Voting Rules and Big Unions Favor Clinton in New York Primary
Glen Ford, executive editor of Black Agenda Report, tells Paul Jay the best thing to come out of this race is a fracturing of the electoral duopoly
PAUL JAY, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. And welcome to the Ford Report with Glen Ford, who now joins us from Plainfield, New Jersey. Glen’s the co-founder and executive editor of Black Agenda Report and the author of “The Big Lie,” an analysis of US media coverage of the Granada Invasion- and lots of other things he’s the author of. Thanks for joining us, Glen.
GLEN FORD: Thank you for having a space for me.
JAY: So Tuesday night, Democratic Party primary in New York is going to take place. It’s getting very close in the polls, although it was not very close not very long ago. So Sanders certainly seems to have some momentum. But what do you make of the whole race?
FORD: If you believe the polls, Hillary Clinton is going to beat Bernie Sanders by 10 points. In that primary, CBS news has her ahead 53 to 43%. A compilation of the various polls has Clinton ahead by 13 points. Bernie Sanders however says that they are underestimating his support. He reminds people that back in March, in the Michigan primary, it had been predicted that he would lose by 25%, but when it was all over, he scored an upset victory. But make no mistake about it, in this New York Primary, Bernie Sanders faces some built in and very serious disadvantages. It is not an open primary. Only Democrats can vote. And the deadline for registering as a Democrat was way back in October. And way back then, very few people thought that there was going to be a serious challenge to Hillary Clinton from the left
JAY: So there’s no same day registration?
FORD: No same-day registration. In fact, the deadline for registering for the primary, that was 3 weeks ago. So all of this momentum that Sanders has been building up, in terms of people who were not registered, it won’t count, because they can’t just arrive at the polls. Now all of these restrictions, and New York is a very restrictive voter state, this is going to have the most impact on young people. And young people are of course Bernie Sanders’s biggest fans. Sanders has the support of 4 out of 5 young Democrats, white Democrats. He supported 2 out of 3 young Latinos. And supported by a bare majority of young black voters- that is between the ages of 18 and 29. So what’s likely to happen is a whole lot of these young voters are going to show up at the polls expecting that they’re going to get to vote for Bernie Sanders and then find out that they are not properly registered as Democrats.
JAY: Just to be clear- to register as a Democrat, you had to do that back in last October. To register to vote in general, you could have to do that 3 weeks ago, but you’re going to get there not knowing you’re not a Democrat so you can’t vote in the Democratic Primary.
FORD: Right and you can’t vote outside of your precinct. You can’t just vote anywhere in New York City. And young people don’t know these things. This may be the first time voting, the first time that many of these young people have been motivated to vote. They’re very excited about Sanders. And they would not necessarily be well versed in the rules. So this is a disadvantage for him. He also has the big disadvantage- New York is a union town if such things actually still exist in the United States- and most of the unions are for Hillary Clinton. And that includes the Teacher’s Union in the city and the very heavily black and brown local 1199 service employee’s union. The communications workers are with Sanders and so is one of the Nurse’s union. But most of the union money and of course those legions of campaign workers, they are with Sanders.
JAY: Why? They are with Clinton you’re saying, not Sanders?
FORD: I’m sorry, yes.
JAY: And why are they?
FORD: Obviously their allegiance to the corporate side of the Democratic Party is inviolable. They go as older black voters do. They go for the candidate that they think is most likely to beat the Republican.
JAY: Yeah, it’s a lot to do with the same politics of fear we’ve been talking about- that the Unions are absolutely terrified of a Republican presidency, and they think Hillary has been attacked so much you know what you’re going to get. And they’re afraid that Sanders, under that kind of a magnifying glass won’t stand up. That’s the argument.
FORD: It’s said often that the duopoly system is a trap. And that approach to the duopoly system is a trap within a trap because it causes people who are otherwise progressive to support the corporate candidate in fear that only the corporate candidate will beat the republican candidate. And this fear has caused big unions to do something quite strange. There’s a party in New York called the Working Families Party. It was created by the unions. But it has endorsed Bernie Sanders. And the unions are so angry about their creation backing Bernie Sanders that they have cut off funding to the Working Families Party in retaliation. So we see that the unions are so intent on backing the corporate side of the Democratic Party that they will even destroy their own creation.
JAY: We should add- some of the unions are not going along with this. The communications workers I believe have endorsed Sanders. I believe the postal workers; the nurses- there’s a small handful.
FORD: There’s a small handful. But the big money in big labor is with the big corporate candidate, Hillary Clinton.
JAY: So digging a little bit in terms of the last debate, the issues, there were a few things that you could say really differentiated Sanders from Clinton and I wonder if this is going to change anything. On foreign policy, and we’ve said on The Real News many times, there’s lots of things one could critique in Sanders foreign policy starting from his- even though he wants to have less funding of NATO, he still certainly defends the role of NATO. On Syria, it’s always been strange to me that he thinks that Saudi’s can somehow be some form of solution in Syria. On the other hand he did come down and attack Hillary Clinton’s support of regime change in Iraq and Libya. Is that going to mean anything in terms of how people vote?
FORD: Well, it will mean something to people who are to the left of Sanders’ articulated position. I mean we saw that people imagined that Barack Obama was a progressive candidate although he said very little beyond generalities that indicated that he was progressive. He of course was not; he was a twin of his opponent Hillary Clinton. But largely because he was black, people imagined that he had a foreign policy and a domestic policy that he didn’t have. Sanders making some noises against regime change will encourage his supporters on the left who really are anti-imperialists to think that he’s a real alternative in foreign policy as well, whether he articulates a real anti-imperialist position now.
JAY: Yeah, I don’t know anyone who- I’m not sure anyone would have said he articulates an anti-imperialist position, but as someone who’s within the realm of the Democratic party, he’s saying something that you’re not hearing from other candidates, including certainly a more nuanced position on Israel/Palestine, in New York, not to just kiss the ring and to talk about equal treatment and so on. Of course there’s much more that could be said than what he said, but it still seemed to be something, given that he is part of the Democratic Party world.
FORD: The guy, who actually has articulated an anti-military empire policy, although he has probably reversed much of that in the interim, is of course Donald Trump, who says NATO is obsolete and he doesn’t want to extend nuclear umbrellas to anybody. And one could follow that logic to say that Donald Trump doesn’t seem to be interested in maintaining all these US bases all over the world. He certainly is rattling sabers and missiles at China and Russia. He thinks we need to make a deal with them. So we’re talking at least about Donald Trump of 2 weeks ago, the un-clarified Donald Trump, he is much more the peace and anti-empire candidate. Course you can’t believe a word he says.
JAY: That’s the problem. You can’t believe a word he said. He went into this campaign thinking Jeb Bush would be his main opponent, so it makes sense that he comes out against the Iraq war. It also works well with fighting against Hillary Clinton. But in his last big foreign policy speech, he made sure to make promises to the industrial military complex, “don’t worry guys, there’s going to be plenty of money for you, making America great again. Which means shoveling money into military production. So even if I’m not going to fight as many wars, you don’t have to worry about any cuts to the Pentagon budget.”
FORD: The real test in this election is a test of the duopoly. And there are great strains on the duopoly. The biggest strain coming from Donald Trump who almost assuredly has all but destroyed the Republican Party as we know it. The other less severe strain on the duopoly on the other side, on the Democratic side comes from Bernie Sanders. And the question, while simple questions arise, one is do the people who support Bernie Sanders, should they really be in the same party as Hillary Clinton? If they are anti-empire, why be with the queen of chaos. On the Republican side, what has been revealed here since Donald Trump doesn’t seem to have lost any of his core supporters at the coming out with this anti- objectively anti-empire position, that seems to reveal that even the right wing of the right wing, that is- as we usually turn these things, the hardcore Donald Trump supporters really don’t seem to give a damn about corporate trade policies, they don’t even like them. They don’t get angry and dump Donald Trump when he comes out against all these far-flung US military commitments. And it really calls into questions the whole idea of how much popular support there is in the Democratic and Republican parties for US militarism, for the US foreign policy of the last…
JAY: I saw some polling about a year and a half, 2 years ago on a lot of issues. I’m not sure- I think it might have been Pew, certainly a major polling, a reputable polling forum, issue by issue, and one of the questions was, do you support preemptive attacks or only actual threat and people under- there may have been another sentence to explain the question but it was kind of clear with in the context of what happened in Iraq and so on- it was something up in the range of 66-67% against preemptive attack. There had to be real eminent threat. I think that crossed party lines. The American people, I think, have learned some lessons from Iraq if the political class hasn’t.
FORD: Yeah it depends on how you ask the question. When the corporate media commissioned these polls, the questions they ask usually are embedded in an assumption of US exceptionalism, an assumption of the United States having a right to do all these things that it does all around the world. But when you ask an honest question, a scientifically measured and balanced question, a question that is really designed to get what people really think rather than push a presumed, an assumed logic further, then you get a different kind of answer.
JAY: I’ve talked to a lot of supporter of Bernie Sanders and especially young people and I was kind of struck by one- most of them newly engaged in anything political. It’s like the first time they’ve kind of tuned in to something political of any kind. Second of all, I personally would call it a kind of a naivety about foreign policy and international things. Really very little knowledge about it. Very focused on domestic issues. But when I started talking about for example, that it didn’t make any sense thinking of Saudi Arabia as a force of solution in Syria given that they’re one of the main reason that there’s such devastation in Syria, they were thirsting to know and really more than willing to go beyond Sanders certainly his foreign policy thinking and in domestic too, that there’s a motion there, now whether it gets realized organizationally in some way, independent from the Democratic Party, I guess we’ll see. I mean those of us who think it should have a role to play in that. But the foreign policy thinking of the young people was very limited as compared to say the 60s when because of the Vietnam war, so many people that were drawn into activism were drawn in to activism were very focused on the foreign international policy issues.
FORD: Well you know, since the 60s, there’s been 2 generations for the corporatization of education, an indoctrination rather than an education, an approach to knowledge that is oriented towards getting a job rather than developing a critically thinking human being. So there’s lots of handicaps that young people have to overcome that are built into the system. We shouldn’t be too hard on them.
JAY: No, in some ways I was saying not a negative thing, I was saying a positive, that they’ve now been drawn into these discussions, where before they might have been quite passive. You know, the Sanders campaign has created a discourse certainly around what does the word socialism mean. Its created discourse around there is such a thing as a class society, a billionaire class. You know we hear lots of talk about middle class, but there’s never an upper or a lower in that conversation. And to identify that there’s a billionaire that’s the source of the problems- I think a space has been opened for a lot of young people are thinking about these things in a way that they might not have before. And we’ll see whether it goes beyond what happens at the Democratic Party Convention or not.
FORD: The greatest outcome that we could have from this electoral process is a fracturing of the duopoly, which would result in even more space for these thirsty young minds to explore the world as it, really exists.
JAY: Alright, thanks very much for joining us Glen.
FORD: Thank you
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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