Former White House counsel Bill Curry says only sustained grassroots pressure will push democratic leadership to address the economic interests of the working-class
JAISAL NOOR: I’m Jaisal Noor for the Real News Network. This is part 2 of our conversation with Bill Curry. He’s a columnist for salon.com and he was White House counselor to President Clinton. Thanks so much for joining us again Bill BILL CURRY: Pleasure. JAISAL NOOR: So Bill, we talked about the Republican side in the first part of our conversation but I wanted to talk about Bernie Sanders. What the future may hold for his campaign. He was defeated in all the contests on Tuesday by Hilary Clinton. But he’s still in the race. He’s only down by some 300 delegates. There’s still a large amount of super delegates which have pledged loyalty to Clinton but can vote however they want. They’re not beholden to voters or anyone else. So one of the challenges that Sanders is going to face now is just getting his messages out. A lot of the corporate media has already kind of ruled him out. They didn’t pay much attention to him in the first place. But for example last night, none of the major networks carried his speech while they carried every other major candidate’s speech. So talk about what you hope he does in the coming weeks and months. CURRY: Well first of all there’s no question it just got harder for him. As I said to you earlier a Sanders win in Ohio would’ve made this a jump ball. With 8 to 10 states coming right up in front of him, demographically resembles states he’s won. Clinton in a sense like Trump, only in this sense I do not mean to compare them, in very many ways for sure. But they both keep making tactical arguments. Trump opens every rally speech with 10 minutes about polls and election results. Clinton is constantly arguing that she’s the stronger candidate even though general election polls say otherwise. Even though her performance often says otherwise. She has been able to unite her party including even all the major progressive organizations. Organized labor, the human rights campaign fund and NARAL, most of the African American leadership have all gone out and banded together for her in a way that is really actually extraordinary. Especially given the fact, that on all of those issues with the argument section of choice, Sanders record is actually much stronger. They left their friend to go with the person they thought would win. Had Sanders done better yesterday this would be a very different road we’d be on now. The one argument she made, I’m inevitable and I’m the one who can win would’ve been shaken; it wasn’t. As you said the other part of her coalition is the media. Including MSNBC, CNN, [WALGS,] Daily Coast, etc., they really share her neoliberal review. When the president didn’t introduce an increase in minimum wage in 2009. When he dropped the public option. When he didn’t bail out the home owners. When he ordered his administration into radio silence on climate change in his first term. All those people gave him a pass. They barely noticed, they didn’t report any of it, they didn’t go digging. They were brought to the Democratic party a different set of issues and free trade and economic deregulation and pay to play politics, they viewed those things, almost as a law of nature. The rules of the game of this degraded encrypted game, they mistook for the rules of politics itself. We weren’t always this corrupt. In the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s this was a more honest and more just nation. It doesn’t have to be this way but they didn’t see it. So a lot of what Bernie says, Bernie’s revolution was an insult to their vanity because they’ve been missing this story since forever. That made it hard for him to get their attention and it just got harder. When you add that the party rigged the rules. He’s not going to get made to more forums, probably no more debates. They can’t wait to shut that down. They didn’t even cover his speech last night, as you pointed out. They want to move on. If you don’t mind my filibustering her for one more piece let me just say this. NOOR: Sure. CURRY: The idea that he’s been bad for her or that he’s driver her to left is ridiculous. If it weren’t for Bernie Sanders, before she felt that heat from Bernie she was for the Transpacific Trade Partnership. I think she still is. But she at least had to move some of the pawns on her side of the chessboard. She called the Transpacific Trade Partnership the gold standard of trade agreements. She spent her time as Secretary of State traveling the world, promoting fracking. Giving countless speeches encouraging countries to engage in more fracking. She was just barely chased off the Keystone Pipeline. She just said she’d leave fracking to the governors. The very governors she wouldn’t trust to do healthcare and Obamacare, rightly. She wants to treat fracking as a state’s rights issue. If that’s what you want to do you don’t get climate change, you’re not seeing what’s happening. These are big, big issues and the fact that Bernie’s been able to push her as far as he has, has helped her. He’s not pushing her to the left. He’s pushing her to Washington’s left but America’s center. This is where the country on trade, on living wage, on universal healthcare, on single-to-payer the last Kaiser Family Foundation polled 5838, I believe were the numbers or approximately that, America already supports Medicare for all, single-to-payer. And the Democratic party by 2-to-1. They’re about to shut down the debate, that’s been leading them to where the country is and that’s too bad. The good news for Bernie is that, the debates are a loss but there are other ways to reach his base and to keep on winning and to keep this fight going. I think its critically important for the country that people not give up on this race. The idea that Hilary would be better off, that the Democrats would be better off, that the country would be better off, if she could just wind up Bernie’s affairs and move on to the general election. The evidence we have all shows the opposite. NOOR: So I wanted to ask you about that because after the high that many Sanders supporters felt in Michigan you could kind of feel the deflation last night as some of the polls showed him ahead in Illinois. There’s many close races, so what next step should Sanders supporters take? You’ve talked about building a movement rather than a political revolution is what Sanders has been calling for. CURRY: I’ve said throughout and sometimes some of Bernie’s supporters haven’t been so happy to hear it. The question isn’t who’s nominated in this election. There is a revolution going on. Whether the revolution’s calendar and the election’s calendar sync up precisely, that may not be the case. Revolutions are seldom conducted in 90 days. The Republican party, one of the reasons theirs has gone further, is that their base began revolting 6 years ago when the Tea Party was formed. They began chipping away at the power of their hierarchy. The oddity is that on the Democratic side, if you think about it for a moment, the Democratic base has much deeper divisions with its leadership. The Republican base and the Republican leaders are actually very, very close. They’re just angry at them because they couldn’t beat Obama senseless. Alright, it’s not really over deep divisions on issues. Democratic base has real divisions on issues with its leadership. But actually loves their leaders because of the charisma of Obama and Clinton. All those divisions have been papered over and because we won the presidency. For those two reasons. In fact, I believe, the change coming in the Democratic side is every bit as great and probably greater than the change coming to the Republican side. The Bernie Sanders campaign, right now is at the heart of this. So there’s two things that I would say in response to your question. One is to the volunteer base in the Sanders campaign. What are you going to do next? What you’re going to do anyway if you’d won. You wake up the next morning and you continue to fight. You shake this thing off. The biggest mistake people make in politics is mistaking the present moment for a permanent condition. Everything looks different tomorrow, everything looks different in a week. If he comes back and wins 3 races, they may still right him off but they’ll have to put his speech on TV that night. So you begin to reconstruct this thing. Let’s say that the Clinton fatalist and inevitable-ists are all correct. Bernie would still show up at this convention if he does as well as I think he can do in these states and without exceeding expectations. He’d show up at that convention with 40% of the delegates. In our lives in the last 56 years since the JFK convention in Los Angeles in 1960 only 3 people have come close to that. Gary Hart, Jessie Jackson, and then Teddy Kennedy in 1980, all showed up with between 30% and 34%. Bernie would have the biggest second place finish, excuse me except for Hilary, who ran the closest race in the history of either party for president in 2008. But Bernie would be showing up with 40%. Unlike Teddy, and Jessie, and especially Gary Hart. He wouldn’t just want to be giving a speech. He’d care about the platform and not only the platform and what goes on beyond us. One of the lessons of this experience has been that the progressive part of the Democratic party establishment has been made such a lapdog of the establishment itself. It is so overrun by Washington based technicians and careerists who ought to ask themselves, how much their access to these Democratic party leaders has really done for the people they report to represent. What happened in the last generation is that the vast independent grass roots progressive movements that were the engines for all of our progressive change, really became Washington lobbies with really good grassroots, mainly [inaudible]. That’s not the same as being a democratically structured and independent movement. I’d believe that the greatest and most troublesome story of the last 25 years hasn’t been the rise of the right but the implosion of the left. That was the Women’s Movement. The Ralph Nader and the Consumer Movement. It was the Nuclear Freeze movement which I was privileged to be on the political action committee back in the 1980’s. It was the Civil Rights movement and we miss that kind of independence. Whatever happens now, if we’ve learned anything it is that only this kind of sustained pressure moves people like Clinton to a real consideration of the economic interests of working families. They feel it in their hearts, they think they’re already doing plenty. They resent us for not being more grateful for what they have done. But this is a party that in fact will in order to please its business donors, not raise the minimum wage even though they have the votes, as in 2009. This is a party that will as both the president and Hilary has done, get in bed with the insurance and pharmaceutical industries so we can’t even negotiate for fair drug prices and we can’t take on the paperwork costs so that our small businesses are self-employed. Our middle age with vast [inaudible] of millions of people including many who have insurance we have healthcare. NOOR: Bill Curry, columnist for salon.com. He was White House counselor for President Clinton. Thanks so much for joining us. CURRY: My pleasure. NOOR: Thank you for joining us at the Real News Network.
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