[Marxism] Bernie Sanders to the rescue

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Feb 15 08:43:01 MST 2017

Democrats bracing for town hall protests directed at them ask Bernie 
Sanders for help: Some lawmakers have asked Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) 
to help keep activist anger trained on Republicans.

O'Keefe, Ed; Weigel, David. The Washington Post (Online), Washington, 
Feb. 15 2017

Senior Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday sought to stave off town hall 
protests from their own party, asking Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to 
reach out and urge activists to redirect their anger at Republicans 
instead of at moderate Democratic lawmakers.

The request came in a weekly meeting of top Democratic senators, 
according to a senator in attendance, ahead of a congressional recess 
next week when lawmakers in both parties are expected to face large 
crowds stirred in recent weeks by President Trump's early executive 
actions and ongoing Republican attempts to revamp the Affordable Care Act.

Over the past two weeks, crowds -- and conflict-hungry media crews -- 
have swarmed town halls and protested at congressional offices. 
Republicans have gotten the brunt of it, with several members escorted 
by police through lines of shouting protesters, and some caught 
scrapping or rescheduling public events or leaving out back doors to 
dodge angry activists.

But protesters have also gathered in blue states, marching to Senate 
Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer's home in Brooklyn to demand the 
obstruction of Trump nominees, and showing up at the offices of 
safe-seat Democrats to demand that they filibuster Trump's Supreme Court 
nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

Such episodes spurred Democrats to ask Sanders for help, according to 
Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who attended the meeting on Tuesday.

"They basically explained to Bernie, it looks like you could be the 
person that could calm down and make sure their energy and all this 
enthusiasm is directed in all the right proper channels," Manchin said. 
"Bernie has a voice, and if [protesters] want to be active, then direct 
them to where the problem may be or where they anticipate a problem."

The intraparty drama puts top party leaders like Schumer (D-N.Y.) in a 
tricky political position. He can either fully embrace the far left and 
its rejuvenated activism -- and risk alienating moderate lawmakers and 
voters -- or push back too hard against the new activity and anger the 
party's base of support.

The request to Sanders came during a meeting with Schumer and a 
leadership team that stretches the ideological spectrum of his caucus. 
In addition to Sanders, a self-described socialist, and the moderate 
Manchin, the group included Sens. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Patty 
Murray (D-Wash.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) 
and Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), among others.

Manchin is among the most imperiled Democrats facing reelection next 
year -- one of five senators from states that Trump won in last year's 
presidential election. In total, 25 Democrats face reelection in 2018.

Manchin insisted on Tuesday that the Democratic caucus is "unified in 
not wanting to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It's unified! So why 
would [protesters] spend any energy on any member who's already 
committed to that? They might not like those of us who come from other 
parts of the country that doesn't adhere to everything they say or want 
done, but on the big items, put your energy somewhere else. Bernie can 
deliver that message better than anybody else."

In a statement, Sanders made no mention of the Democrats' request and 
did not deny that it happened, but he also said that he would keep 
lobbying for a measure that would make it easier to reimport cheaper 
prescription drugs from Canada -- an issue that has divided Democrats. 
Last month, when 12 members of the Senate Democratic caucus broke with 
Sanders, they took a larger-than-expected amount of friendly fire from 
progressive activists.

"The good news is that during the budget debate, 34 Democrats voted with 
12 Republicans to substantially lower the cost of prescription drugs 
through reimportation," said Sanders. "During the last several weeks, my 
office has been working hard with those Democrats who voted against this 
amendment to write a strong bill that they could support. We also will 
be working with Republicans who voted against the amendment."

For the most part, Sanders has been working on projects to unite 
Democrats and progressives against Trump. Over the weekend, Sanders and 
Schumer announced a series of rallies against repeal of the Affordable 
Care Act, to be held on Feb. 25. Sanders's highest-profile speech during 
the coming recess will be in Kansas, which progressives have 
characterized as a model of Republican misrule.

And Our Revolution, the group founded by Sanders in the wake of his 2016 
presidential campaign, has not messaged against incumbent Democrats; its 
latest request for members, sent Tuesday morning, asked them to protest 
the upcoming meeting between Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin 
Netanyahu, saying that both men were "shamefully advancing bigoted 
agendas in Palestine and in the United States that are antithetical to 
peace, equality, justice, freedom, and all the values we stand for."

On the broader left, Democrats have been fair game for activists and 
organizations trying to channel their anger with Trump. Organizers of 
"Resist Trump Tuesdays," a weekly effort loosely organized by the 
progressive Working Families Party, have appeared at Democrats' offices, 
demanded town hall meetings, and protested Democrats who have voted for 
Trump's Cabinet nominees.

On Tuesday, a group of protesters in Maryland delivered "valentines" to 
the office of Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), who is up for reelection in 
2018, with questions about why he was agreeing to meet with Gorsuch, 
after many Republicans refused to meet with blocked Obama nominee 
Merrick Garland. They handed out candy hearts with slogans like 
"Filibuster Me" and "Be My Accountable Democrat," and a sign that read 
"Roses are red, violets are blue, supporting Trump's cabinet makes you 
guilty too."

After Monday night's vote to confirm Steve Mnuchin as treasury 
secretary, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee urged its members 
to complain to Manchin, the one Democrat who supported Trump's nominee.

"He voted with Wall Street and against working families. Can you call 
him right now to express disapproval of this vote?" PCCC asked in the 
email blast. "Sen. Manchin needs to hear from constituents that voting 
with Wall Street is the opposite of being 'independent.' It's favoring 
the big guys against the little guy. That's the opposite of what West 
Virginians need."

Manchin said on Tuesday that he isn't worried about confronting 
progressive activists back home. "I'm not concerned about it at all. It 
is what it is. I love people to come and voice their thoughts," he said.

But he urged progressives to be selective about when and where to speak out.

"If they're coming to disrupt, make sure they're going to the people who 
are opposing what they're for," he said.

"I think it's great. It's going to help us," Schumer said of the far 
left's renewed activism in a recent Washington Post interview. But he 
cautioned Democrats that the diverse political makeup of his caucus -- 
"from Bernie to Joe," as Schumer described it -- will sometimes require 
some Democrats to seek accord with Republicans, including Trump.

"There should not be any animus to the people who are voting the other 
way because their states or conscience dictates it," Schumer said. "And 
that's what I've tried to make clear to our caucus."

Republicans, meanwhile, are increasingly describing the town hall 
disruptions as fabricated. Rep. Jason Lewis (R-Minn.), a freshman whom 
Democrats have put near the top of their 2018 target list, recalled a 
conversation with a constituent who got him on the phone and demanded a 
town hall -- even after he answered her question.

"You know that joke, 'I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out?' 
It's like, 'I went to a riot and a town hall broke out,' " said Lewis. 
"A lot of this is being organized by a number of outside groups. There's 
real concern in the district -- this is a big deal -- but there's a lot 
of astroturfing, too."

At a meeting on Tuesday with reporters organized by the Heritage 
Foundation, Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) said that he'd seen ads on Facebook 
offering cash to people who showed up to protest Republicans. But Rep. 
Raul R. Labrador (R-Idaho) argued that the tea party movement's push 
into Republican districts -- activism that helped defeat several 
Republican members of the House and Senate in their primaries -- gave it 
credibility that the Democratic "resistance" so far lacks.

"This was not some organic movement that went against Obama," said 
Labrador. "This was people who wanted their party to represent them. 
Democrats should want the same thing."

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