in place has really done for them. We talk about brokered conventions or contested conventions or open conventions. The bottom line is, they’re about to have a convention in which 51% of their delegates are required by party rule to vote for a man who only got 40% of the votes in the primary. Democrats have an equal problem on their side with their super delegates. But it’s sort of, you know, it’s really kind of one of the lessons of all this. Trump comes out, it might have ended last night in Ohio if he’d beaten Kasich. He doesn’t seem to have lost much by inciting crowds to violence within his own base. It’s enough to get him 40% of the vote and 40% of the vote may get him 51% of the delegates. NOOR: And Bill I wanted to ask you, you know, one of the reasons Trump’s message is resonating so widely in the Republican party, is he is talking about jobs, he is talking about free trade, so called free trade policies, and he’s talking about putting Americans back to work. In a way that is compelling and appealing to the Republican party base. Kind of in the same way that Sanders is talking about those issues and of course they are totally different polar opposites on many other issues but talk about what this means for the future of the Republican party and if it’s going to be possible even, the point’s been made, can Hilary Clinton beat Trump in the general election with this vicious war that Clinton and Sanders have now, the Democratic party, the primary has now sort of devolved into. Can Clinton win over the voters that are dissatisfied with economic policies and being drawn to Trump? CURRY: Well there’s a lot of points in there and I agree with most of the premises. One of the things, I’ve never used the word fascists to describe a figure in mainstream political life or really any American political figure I can think about and contemporary. It’s hard, I’ve never talked about opponents in psychological terms. When I’ve talked about narcissism and pathological lying, one of the problems that the media’s having in covering Trump is that it has a certain delicacy about fascism and about emotional deformities. It is understandable and for the most part serves us well. Now here, this is a very, very disturbed guy with horrible politics. There comes a point where you have to begin to name it. The country actually has a right to have us do this. One of the things he reminds us about fascism is that it is ideologically nondescript. You could be for a number of left things and a number of right things so long as you’re xenophobic, racist, and authoritarian. So, Trump is making a pitch to distressed white working class voters who don’t feel, understandably, that they hear their name called very often by the Democratic party. Whose economic contract, who found themselves, they went from manufacturing blue collar jobs to service sector blue collar jobs. Thus exiting the middle class by the wrong door and no one’s paid much attention to them since. I really believe that it’s pay to play politics that creates fascists politics. That creates a permanent underclass within the in-ethic majority and you can see it in Europe, you can see it here. It happens all the time. So, there really is this battle in a sense for the soul in a lot of dispossessed people right now, of the newly dispossessed. The Democratic party, I believe one of the reasons that Hilary Clinton is actually the weaker candidate is that, if I’m right and its pay to play politics that created fascists politics. Then offering pay to play politics as the alternative to fascists politics may not be the best idea. It may not be the best way to go. Having said that, what do I believe? I believe that even, that Trump is the one candidate that I feel Clinton can beat. And she’s the only candidate that he has any prayer of beating. Trump couldn’t beat any Democrat in public office except Hilary and even that will be a climb for him. Bernie beats Trump in one recent poll by as much as FDR beat Alf Landon. It would be a landslide. It would bring us the senate and a new court and probably the house and maybe even some of these gerrymandering legislatures. What we’re giving up here because we think we know better because everyone’s doing all this tactical outdated thinking among the Democratic elites, we’re giving up the chance for a historical landslide and a realignment which is really with the base of what our party wants. So yes, I do think that Bernie and Trump in different ways, whether its trade, public corruption, even sometimes universal health care, land wars in the Mid-East; there’s a long line of issues, economic populist issues that brought white and black and Hispanic voters together in this country in the old Democratic coalition, that we have re-gifted to the Republicans. We’ve let even someone like Trump walk away from them. It’s the reason we’re going to have to fight hard to reassemble that coalition. Bernie wouldn’t have to fight so hard because he really believes that stuff because he spent his whole life on it and everybody knows it. Hilary would have to fight very hard and fight smarter than she’s fought so far. NOOR: So Bill, just moments before this interview, it was announced that President Obama is going to nominate Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. You know, we’re not going to talk too much about his record because this announcement just came out and the Republicans have already promised to block any of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees. But the question I want to pose to you is, how would a Supreme Court nominee of a Hilary Clinton presidency be different than a nominee of a Bernie Sander’s presidency and what could that mean for the nation and the future of this country? CURRY: Well again these are tough calls and I understand that it’s a tough call if you think you can get someone in now; who isn’t your ideal candidate knowing that you might lose in November and face the prospect of a 5-4 Republican court for the rest of the natural lives of anybody middle aged or older in America right now. That is a disaster. At the same time, Garland who is most famous for having written the Guantanamo decision that even a Republican Supreme Court overruled saying there were no habeas corpus rights to people who were, to the Guantanamo prisoners. Who is known as centrists as a former prosecutor. When I worked for Bill Clinton 53% of our federal district judges were ex-prosecutors. That’s how centrists Clinton went. A majority had been prosecutors. The Republicans paint them all as, you know, communist [ideolives], majority prosecutors. Obama, while this is a compromise candidate in the eyes of many Democrats. Obama’s real ideology if you’re just looking at the facts and really listening to what he says. This is someone who other than his being 63 years old and so they’re looking for younger people so they’ll last longer in this life-long tenure court rule we have. This is actually someone Obama, could even be Obama’s first choice. The difference is as has been mentioned in some of these articles. This is a guy who’s been a prosecutor and very tough on violent criminals, sort of the blue collar people who really fall a follow of all those laws. The problem is that an awful lot of those guys are not also tough on white collar criminals who actually steal way more money. With the exception of Sonia Sotomayor, last two parties haven’t been bad on this. But Sonia Sotomayor in particular has been pretty good but the history of Democratic Supreme Court appointments has been that they’re good on criminal justice issues and they’re good on cultural issues and they’re not that much better on corporate power issues than the Republicans. There’s really been kind of an elite consensus on the Supreme Court just as there is an elite consensus at the top of the two parties you know who really do agree. The Republicans and Democrats at the top, for all the talk about polarization, for all the polarization on cultural issues, they agree on fiscal austerity, global trade, financial deregulation, etc. etc. A long, long line of issues and in the court there’s been much more agreement than you might expect on a lot of corporate issues. So to go to your question, the difference between what an Obama would do, what he just did from what we can see and I want to look more about him. Everything I say now, I’d like to say, is somewhat provisional. I know little bit about this judge but I haven’t done the reading. We just heard the news, but from what we can see this looks like about what you’d expected. What we aren’t getting is a court that understands some of the issues like class action suits. Some of the questions that were involved in the criminal justice bill in congress, about how and to what extent you have to find criminal intent in the big, big wall street guys that put together these massive hundred billion dollar scams. How hard are we going to make it to prosecute corporate crime? How strongly are we going to protect whether it’s tort law or corporate freedom of information, government freedom of information. All those issues that are about the little guy’s ability to hold the power for the [cardinal] to really have a day in court that means something. Those issues are the issues that not even our Democratic appointees, I think, have been strong enough on. A Sanders presidency would produce Supreme Court nominees who look to those issues not in some radical way, by the way but the way we did look at them until we fell into the extremism of the present moment. A lot of it is just reaching back into a better past and resurrecting. When I think, you know, some of the things that Ralph Nader accomplished in corporate accountability and that the courts had been at war with. Bringing back some of the progress that we made in the 60’s and 70’s. I want to see a court protect some of the progress that hasn’t been undone and restore some that has. This is a guy who will defend Roe v. Wade and that’s not a small thing, far from it. But there’s a whole set of other issues here that have been swept under the rug by a Democratic party that’s too anxious to be unified, that needs to air these things. The court appointment this morning and the court appointments we’ve had for a long time, from within our part reflect that. NOOR: So Bill Curry, I hope you stay with us. We’re going to continue this conversation and talk about what’s in the future for Bernie Sander’s campaign.
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