Home » Elections
Category Archives: Elections
Fair Share Campaign Financing
By Brian T. Lynch, MSW
On April 21, 2018, the Chicago Tribune reported that Mayor Rahm Emanuel added $1.7 million to his campaign in a single day. The explanation that followed encapsulates what’s wrong with our campaign finance laws. As in other states, the Illinois campaign donation system is set up like a board game, specifically a corporate board game.
If you are an actual carbon based person in Illinois you cannot donate more than $5,600 to a political campaign, unless you own a business. If you own a business you can contribute twice that amount on behalf of your business. And if you register as a political action group you can donate nearly 10 times the individual contribution limit, up to $55,400. These campaign limits are entirely lifted if one candidate in a race decides to give their campaign $100,000 of their own money.
That’s what happened in Chicago. Emanuel’s Republican opponent, Willie Wilson, boosted his campaign with $100,000 of his own money. Twenty-four hours later the Mayor added a million dollars to his campaign from just three wealthy donors plus another $700,000 from other donors.
In the Citizen’s United decision the US Supreme Court said, in effect, that money is a form of free speech. This may be true in some intellectual perspective of the court, but if true in the real world, how can there be a $5,600 free speech limit on voters? How can there be any limits at all?
In our Republic we have this bedrock principle that says, “One person, One vote.” Everyone has an equal say in who represents their interests. Corporate governance operates on a different principle that says, “One share, One vote.” You get one vote with every share of the company you buy. The bigger your financial stake is, the greater your say is within the company. Wealthy shareholders like this system because their voting power is proportional to their financial power.
The concept of one person, one vote is an anathema to them in our democracy. They feel their greater financial stake in the economy should also entitle them to a greater political say in our government. This is why they have rigged the campaign finance system.
As a thought experiment, try imposing the “One person, One vote” principle to campaign financing. One person’s donation limit in Illinois is $5,600. That means one vote is equal to that amount or less, mostly less. Most voters don’t contribute to political campaigns. Even if they do, the individual donation limit may be well beyond their means. The median income for a family of four is close to $56,000 a year, so a maximum political donation would cost them 10% of their annual income. Even a 1% donation would be well beyond their means. One tenth of one percent of their income, or $56 dollars, might be feasible for most voters, and this amount is 100 times the current limit.
If you go with the “$5,600 limit equals one vote” rule, then being a business owner gives you three votes, one personal vote and two votes for your business. Join another business owner to form a political action committee you get eight votes, five votes for your half of the PAC, three for your business and one personal vote.
Then Willie Wilson upsets the apple cart in Chicago by donating $100k to his campaign. Now just three wealthy donors get a total of 180 votes or more for Mayor Emanuel’s campaign. The actual impact on how a candidate might responds to donors is enhanced by the fact that tens of thousands of voters contribute nothing. Additionally, because individual donor limits are 100 times what the average voter can afford, the impact of those three big donors in the mayor’s race is more like 180,000 votes. So, if you are Rahn Emanuel, who are you going to listen to?
Money is not free speech. Money is power.
If we agreed to pair the power of money to the power of the vote, then one voting share should have the same price tag for every eligible voter. It should not favor businesses or the wealthy as it does now in our corporate governance style of campaign finance. This also means only eligible voters should be able to donate; No PACs or businesses. If a businessman or organization wants to lobby for a special interest, they should lobby directly with the people to gain influence rather than lobbying our politicians. It would mean that fair share campaign finance limits would either be equal and affordable for everyone, or without donation limits but with maximum transparency so every voter can see exactly which candidates the big donors are buying.
Oct. 7, 2016 – The Day We Learned and Forget Russia Was Attacking Us
by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
James Clapper of the CIA and U.S. intelligence agencies announce that Russia is taking active measures to interfere with our Presidential elections.
It was Friday, October 7, 2016. There was a rapid series of news dump that day that changed to course of our Presidential Election and our country.
If corporate (for profit) news outlets based reporting on the gravity of events rather than a stories public appeal, the top news story on this one day during the campaign would have been that US intelligence agencies announced that Russia was actively messing with our election. Media manipulations by powerful people behind the scenes took place in the hours that followed the announcement, burying the biggest news story in a decade. Who was behind the release of that shocking Access Hollywood tape that stole our attention?
The video doesn’t say. It could have been Hillary friendly sources, neutral sources or even Russian cyber-ops. It doesn’t matter. The corporate media released the tapes and then fed the blaze of interest that followed.
Then, an hour later, the first of the Podesta emails were released These emails that had been stolen by Russian based hackers and the content was used to strategically selected emails for release that maximize damage to the Hillary campaign. The Podesta email release blunted the impact of the Access Hollywood tapes. Both stories dominated the news for days. The two stories combined completely eclipsed the Russia story. And so the biggest story in a decade, That our democracy was currently under attack by Russia, got buried and erased from our collective conscious until after the election.
Why Russia Hacked Voter Registration Databases – Micro-targeted Messaging
by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
What if Presidential candidates could identify the exact swing districts, to the precinct, that they need to win state elections? Imagine how concentrated their campaigns efforts and resources would be, including the ad buys and how those ads are tailored to the voters in those districts.
Welcome to the modern political campaign. The ability to do exactly this grows greatly every election cycle. Highly detailed voting information has not only allowed candidates to geographically concentrate their resources, it has given unscrupulous party operatives a map to devise voter suppression strategies, vote tampering schemes and gerrymandered districts that give their party structural advantages.
This much is well known by the savvy readers here, even if it remains under appreciated by the many voter. Less well understood are the new information technology weapons that were employed in the last election.
Into the” big data” world of our modern political campaigns came a whole set of newly developed propaganda technologies that can exploit a campaigns massive knowledge base. Explaining how just one of these new, information technology weapons work, one called micro-targeting, we can see how the dots are connected in the Russia election scandal now unfolding.
Here is a step by step plan to use modern information technologies to micro-target individual voters in swing districts to manipulate their vote.
Step 1. CREATE BIO-PSYCHO-SOCIAL PROFILES ON POTENTIAL VOTERS: All the publicly shared Facebook and Twitter information voluntarily provided by individual users has unwittingly created the most massive database ever imagined. Marketing companies can use this database to target ads to those most likely to buy certain products. But in politics, companies like Cambridge Analytica can use this data to creates highly accurate bio-psycho-social profiles (BPS profile) on millions of American adults, and use that information to manipulate voting behavior. The ability to create these very accurate, highly predictive individual profiles using a meta-analysis techniques is well established. Researchers have estimated that just 150 “likes” on Facebook, along with self-reported biographical information, can produce a BPS profile for individuals that better predicts their behavior than what their own spouse could predict. These profiles can even predict which words or phrases will elicit specific emotional reactions in a person. Of this profiling data, Paul-Olivier Dehaye, a Swiss mathematician, said, “People just don’t understand the power of this data and how it can be used against them.”
For those who don’t know, Cambridge Analytica is a election data analysis company founded by Robert Mercer, an American billionaire with some very radical ideas. The company was lead by Breitbart’s Steve Bannon until he joined the Trump administration. Cambridge Analytica was contracted by the Trump campaign to utilize the company’s extensive voter profiles to help get Donald Trump elected in 2016.
Information that Facebook or Twitter does not uniformly obtain is the current voter registration status of users or their voting history. This type of information is only kept in state or county voter registration databases spread throughout the country. For a political campaign to get this type of information they would need to hack into many state and county databases, and do it in a way that doesn’t easily trace back to the campaign.
Step 2. HACK SPECIFIC VOTER REGISTRATION FILES: Micro-targeting voters is a huge undertaking requiring a massive amount of computing. It also requires connecting an individual’s BPS profile with their current voter registration status and voting history. Micro-targeting voters cannot happen without this information. There is currently no national source for voter registration information, but one has been proposed by Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission of Election Integrity.
Not having a national voter registration system is probably a good thing. A hack of a single database would be far more damaging, and is less likely to be detected. Hacking dozens or hundreds of smaller databases increases the odds of getting caught. Hacks of voter registration files should therefore be limited in number, and the hacks must therefore be targeted at just the right swing districts where micro-targeting has the best odds of changing voting behaviors. The people with the best idea of which voting districts to hack are those within the campaign. The same internal polling numbers used to direct ad buys are the same numbers needed to direct voter registration hacks.
One way to assure that hacking activity can’t easily be traced back to a candidate’s campaign is to covertly employ third parties to conduct the hacks and supply the stolen information to the data analysis companies. If micro-targeting of voters took place during the 2016 elections, as a growing body of evidence suggests, then there has to be a connection between the micro-targeting and the Russian hacks of voter registration files that took place in 22 states. Some information sharing between the campaign and third party hackers would be required to assure that the information to be obtained is useful.
It is still highly speculative, but not unreasonable, to investigate the connections between the Trump campaign and Russian hacking of the voter registration databases. It is also reasonable to investigate whether any of the stolen information ended up in the databases of companies such as Cambridge Analytica.
Step 3. IDENTIFY INDIVIDUALS IN SWING DISTRICT WHOS VOTING BEHAVIOR CAN BE INFLUENCED BY MICRO-TARGETED MESSAGING: Once a voter’s registration information and voting history is matched up with his or her BPS profile, it is a relatively straight forward step to distinguish implacable voters from casual or inconsistent voters. BPS profile characteristic can be used to identify a voters political leanings and the issues they might care about. Another characteristic that micro-targeting requires is that the target must be engaged in social media.
Step 4. BOMBARD TARGETED VOTERS ON THEIR SOCIAL MEDIA WITH SPECIALLY DESIGNED MESSAGES: In the final phase of the operation the object is to create an alternative social media landscape for the targeted voter by bombarding them with fake news stories, tweet storms and biased commentary designed to alter their perceptions of the political environment. These messages are tailored to elicit specific emotional reactions in the subjects. The messages are delivered by a virtual army of trolls (Russia has internet troll farms) and automated bots using fake Facebook or Twitter accounts. If the targeted voter ever shared any doubts about Hillary Clinton on social media, for example, the content of their micro-targeted messages might be designed to amplify those doubts and raise new ones. The purpose is to lessen the likelihood of that voter voting for Hillary. If a person ever “liked” a story about building the border wall, targeted messages might contain outrageous immigration stories to heighten fear and loathing toward immigrants, and to strengthen the voters motivation to vote for Donald Trump. By BPS profiling and micro-targeting people, it is the targeted voters who get manipulated, not the voting machines or the voting process itself.
RESULTS: The psychological and emotional impact of targeted propaganda messaging on individual voters will motivate some to go to the polls and vote for a candidate when they might have otherwise stayed home. Or the messaging may dispirit some voters and cause them to stay home when they would have otherwise cast their ballot. Researchers tell us that people manipulated by these technologies generally don’t realize they are being manipulated. Because of the massive computing power available to these election data companies, and the unprecedented social media databases, identifying and targeting voters susceptible to targeted propaganda messaging is capable of directing these attacks on many thousands of voters just before an election. Flipping whole election through this process may be possible. Did micro-targeting flip the 2016 Presidential election to Donald Trump’s win? No one knows yet, in part because it is so difficult to prove.
It is my belief that the state voter registration hacks were not done to disenfranchise voters at the polls, but to supplement data needed in order to identify and to micro-target low malleable voters with propaganda messaging. I also suspect targeting information was provided to the Russian hackers who broke into the state voter registration files. I don’t know if these are crimes. I certainly hope they are, and I hope the Justice Department Probe is pursuing this line of investigation.
Propaganda in the Digital Age – Mind Control on a Massive Scale
by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
“World War III will be a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation.” – Marshall McLahun
I noticed it during the 2016 election. My Twitter and Facebook accounts were awash in anti-Hillary comments. Many comments seemed to piggy-back on my own reservations about her. Other comments were wildly inaccurate and mean-spirited.
I was a Bernie supporter and not happy with the way the DNC and Democratic leadership conducted the primaries. Still, Hillary Clinton was clearly a normal candidate while, in my view, Donald Trump was not normal on many levels. I could never be persuaded to vote for Donald Trump.
When anti-Hillary messages mirrored my concerns I sometimes “liked” the comments or added my own in support of my views. When outrageously false anti-Hillary claims were posted I mostly ignored them, but sometimes took issue. This would often lead to a running debate with some implacable troll on social media. I debated them, not to change their minds (impossible), but to make sure others reading these posts would be exposed to a more reasonable set of facts and opinions.
During these social media debates I noticed a lot of others respondents chiming in with “likes” or retweets opposing my views. The longer I pressed the debate, the greater the number of these mostly silent opposition supporters grew Sometimes as many as 20 or 30 different respondents would like, share or retweet my opponent’s posts, even days after the conversation ended. Some of these follow-on’s appeared to bolster randomly stupid or meaningless statements made by the Hillary hater.
That’s when I realized something unusual was happening. My assumption was that all these respondents were part of a coordinated system of trolls. I resisted the feeling that I was in the minority, because my independent research confirmed that I held majority views. But I did get the feeling that somehow I was talking to myself.
Suddenly, after the election, all these feverish Twitter and Facebook respondents disappeared. Did you also notice that?
Only now, through my curiosity and continuing review of articles on internet propaganda, am I beginning to realize the full horror of what I experienced during the election. I was under a sophisticated psychological attack.
Propaganda as we commonly think of it today involves what spies call “active measure” used to demoralize or destabilize civilian populations in times of war. Dropping fliers from airplanes, broadcasting news on Radio Free Europe, writing op-ed pieces under pseudonyms or stealing classified documents and releasing them publicly to embarrass adversaries are examples that come to mine. More recent examples include false flag attacks or leaking fake information that appears to be damaging but then proving it is wrong when your opponent tries to use it against you. This technique damages the credibility of your opposition instead.
The Russian connection to the DNC email hacks and subsequent Wikileaks publication appears to be the next generation of “active measures” propaganda. Gallons of ink have been used exploring these events to prove that Russia interferred in our elections. And they did. This is all well and good. but at its root the only thing new about this sort of propaganda is the sophisticated hacking used to steal the documents. Otherwise, it is old style propaganda. Media attention to it only serves as a distraction to the whole new world of electronic propaganda unleashed on us during the election. These are new, covertly developed military grade techniques never used on this scale before a few years ago (in the BREXIT, Vote Leave Campaign, Read the first article in the bibliography below.).
COGNITIVE WARFARE: Cognitive warfare is a toolbox of cyber propaganda techniques that both models mass populations and profiles individuals to change their beliefs or attitudes. It has many aspects and methods that utilize super-computers, massive databases and sophisticated computer algorithms to weaponize information gathered from our digital footprints to use against us. Some techniques model and manipulate whole societies to bring about social change while other techniques profile and manipulate individuals or groups to alter a person’s attitudes and behavior. These methods go by names such as Bio-psycho-social profiling, Recoding (of mass consciousness), Strategic drowning (of mainstream media content, for example), micro-targeted propaganda, etc. These propaganda techniques can be highly effective and operate on an emotional level without our specific awareness.
So where to begin? The amount of information needed to fully explain the new propaganda is way beyond the scope of this blog post. It is honestly beyond the scope of my own understanding at this point as well. This article can only serve as an introduction to the topic. At the conclusion I will point you to several lengthy articles that go into more detail.
ALGORITHMS: To understand the basics of cognitive warfare methods we must start with computer algorithms. These are sets of computer code instructions that allow a computer to analyze huge amounts of data and automatically make complex decisions for further action based on their continuous analysis. Algorithms can be simple or mind-bendingly complex, as their use in modern day financial trading illustrates. In the area of financial investments algorithms monitor the markets and social media sites (like Twitter, to see what’s trending) and then make split-second decisions on buying and selling stocks. It is estimated that over 70% of all stock trades are computer generated transactions.
But algorithms are ubiquitous in social media as well. From Google’s search engine to Twitter’s suggestions as to who to follow, algorithms have become our window on the world. As such they have an enormous impact on our outlook. Each of us who searches a term on Google may receive different information in a different order, depending on our digital footprint on the internet. This impacts our thinking. Robert Epstein, of the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology says,”.. these personalized results impact our opinions and behavioral patterns without our awareness.” Of Google he writes, “We are talking about the most powerful mind-control machine ever invented in the history of the human race. And people don’t even notice it.”
There is much more we need to know about these algorithms running in the background of the cyber world, but for our purposes here it is sufficient to know that a knowledge of them and how to manipulate and exploit them is the basis on which cognitive warfare operates.
BIO-PSYCHO-SOCIAL PROFILING: When I type “Daily Record” into my iPhone search, my local newspaper site come up. Years ago this wasn’t the case. I would get a newspaper with that name in Scotland. We don’t think much about the convenience built into our media systems that allows computers to make assumptions about us. These assumptions are based on our digital profile, where we live, where we are presently located, what we have looked up in the past and other such personal information kept in a database about us somewhere. This is the friendly face of social profiling.
Advances in data storage and retrieval systems, sophisticated algorithms, and methods to analyze and manage massive amounts of data allow media platforms to develop comprehensive profiles on us. This allows them to deliver the content we most want to see. Formerly, the level of detail was based on some grouping we fit into, but increasingly it is based on who we are as individuals. This has been a boon to commercial marketing but it has a very powerful dark side as well.
In the case of Facebook profiles, for example, scientists found that profiles can be correlated across millions of people to produce remarkably accurate individual profiles. When results are combined with data generated by the “like” button people click on approve certain content, the individual profile gets ever more perfect. With just 150 “likes” our profile can predict personality better than our own spouses can, and with 300 likes it knows a person better they know themselves.
Of this profiling data, Paul-Olivier Dehaye, a Swiss mathematician, said, “People just don’t understand the power of this data and how it can be used against them.” This level of understand our personality allows those in control of our profiles to send micro-targeted messages to us that subtlety manipulate our feelings and the association with which our emotions are evoked. For example, if a person is on the fence over how to vote in an election, the people behind the propaganda machines know this about you and can custom tailor messages to that will influence you to vote one way or the other. This technique is called micro-targeted propaganda. There is evidence that this type of propaganda was used in the 2016 election to help elect Donald Trump.
STRATEGIC DROWNING: This is another tool in the Cognitive Warfare arsenal used to influence public discourse and alter our mass consciousness. While bio-psycho-social profiling targets individuals, this technique targets certain segments of the population or even the whole population at once. The idea behind this technique it to flood the cyber-media network with specific alternative messages that drown out conventional news and information. It exploits the algorithms used by media platforms that bring desired content to us. So, for example, if you type “Jews are” into Google search, it will return answers like, “Why do people hate Jews” I just did the experiment as I write this and the picture below shows the top results.
Clearly these are unexpected results for most people who might enter the search terms. (Try it yourself, and don’t be surprised if your results differ from mine based on your profile.) The result over-represent hate groups and the proliferation of these results are the work of nefarious operators who flood the “media ecosystem.”
Cyber media would normally be dominated by conventional information sources such as The New York Times, Fox News, MSNBC etc., but these sources are swamped with hundreds of thousands of links from much smaller alternative information sites. These links to alternative information are intended to exploit the structure of Google secret algorithms to bring these articles to the top of the search results. This has a psychological impact on us personally and gives a false impression about public consensus in America. It blurs the question as to what is really true.
The operational structure for strategic drowning includes a coordinated network of alternative information websites, referred to as micro-propaganda machines, or MPM’s. Each MPM controls a vast warehouse of “bots” which are bogus Facebook and Twitter accounts, etc. These fake accounts exist by the hundreds of thousands. Some are always active to drive public dialogue while some are “sleeper bots.” These are held in reserve and triggered en mass by propagandists to overwhelm news cycles or cover up information unfavorable to their goals. It is also used to create trends and alter public discourse, or change public attitudes.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Jonathan Albright is an assistant professor of communications at Elon University in North Carolina. He analyzed the activity of these MPM’s during the 2016 election and was able to create “spatial map” of that activity. The picture created shows the relative dominance of traditional information sources in the media ecosystem, as he calls it, and the impact on that system by MPM’s during the election. The red nodes are alternative information (propaganda) websites and the red lines radiating from them are links or activity of these sites.
In effect, what you see here is the cognitive warfare battlefield during the last election. This new propaganda arms race is between pro-democracy advocates and their adversaries. It is a war still being waged here and in other Western democracies. It is being waged by both foreign attackers and billionaire Western oligarchs who share converging interests. It is being waged by Russia, who just announced the creation of a new branch of their military calling them “information warfare troops”.
“… Russians have moved into an offensive posture that threatens the very international order.” said Ben Rhodes of the Obama Administration last year.
The propaganda war is also being waged by billionaire controlled corporations specializing in this field, companies like Cambridge Analytica. This is essentially a propaganda company featuring Steve Bannon on its board of directors.
This outline of Cognitive Warfare attacks we were subjected to, and are still experiencing as an attack on our journalism institutions, helps make sense of my social media experiences during the election. I see now how I was being stroked, on one hand (micro-targeted), to fan my discontent with Hillary while being made to feel my views were in the minority (strategic drowning) on the other hand. I know now that many of the trolls I encountered were really computer generated cyberbots. All this has caused be to completely rethink my own on-line presence.
I have presented a great deal of information here and a number of quotes and facts without specific attribution. That is because virtually all of the quotes and many of the fact are from the remarkable work of Carole Cadwalladr, published by The Guardian in London. I have vetted her information by going to her original source and found them to be accurate. If you have stayed with me to this point, I urge you to read Ms. Cadwalladr’s two article for even more background information. She also outlines the connections between the companies providing propaganda services for the wealthy ideologues funding them and the Trump administration.
Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/26/robert-mercer-breitbart-war-on-media-steve-bannon-donald-trump-nigel-farage Carole Cadwalladr, 26 February, 2017
Google, democracy and the truth about internet search https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/04/google-democracy-truth-internet-search-facebook Carole Cadwalladr, 4 December, 2016
The #Election2016 Micro-Propaganda Machine https://medium.com/@d1gi/the-election2016-micro-propaganda-machine-383449cc1fba#.gl16j8e9c Jonathan Albright, 18 November, 2016
And for further reading from my blog on algorithms,
Algorithms Hidden Impact on How We Think http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2017/02/algorithms-hidden-impact-on-how-we-think.html?spref=tw …
Brian T. Lynch, 9 February, 2016
Rural Republicans VS The Urban Bubble or How Trump Pulled Off An Upset
by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
If you superimposed the Democratic v. Republican Party Map over the US Population Density Map you clearly see that the more urban, the more Democratic and the more rural, the more Republican. This strengthens a case that has been made that our political tensions also line-up between city vs. county lines. Cities are the seats of power. They are the drivers of culture and the economy. People living in vast stretches or rural America are mostly marginalized and largely ignored, even by the establishment wing of their own party. All political promises have been empty for decades. No one is helping them understand what’s really happening to them as their jobs disappear, their wages shrink, their homes are foreclosed and their family life is disrupted. No one is lifting a finger to fix things for them.
It was these areas where Trump’s messages resonated most. It was the folks in these areas that came out to vote for him in record numbers, against the backdrop of the lowest overall voter turnout in years. This year, the rural vote mattered.
All establishment politics is urban centered, so the anti-establishment sentiment that swept Trump into power is a wake-up call from rural heartland of America. People living inside our urban bubbles take note: Political inclusion isn’t just something that needs to happen inside the urban bubble.
A Concise Analysis of Why Trump Won
By Brian T. Lynch, MSW
Donald Trump won because the GOP allowed their party’s popular choice to be nominated even though he wasn’t the establishments choice. Democrats lost because of the anti-insurgency bias against a popular anti-establishment candidate, a bias baked into the Democratic primary process.
I blame the DNC for its epic failure to read the mood of the country, for thwarting Bernie Sanders at every turn and for fielding an historically unfavorable establishment candidate. It is clear that the DNC completely underestimated how much Hillary Clinton is disliked, or how well Trump resonated with so many citizens. The electorate clearly wanted to send a message to the establishment. Thanks to the DNC that message has been delivered in it’s most virulent form possible.
You can say she lost because she is a woman, and you are be partly right. You can say she lost because President Obama is black, and you are be partly right. But mostly she lost because no establishment candidate could have won. She and the Democratic Party failed to see or understand the lives of so many struggling, marginalized and forgotten families living below the radar, especially in rural America. She lost because she represents the very establishment that let so many American’s before, during and since the Great Recession.
I have more to say, but not now. It’s all still too damn depressing.
Let’s Elect.. The Democratic Party Platform!
I decided it would be a good thing to draft a condensed version of the Democratic Party Platform. I reasoned that a concise version of the document would benefit people who don’t have time to sit down and read it all, and it might help us keep Democrats accountable to what they say the stand for in the Platform. I didn’t realize what a daunting task it would be, or how little time I had to finish the job.
What I learned while doing this is that this is a pretty good document. If achieved, it would significantly improve the lives of most Americans. It doesn’t address Democratic Party reform issues or primary voting reforms, but it does lay out a decent course of actions that most of us can rally behind. More importantly, it gives activist citizens a template by which we can judge the performance of Democratic office holders, including Hillary Clinton if she doesn’t loose.
So while I am still upset with the DNC, the establishment Democrats and Hillary for fixing the primary against all others, including Bernie Sanders specifically, I think I can in good conscious vote for the Democratic Party Platform with a self-made promise to hold Hillary and every other Democrat to task in carrying out the Party Platform.
So without further delay, here is the incomplete, condensed version of the Democratic Party Platform:
2016 Democratic Platform (condensed version)
Democrats believe cooperation is better than conflict, unity is better than division, empowerment is better than resentment, and bridges are better than walls. We are stronger together.
Today’s extreme level of income and wealth inequality makes our economy weaker, our communities poorer, and our politics poisonous. We need an economy that works for everyone. We can have more economic fairness, so the rewards are shared broadly, not just with those at the top. An economy that:
- prioritizes long-term investment over short-term profit-seeking,
- rewards the common interest over self-interest
- promotes innovation and entrepreneurship
- guarantees equal pay for women.. particularly women of color
- protects every American’s right to retire with dignity
- [create] jobs and security that come from [transitioning to] clean energy
- incentivize companies to share profits with their employees on top of wages and pay increases
Race still plays a significant role in determining who gets ahead in America and who gets left behind. We must face that reality and we must fix it.
A good education is a basic right of all Americans. We will end the school-to-prison pipeline and build a cradle-to-college pipeline instead.
Greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street must be brought to an end. Wall Street must never again be allowed to threaten families and businesses on Main Street.
Democrats protect citizens’ right to vote, while stopping corporations’ outsized influence in elections. We will:
- end the broken campaign finance system
- overturn the disastrous Citizens United
- restore the the Voting Rights Act
- return control of our elections to the American people
Climate change poses a real and urgent threat to our economy, our national security, and our children’s health and futures.
The United States can mobilize common action on a truly global scale, to take on the challenges that transcend borders, from international terrorism to climate change to health pandemics. We are stronger and safer when America brings the world together and leads with principle and purpose [and] strengthen our alliances. We believe in the power of development and diplomacy. Our military should be the best-trained, best-equipped fighting force in the world.
We must honor and support our veterans.
We respect differences of perspective and belief, and pledge to work together to move this country forward [and] strive to reach higher ground. We are proud of our heritage as a nation of immigrants.
We believe in protecting civil liberties and guaranteeing civil rights and voting rights, women’s rights and workers’ rights, LGBT rights, and rights for people with disabilities.
support workers through higher wages, workplace protections, policies to balance work and family, and other investments will help rebuild the middle class
Raising Workers’ to a living wage… at least $15 an hour [and]… and index it [to inflation]. [Establish] one fair wage for all workers by ending the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers and people with disabilities.
Support a model to leverage federal dollars to support employers who provide their workers with a living wage, good benefits, and the opportunity to form a union without reprisal.
Have the right to form or join a union – give all Americans the ability to join a union regardless of where they work, and create new ways for workers to have power in the economy and to:
- make it easier for workers, public and private, to exercise their right to organize and join unions
- direct the National Labor Relations Board to certify a union if a simple majority of eligible workers sign valid authorization cards
- bring companies to the negotiating table
- support binding arbitration to help workers who have voted to join a union reach a first contract.
[We will oppose] “right to work” laws are wrong for workers [and] vigorously oppose laws [or] efforts that:
- eliminate dues check-off procedures
- roll-back prevailing wage standards
- abolish fair share requirements
- restrict the use of voluntary membership payments for political purposes
- attack seniority
- restrict due process protections
- require annual recertification efforts
- legislation and lawsuits that would strike down laws protecting the rights of teachers and other public employees
We will support efforts to limit the use of forced arbitration clauses in employment and service contracts, which unfairly strip consumers, workers, students, retirees, and investors of their right to their day in court.
Make sure that the United States enacts national paid family and medical .. that provide[s] at least 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a new child or address a personal or family member’s serious health issue. [Establish a] workers the right to earn at least seven days of paid sick leave [and] encourage employers to provide paid vacation.
We must help family caregivers.. to ensure family caregivers have the support, respite care, and training they need to support their loved ones. We will [do this by]:
- creating a strong stable paid caregiving workforce by raising wages
- improving access to training
- giving workers the opportunity to come together to make their voices heard
- address[ing] conditions that make it hard for workers with unpredictable or inflexible schedules to meet caregiving responsibilities.
We will take steps to:
- expand and strengthen the home care workforce
- increase investments to make quality childcare more affordable
- boost wages for childcare workers, and
- support the millions of people paying for, coordinating, or providing care for aging relatives or those with disabilities
We will preserve and increase the supply of affordable rental housing and:
- substantially increase funding for the National Housing Trust Fund to construct, preserve, and rehabilitate millions of affordable housing rental units
- provide more federal resources to the people struggling most with unaffordable housing: low-income families, people with disabilities, veterans, and the elderly
We will address the lingering effects of the foreclosure crisis through [expanding] programs like the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program. We will expand programs to
- prevent displacement of existing residents, especially in communities of color
- create affordable and workforce housing
- preserve neighborhood-serving nonprofit organizations and small businesses
- reinvigorate housing production programs
- repair public housing
- increase funding for the housing choice voucher program and other rental assistance programs
- [provide] robust funding to end homelessness through targeted investments to provide the necessary outreach, social services, and housing options for all populations experiencing homelessness.
- engage in a stronger, more coordinated, and better funded partnership among federal, state, and local governments to end chronic homelessness
- build on and expand initiatives to end veteran and family homelessness
- support more first-time homebuyers preserve the 30-year fixed rate mortgage
- modernizing credit scoring
- clarify lending rules
- expand access to housing counseling
- defend and strengthening the Fair Housing Act
- ensure that regulators have the clear direction, resources, and authority to enforce those rules effectively.
- prevent predatory lending by defending the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
- fight every effort to cut, privatize, or weaken Social Security, including attempts to raise the retirement age, diminish benefits by cutting cost-of-living adjustments, or reducing earned benefits. expand Social Security.
- cost-of- living adjustments may not reflect the spending patterns of seniors. We are committed to exploring alternatives that could better serve seniors.
- make sure Social Security’s guaranteed benefits continue by taxing some of the income of people above $250,000.
- defend the right of workers to collect their defined benefit pensions and make sure workers get priority and protection when pension plans are in distress.
- enact legislation to make sure that the earned pension benefits of Americans will not be cut
- pay for it by closing tax loopholes that benefit millionaires and billionaires
- fight attempt to roll back the Conflict of Interest Rule which requires that retirement advisors put the best interests of their clients above their own financial gain
- support the Older Americans Act.
US Postal Service
- eliminating the unsustainable mandate to “pre-fund” retiree health costs.
- restore service to appropriate levels, including overnight delivery of first-class mail and periodicals within the same metropolitan area,
- maintaining six-day and door-to-door delivery
- expanding postal services [to include] basic financial services such as paycheck cashing
- vote-by-mail to increase voter participation
Create Good-Paying Jobs
Build a full-employment economy, where everyone has a job that pays enough to raise a family and live in dignity:
- rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.. expanding our roads, bridges, public transit, airports, and passenger and freight rail lines
- build 21st century energy and water systems.. modernizing drinking and wastewater systems
- modernize our schools
- support the expansion of high-speed broadband networks
- protect communities from the impact of climate change
- address the backlog of deferred maintenance in our four key public land management agencies
- create an independent, national infrastructure bank
- support the interest tax exemption on municipal bonds..make permanent [a] version of Build America Bonds
- revitalize hard-hit manufacturing communities
- claw back tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas
- defend the Export-Import Bank
- investing in industrial energy efficiency
Science, Research, Education, and Technology
- educate our people and train our workforce; support entrepreneurship
- invest in research and development, innovation hubs, as well as in getting ideas to market
- [provide opportunities for all students] opportunity to learn computer science by the time they graduate from high school.
- High-speed internet connectivity is not a luxury; it is a necessity
- connect every household in America to high-speed broadband
- increase internet adoption
- hook up anchor institutions so they can offer free WiFi to the public.
- take action to widely deploy 5G technology
- support a free and open internet at home and abroad
- oppose any effort to roll back the historic net neutrality
- protect the intellectual property rights of artists, creators, and inventors at home and abroad
- increase access to global markets for American intellectual property and other digital trade by opposing quotas, discriminatory measures, and data localization requirements
- strengthen support for NASA and work in partnership with the international scientific community to launch new missions to space
- cut the red tape that holds back small businesses and entrepreneurs
- open up access to credit
- provide tax relief and tax simplification
- expand access to new markets
- make Wall Street work for the job-creating, productive economy—including by making loans more affordable for small- and medium-sized businesses
Jobs for America’s Young
- make investments to spur the creation of millions of jobs for our young people
- provide direct federal funding for a range of local programs that will put young people to work and create new career opportunities
Fight for Economic Fairness and Against Inequality
Reining in Wall Street and Fixing our Financial System
- prohibit Wall Street from picking and choosing which credit agency will rate its products
- [prohibit Wall Street] from imposing excessive fees on consumers
- hold both individuals and corporations accountable when they break the law
- stronger criminal laws and civil penalties for Wall Street criminals who prey on the public trust
- extend the statute of limitations for prosecuting major financial fraud
- providing the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission more resources to prosecute wrongdoing
- vigorously implement, enforce, and build on President Obama’s landmark Dodd-Frank financial reform law
- stop efforts to hamstring our regulators through budget cuts
- oppose any efforts to change the CFPB’s structure from a single director to a partisan[or] to remove the Bureau’s independent funding and subject it to the appropriations process
- [enact] a financial transactions tax on Wall Street to curb excessive speculation and high-frequency trading
- use and expand existing authorities [and]empower regulators to downsize or break apart financial institutions when necessary
- new authorities to go after risky shadow-banking
- support.. an updated and modernized version of Glass-Steagall
- nominate and appoint regulators and officials who are not beholden to the industries they regulate
- crack down on the revolving door between the private sector—particularly Wall Street—and the federal government.
- ban golden parachutes for those taking government jobs
- limit conflicts of interest by requiring bank and corporate regulators to recuse themselves from official work on particular matters that would directly benefit their former employers
- bar financial service regulators from lobbying their former colleagues for at least two years
- [make] the Federal Reserve more representative of America as a whole
- enhance its independence by ensuring that executives of financial institutions are not allowed to serve on the boards of regional Federal Reserve banks or to select members of those boards
Stop Corporate Concentration
- stop corporate concentration in any industry where it is unfairly limiting competition
- make competition policy and antitrust stronger and more responsive to our economy today
- enhance antitrust enforcement [at] the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
- encourage other agencies to police anti-competitive practices in their areas of jurisdiction
Making the Wealthy Pay Their Fair Share of Taxes
- claw back tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas
- eliminate tax breaks for big oil and gas companies
- crack down on inversions and other methods companies use to dodge their tax responsibilities
- make sure that our tax code rewards businesses that make investments and provide good-paying jobs here in the United States
- end deferrals so that American corporations pay United States taxes immediately on foreign profits and can no longer escape paying their fair share of U.S. taxes by stashing profits abroad.
- establish a multimillionaire surtax to ensure millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share
- close egregious loopholes
- restore fair taxation on multimillion dollar estates
- tax relief to middle-class families
- crack down on tax evasion and promote transparency to fight corruption and terrorism
- tax relief to hard working, middle-class families
Promoting Trade That is Fair and Benefits American Workers
- develop trade policies that support jobs in America
- review agreements negotiated years ago to update them to reflect [Democratic Party] principles.
- Any future trade agreements must make sure our trading partners cannot undercut American workers by taking shortcuts on labor policy or the environment.
- [trade agreements] must not undermine democratic decision-making through special privileges
- [trade agreements] must not undermine democratic decision-making private courts for corporations
- trade negotiations must be transparent and inclusive
- use all our trade enforcement tools to hold China and other trading partners accountable
- These are the standards Democrats believe must be applied to all trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
Bring Americans Together and Remove Barriers to Opportunities
Ending Systemic Racism
- dismantle the structures that define lasting racial, economic, political, and social inequity
- promote racial justice through fair, just, and equitable governing of all public-serving institutions and in the formation of public policy
- remove the Confederate battle flag from public
- make it clear that black lives matter and that there is no place for racism in our country.
Closing the Racial Wealth Gap
- close this racial wealth gap
- eliminat[e] systemic barriers to wealth accumulation for different racial groups
- improv[e] opportunities for people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds to build wealth.
- remove barriers to achieving sustainable homeownership
- provide for greater diversity in federal and state contracting practices
- incentivize and expand access to retirement investment programs
- increase opportunities for quality jobs and education
- challenge the deeply rooted structures that perpetuate and exacerbate current disparities and ultimately stagnate the nation’s economic growth and security
Reforming our Criminal Justice System
Democrats are committed to reforming our criminal justice system and ending mass incarceration. Something is profoundly wrong when almost a quarter of the world’s prison population is in the United States, even though our country has less than five percent of the world’s population. We will reform mandatory minimum sentences and close private prisons and detention centers. Research and evidence, rather than slogans and sound bites, must guide [reforms].
(PS: Notice that the person whose name is plastered everywhere is not mentioned here. What a relief, right?)
Why Bernie Sanders Must Fight for a Contested Convention
An Open Letter to Rachel Maddow in Response to Her May 2nd Segment on Why Bernie Should Bow Out of the Race.
Pictures of self-organized “movement” events supporting anti-establishment Bernie Sanders,
by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
Dear Dr. Maddow,
I’m a fan of yours, but I join those writing in opposition to your arguments against Bernie’s ideas of a contested Democratic Convention. The rules are set up to allow for this type of contested convention. Whether or not a trailing candidate for the Democratic nomination chooses to bring their fight to the floor has always been predicated on exigent circumstances of the times, not just institutional courteous or party loyalty.
In prior presidential party contests opposing, or insurgent candidates have fought for the support of their party with the goal of everyone unifying behind the candidate generating the most excitement with the best chance of winning against the other party candidate. In my 60 years these have always been intra-party contests, but these are different times. Party reformation has never played as large a roll as it does now.
This years election is a referendum on establishment politics itself. The pundits in both parties still fail to grasp this obvious fact.
The Republican Party is starting to wake up. Their primary season has been an expensive disaster. Their tuberous outcropping of so many weak presidential candidates, all casting about for a winning message, was an obvious sign that the GOP itself is in critical condition. The establishment elites of that party have abused their privileged status for years. They have made too many cynical promises to voters, promises they never intended to keep, They applied deceptive marketing to arouse their base and garner favor with an electorate that they secretly despise. Once in office, they cynically sold themselves to big business and big money interests while tossing crumbs to the people who elected them.
Donald Trump is the toxic chemotherapy that party needs to kill the cancerous grip big organized money has on the Republican establishment. The message couldn’t be any clearer. The Republican establishment has to go. The Trump candidacy, whether Trump wins or loses, will sweep many other establishment candidates out of office.
The Democratic Party suffers from the same disease as the Republican Party, but at an earlier stage. Party elites are caught in the death grip of powerful private interests. The will of their constituents have become secondary. Dwindling turnout over the past decade has been ignored as long as slick marketing techniques were still winning election.
But elections are not all about winning, they are ultimately about governing.
Money in the Democratic Party isn’t just a necessary evil anymore. It is now a growing tumor. The people who really hear what Bernie Sanders is saying recognize that he is proposing a cure that might prevent this cancer from metastasizing. Meanwhile the establishment media still thinks this election is only about a fight for progressive ideas.
Given the state of the two parties, a Sanders win would be a foregone conclusion. All the polls say as much, yet this is message isn’t seeping into the consciousness of the establishment. The Democratic Party is eager to put Hillary’s negatives up against Trump’s negatives any day, in yet another hold-your-nose-and-vote election.
And, they would be right if this election was only based on ideology. But it isn’t. It is a referendum on our political establishment. Not only will Hillary Clinton have disadvantages related to her high unfavorability, she will not win the support of youthful “movement” Democrats or disgruntled independents.
If the race is between Clinton and Trump it will be a race between an establishment and a non-establishment candidate. Given the anger and level of dissatisfaction around the country, all bets should be off as to how that contest might turn out.
The Panama Papers Scandal Parses the Difference Between Bernie and Hillary
by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
This is yet another example where a clear eyed, independent Bernie Sanders warned against passing legislation that he knew would be disastrous while Hillary Clinton pressed for its passage. Sanders said exactly what would happen if the Panama free trade agreement passed. He said it would make it easier for, ” … the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations in this country to avoid paying their fair share in taxes by setting-up offshore tax havens in Panama.
Today we read headline stories like this:
“Years before more than a hundred media outlets around the world released stories Sunday (April 3, 2016) exposing a massive network of global tax evasion detailed in the so-called Panama Papers, U.S. President Barack Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pushed for a Bush administration-negotiated free trade agreement that watchdogs warned would only make the situation worse.”
After the free trade agreements passed in Congress, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released the following statement:
“The Free Trade Agreements passed by Congress tonight will make it easier for American companies to sell their products to South Korea, Colombia and Panama, which will create jobs here at home. The Obama Administration is constantly working to deepen our economic engagement throughout the world and these agreements are an example of that commitment.
In opposition to the Panama free trade agreement bill being debated in the Senate, Bernie Sanders said this on October 12, 2011 (Panama comments printed here in full) :
Finally, Mr. President, let’s talk about the Panama Free Trade Agreement.
Panama’s entire annual economic output is only $26.7 billion a year, or about two-tenths of one percent of the U.S. economy. No-one can legitimately make the claim that approving this free trade agreement will significantly increase American jobs.
Then, why would we be considering a stand-alone free trade agreement with this country?
Well, it turns out that Panama is a world leader when it comes to allowing wealthy Americans and large corporations to evade U.S. taxes by stashing their cash in off-shore tax havens. And, the Panama Free Trade Agreement would make this bad situation much worse.
Each and every year, the wealthy and large corporations evade $100 billion in U.S. taxes through abusive and illegal offshore tax havens in Panama and other countries.
According to Citizens for Tax Justice, “A tax haven . . . has one of three characteristics: It has no income tax or a very low-rate income tax; it has bank secrecy laws; and it has a history of non-cooperation with other countries on exchanging information about tax matters. Panama has all three of those. … They’re probably the worst.”
Mr. President, the trade agreement with Panama would effectively bar the U.S. from cracking down on illegal and abusive offshore tax havens in Panama. In fact, combating tax haven abuse in Panama would be a violation of this free trade agreement, exposing the U.S. to fines from international authorities.
In 2008, the Government Accountability Office said that 17 of the 100 largest American companies were operating a total of 42 subsidiaries in Panama. This free trade agreement would make it easier for the wealthy and large corporations to avoid paying U.S. taxes and it must be defeated. At a time when we have a record-breaking $14.7 trillion national debt and an unsustainable federal deficit, the last thing that we should be doing is making it easier for the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations in this country to avoid paying their fair share in taxes by setting-up offshore tax havens in Panama.
Adding insult to injury, Mr. President, the Panama FTA would require the United States to waive Buy America requirements for procurement bids from thousands of foreign firms, including many Chinese firms, incorporated in this major tax haven. That may make sense to China, it does not make sense to me.
Finally, Panama is also listed by the State Department as a major venue for Mexican and Colombian drug cartel money laundering. Should we be rewarding this country with a free trade agreement? I think the answer should be a resounding no.
It is very difficult for average citizens like me to see clearly what our politicians are really up to. This is true in part because we no longer have an independent press challenging our politicians pro-business policies. If “free trade” is good for businesses and the wealthy (the donor class), it’s good for corporate media profits and for campaign funding PAC’s.
It is this nexus between business, politics and the media that form the self-interested “establishment” in America. It is a ruling elite that competes with itself along party lines without faithfully serving the interests of ordinary citizens. Both the extraordinary outsider presidential campaigns of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are driven by this single aspect of our national polity, the establishment elite.
Donald Trump representing opposition to the Republican flavor of the establishment elite. He thrashes about like a wild man trying to cobble together a rage tag constituency of the disillusioned on the right.
Senator Sanders, on the other hand, has always seen through the self-serving positions of the New Democrats (or Third Way Democrats). The centrist moves of the modern Democratic party has always been a slide towards corporate power. It helps Democrats win elections because centrist positions are more lucrative for Democratic campaigns. By not accepting PAC money or wealthy donations, Bernie Sanders has demonstrated just how clearly good politicians can see the true impact of proposed legislation.
In this and many other examples, Bernie Sanders is like a prophet. Not the religious kind, but in the secular sense. He sees where we are headed more clearly than most and then uses that information to try and get us to change course. That is what prophets, and parents and true statesmen do.