Gene and Bernie

Bernie Sanders, meet Eugene McCarthy. In my head. And in my heart.

A public-television show about McCarthy was called “I’m Sorry I Was Right.” And Bernie, you’re right, but it’s time to fold your tent.

In 1968 Gene McCarthy stole the hearts and stoked the dreams of young people across the country. The world was falling apart and up stood this poet from Minnesota whose earlier campaign pamphlet for his senate seat, I recall, carried this quote from Gene: “I like a man with a good woodpile; it shows he’s at peace with the world.”

The guy couldn’t win. He had no chance against LBJ, who’d won in 1964 in the definition of a landslide. The Vietnam war wouldn’t end, and what could this diffident senator do about it? He could stand up and holler, in I.F. Stone’s immortal exhortation to the young. And he did.

And Gene was right. About most things, including the war. And Bernie is right. About the economy and the tax code and Congress being rigged for the rich. About not enough having been done yet to keep the speculators from ruining the country — again. And Bernie is right about Hillary. She’s compromised. Her ethics are moth-eaten. She’s as inspiring as a box of raisin bran. And her judgment, in taking contributions to her foundation from foreign countries while secretary of state — really? And her two-hundred-grand speeches to fat cat bankers — come on. Mark Twain said “Tell me where a man gets his corn pone and I’ll tell you where he gets his opinions.” (Corn pone, a staple, like flour, for those of you who didn’t grow up in the 19th Century in the Ozarks like I did.) She’s secretive and calculating and … oh I wish she were Elizabeth Warren.

But Bernie, Bernie, Bernie, I love ya man. But you gotta get out of the way. I jumped on my phone during the first debate and sent you money. I voted for you in the Florida primary. Other than on guns, I haven’t heard a syllable from you I disagree with. But you gotta let Hillary take it to Trump.

Clinton is such a flawed candidate that only the fact that Trump is such a baby whiner egomaniac gives her a chance to save us all from him. Bernie, maybe, could do better against him. Maybe could give him the embarrassing unmasking he deserves. But Bern, you don’t got the votes, you don’t got the numbers. And even though you’re right, continuing to hammer at Hillary only increases the I-hope-scant chance that the world might end in November, with Austin weeping.

Howard Dean said tonight on MSNBC that there are meetings going on between Sanders’s and Clinton’s campaigns about how to land this plane. I hope so. California could end it or drag it out. Bernie, you’re right, and you’ve had a huge impact, you’ve moved Clinton and the party to the left, you’ve hollered yourself hoarse, and you’ve stirred up a wonderful mass of young people, including my niece/daughter Ally, and we all love you for it.

It’s time to stop pushing at Hillary and stand beside her. And keep hollering.

— Bruce BenidtIMG_4556

Third Parties: 2012 Election’s Critical Missing Piece

In the wake of the Iowa straw poll – a particularly charming incarnation of the poll tax– and the late entry of Texas Governor Rick Perry, the news media is telling us that that the 2012 presidential field is starting to congeal.

Except that it’s not. Not even close. Because we don’t yet know what will happen with third parties. In the end, third parties might very well impact the selection of the next President more than the outcome of the GOP primaries and caucuses that are dominating the news.

At a time when the American electrate is about evenly divided between the two major political parties, and huge numbers are turned off by both parties, this 2012 presidential election could hinge on which third party, or parties, emerges to relative prominence. If it’s a liberal-friendly third party ticket that dominates the third party space in 2012, Obama will almost certainly lose. If it’s a conservative-friendly third party dominating, Obama could still pull it out, despite the environmental mega-trends – lack of peace or prosperity — working against his reelection.

A third party ticket led by Ron Paul, Sarah Palin, Donald Trump or their ilk looms on the right, and a ticket led by Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich, Bernie Sanders or their ilk looms on the left. I’m as interested in those melodramas as I am about the more high profile Perry, Bachmann, Romney scrum.

And beyond the third party machinations on the left and right fringes, keep your eyes on a new third party wild card this year – Americans Elect. Americans Elect looks like it will be a centrist party, and is being promoted by center-left voices like syndicated columnist Thomas Friedman. Here is how they explain themselves.
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Election Night Prep: Senate Curtain Raiser

While the Minnesota Senate race has generated a fair amount of visibility, Senate races overall have been mostly ignored across the nation as the presidential contest has sucked up nearly all of the oxygen in the room.  That’s too bad, because there’s an interesting macro story there as well as a number of fascinating local races worth watching.  As you settle in for a long evening of election viewing next Tuesday, here’s a quick snapshot of what to look for in these races and an overall story that will unfold all across the nation and may make it worth waiting up to see what happens in far-flung Alaska.

The Big Picture: The Democrats currently have a 51-49 advantage in the Senate.  That majority is about as thin as possible because it is achieved through the support of Joe Lieberman, Independent (and McCain supporter) of Connecticut, and Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont.

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