The Weiner Component #152 – Part 2: The Democratic Presidential Convention

Bernie Sanders, U.S. Congressman (now U.S. Sen...

The 2016 Democratic National Convention will take place the week of July 25 to July 28 2016 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia with some events at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.  This is exactly one week after the Republican Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.  There are to be 4,765 delegates.  They will officially choose the Democratic candidate to run for the Presidency in November of 2016, the Vice Presidential Candidate, and write the platform upon which the Democratic Party will stand for the next four years.


The Democrats are following the Republican example and holding their Convention earlier that in 2012.  Philadelphia was selected as the host city on February 12, 2015.  The time of the Conventions are earlier than usual to allow the parties’ next presidential nominees to have access to more campaign cash as they begin their contest for the presidency.


For the first ballot the candidates will be Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley.  Whether there will be more than one ballot depends on whether one of the candidates can achieve the 2,383 delegates voting for them.  As of Wednesday, April 27th Hillary Clinton had 2,165 primary and caucus delegates, Bernie Sanders has 1,357, and Martin O’Malley has 0 delegates.  The race is actually between Hillary and Bernie.


While the Republican Party leaders are able to control their conventions by rule changes every four years the Democratic Party is able to do the same thing with Super delegates, who are not elected by the Democratic public voting and caucusing in the individual states and territories.  These delegates are all free to vote for whoever they wish.  These are all Democratic members of the House and Senate, sitting and former Democratic governors, elected members of the Democratic National Party, distinguished party leaders consisting of current and former presidents, vice presidents, congressional leaders, and DNC chairs.  They are unbound delegates.  Taken together these are a formable number of votes that are not obligated to vote for any candidate.  These unpledged delegates are seated solely by being current or former elected office holders and party officials.  They are not bound in any way and may support any candidate they wish, including one who has dropped out of the presidential race.  And they are in addition to the other 4,765 bound delegates who are committed to a specific candidate for at least the first ballot.


In the current 2016 election where Hillary Clinton is currently leading by about 800 delegates Bernie Sanders strategy will be to get these Super delegates to vote for him at the Convention in order to make up for his possible shortfall of bound delegates against Hillary Clinton.  Will he be successful?


For Republicans there are 3 unbound Super delegates in each state.  These are the state chairman and two RNC committee members.  This gives them a total of 150 Super delegates.  For the Democrats the number is far greater.


Hillary Rodham Clinton has been a well-known figure in the United States for over the last ¼ of a century.  She was the wife of a president, Bill Clinton, who served two terms at the tail end of the 20th Century, later a Senator for most of two terms for the state of New York, a Democratic candidate for the presidency in 2009, and a Secretary of State for Barack Obama’s first term as President.  Because she served on important committees and attempted to set up a universal health care system during his husband’s first term as President and is a liberal she has been considered as a threat by most Republicans.  She was the first and only first lady to have to testify before a grand jury.  She was also the first former Secretary of State to have been vigorously questioned by seven separate investigative committees over the vicious attack at Benghazi in October of 2012, when three American diplomats were murdered at the American consulate.  It would seem the Republicans want to discredit her by placing the blame for the vicious action on Clinton even though it was the Republican dominated House of Representatives that had cut the protective funding for embassy protection.  The official Report on the last Congressional Benghazi investigation held in 2015 which found nothing against her will probably be released by November of this year when she is running for the Presidency.  All this has occurred in spite of the fact that the House Intelligence Committee issued a report in November of 2014 after in intense investigation stating that there had been no wrongdoing in the administration’s response to the attack.


Kevin McCarthy the Republican Whip in the House of Representatives, who could well be a relative of the dummy entertainer, Charlie McCarthy, and often has a problem coming out with a coherent sentence, came out with a statement to the press in 2015 that the Benghazi  Hearings were hurting Hillary’s standing in the 2016 Presidential Race.  Some of the Republican prospective candidates for the 2016 Presidential Campaign have called her “the worst Secretary of State ever.”  She is definitely a threat to the Republicans and the last thing they want is Hillary Clinton replacing Barack Obama as President of the United States.


Trey Gowdy’s House Select Republican dominated Committee, which will produce its findings between now and Election Day in November has spent 6.5 million dollars of taxpayer monies attempting to defame or discredit Hillary Clinton.  There have been many more addition millions spent by the prior congressional committees trying to do the same thing.  Congress has now spent four years in numerous investigations which are being held for purely political reasons.  This has been the longest investigation of an incident in the entire history of the United States and has accomplished nothing but a massive expenditure of money.  Will they be able to discredit Hillary Clinton?  Gowdy promises eye-opening evidence; but he has been promising that since the last hearing began.  For a political party that’s very money conscious the Republicans are free to spend taxpayer dollars for political purposes.


Hillary Rodham Clinton is a liberal democrat interested in the welfare of the people of America at a time when there is intense economic disparity and unreasonable treatment of various economic and racial groups within the nation.  She is a voice for the majority at a time when they are being pushed into a slow downward economic spiral by the super-wealthy minority.


She has focused her presidential campaign upon middle class incomes, the universal establishment of preschools and making college more affordable and she would like to improve Affordable Health Care.  Even though she is the first woman to successfully run for the presidency she is no doubt one of, if not, the best prepared candidates in the entire his of the country.


Ultimately she is pragmatic, capable of compromise; which may be necessary with a split Congress.  President Obama, after his first two years in office, was forced to work with a politically split Congress where the Republican House absolutely refused to work with him.  In fact for the last five years the Republican led House of Representatives opposed virtually everything he attempted.  Hillary, as President, may find a similar condition.  But Hillary may be able to get under their skins and to a certain extent work with them.


Bernard “Bernie” Sanders is the other viable Democratic candidate.  He is the junior United States Senator from Vermont.  Sanders has been the longest serving Independent in U.S. Congressional history.  He was a member of the House of Representatives from April 6, 1981 through April 4, 1989, eight years, and a member of the U.S Senate from January 3, 1991 to January 3, 2015, 24 years.


Even though he ran as an Independent Bernie Sanders considered himself as a Socialist.  As a candidate for the presidency he has called himself a Democratic Socialist.  He has continually caucused with the Democrats as an Independent and formally changed his party registration last year so he could run as a Democrat in the Presidential Race.


Initially, I believe, he saw himself as a protest candidate in the 2016 Presidential Race.  No one, and I believe that includes himself, saw him as having a possible chance to win the election.


Bernie Sanders has spent his life in protest movements.  In early 1969, while he was a student at the University of Chicago, he was involved in the Civil Rights Movement as an organizer for the Racial Equality and worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.  In 1968, after settling in Vermont, he ran unsuccessfully as a third party candidate for both governor and U.S. Senator.  From 1981 through 1989, as an Independent, he was elected mayor the city of Burlington.  In 1990 he was elected to the House of Representatives.


Sanders rose to national prominence in 2018 following his filibuster against the proposed extension of the Bush tax cuts.  He favors policies like those of the social democratic parties in Europe, especially those in the Nordic countries: free health care for all, free education through college, parental leave, and LGBT rights.  He has demanded campaign finance reform, an end to corporate welfare, adherence to global warming and income inequality.  He has been a critic of U.S. foreign policy and has opposed the Iraq war.  He has strongly criticized the racial discrimination within the justice system and supported civil liberties and civil rights.  Most of what Bernie Sanders has stood for very few Democrats will argue against.


The best way to describe Bernie Sanders is to quote the last part of the article about him in the free internet encyclopedia that describes his political position:

“Sanders is a self-described socialist, and progressive who admires the Nordic model of social democracy and is a proponent of workplace democracy.  In November 2015, gave a speech at Georgetown University about his view of Democratic Socialism, including its place in the policies of Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson.  In defining what democratic socialism means to him, Sanders said ‘”I don’t believe government should take over the grocery store down the street or own the means of production, but I do believe that middle class and working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a decent standard of living and their incomes should go up, not down.  I do believe in private companies that thrive and invest and grow in America, companies that create jobs here, rather than companies that are shutting down in America and increasing their profits by exploiting low-wage labor abroad.’”


“Sanders focuses on economic issues such as income and wealth inequality, raising the minimum wage, universal healthcare reducing the burden of student debt, making public colleges and universities tuition free by taxing financial transactions, and expanding Social Security benefits by eliminating the cap on the payroll tax on all incomes after $250,000.  He has become a prominent supporter of laws requiring companies to give their workers parental leave, sick leave, and vacation time, noting that such laws have been adopted by nearly all other developed countries.  He also supports laws that would make it easier for workers to join or form a union.


“Sanders has advocated greater democratic participation by citizens, campaign finance reform, and the overturn of Citizens United v. FEC.  He also advocates comprehensive financial reforms, such as breaking up ‘”too big to fail’” financial organizations, restoring Glass-Seagull legislation, reforming the Federal Reserve Bank and allowing the Post Office to offer basic financial services in economically marginalized communities.  Sanders strongly opposes the U.S. invasion of Iraq and has criticized a number of policies instituted during the War on Terror, particularly mass surveillance and the U.S. Patriot Act.


“Sanders has liberal stances on social issues, having advocated for LGHT rights and against the Defense of Marriage Act.  Sanders considers himself a feminist.  He is also pro-choice, and opposes the de-funding of Planned Parenthood.  He has denounced institutional racism and called for criminal justice reform to reduce the number of people in prison.  He advocates a crackdown on police brutality, and supports abolishing private for-profit prisons and the death penalty.  Sanders supports legalizing marijuana at the federal level.  On November 15, 2015, in response to ISIS’s attack in Paris, Sanders cautioned against Islamophobia and said ‘”We gotta be tough, not stupid in the war against ISIS,’” and that the U.S. should continue to welcome Syrian refugees.


“Sanders advocates bold action to reverse global warming and substantial investment in infrastructure, with energy efficiency and sustainability and job creation as prominent goals.  Sanders considers climate change as the greatest threat to national security.”


I believe most people will largely agree with Bernie Sanders position on most things.  The next question is: Could he achieve most of what he wants?  Will expanding Social Security payments to everybody’s total income create enough to significantly raise Social Security payments?  Will taxing financial dealing generate enough money to pay for free college tuition throughout the United States?  The answer is probably in the negative.  In addition financial dealings would significantly increase the cost of such practices and could bring down the economy in a massive depression.  Also how would free medical care for everyone be paid for?


While much of what Sanders wants does exist in most other industrial nations it is paid for by everyone in their taxes.  Is the population of the U.S. currently willing to accept this responsibility?


Another consideration is: Can Bernie Sanders bring about legislation to allow much of this change to occur?  Barack Obama was elected under the theme, It’s Time for a Change.  After two years in office stopping a Great Depression and bringing about Affordable Health Care, a Republican majority was elected to the House of Representatives, and thereafter no bills were passed helping him govern.  In all probability Bernie will have the same legislative problems.  Currently both the House and the Senate both have Republican majorities.  The Republicans do not believe in anything Sanders wants.  The Senate may become democratic again in 2016 but the probability is that the House will retain its Republican majority.  Bernie will be in the same position that Obama has been in for the last five years, unable to get any progressive legislation through Congress.  How will he adapt to that?


While Bernie may be tough, still there has to be a limit as to how much frustration he can take.  There’s a good possibility that that limit will be reached with his four year presidency.


Currently Hillary is leading in the number of delegates.  She has 2,165, Bernie has 1,357.  On Tuesday, April 26th Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island held their primaries.  There were a total of 354 bound votes available.


In the recent, April 26th, Super Tuesday Hillary Clinton won four of the five state primary contests raising the number of delegates who will vote for her in the July Democratic Nominating Convention to 2,165.  The required number required to become the Democratic Candidate in 2016 is 2,583.


There are still 14 states and territories to go.  Indiana is on Tuesday, May 3 and the Democratic nominating conventions will continue through June 14th with a total of 1,207 delegates still to go.  Bernie Sanders currently has 1,357 delegates pledged to him.  The probability of Bernie overtaking her and achieving 2,583 votes in practically nil; he would need virtually all the delegates plus a small number of unbound delegates to just reach the total.


Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the next Presidential Candidate for the Democratic Party in 2016.


What Sander can realistically do at this point is to get as many of his ideas as possible drafted into the Democratic Platform.  After all with a few exceptions he and Hillary are philosophically not far apart.  Continuing to battle her might, in his mind, increase these possibilities.  Sanders has announced that he will stay in the race to the end.  He must be hoping that enough of the unbound or Super delegates will vote for him or that Hillary and the Democratic Party will accept most of what he wants added to the platform.  Either way he will be a winner even if Hillary Clinton is elected to the president.

The Weiner Component #137A – John Boehner’s Resignation & the House Republican Party

Planned Parenthood volunteers help bring the f...

Planned Parenthood volunteers help bring the fight for health insurance reform to the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One day after a visit to Congress by the Pope, wherein he spoke to a joint session of the legislature, and, among other things, shook hands with the Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, John Boehner handed in his resignation as Speaker of the House and as a member of Congress, effective October 31, 2015.  He is currently 65 years old, a good time to retire.


Boehner had originally been the Republican minority leader in the House of Representatives and became Speaker of the House in 2011 when the Republicans achieved a majority in the House of Representatives.  Over the past five years he has been categorized as one of the worst Speakers in the history of the United States, having no real control over his own party and having to get the support of Democrats in the House in order to pass a good deal of the legislation he espoused.  He is also known for legislation he ignored and never brought up.


What has happened over the last decade or so is that The Tea Party has come into existence as a far right arm of the Republican Party.  Many of them have been elected to Congress over the years.  They and the Evangelicals have gotten together and formed the extreme right end of the Republican Party.  Seemingly they control a good percentage of the Republican election funds which they will withhold from any candidate that does not follow the party line, their line of no compromise.  Consequently they have a lot of power in the House of Representatives which they have continually exercised.


Speaker Boehner stated, when he was interviewed on television, after he had handed in his resignation, that these far right Republicans know that a large number of their goals are totally unrealistic, that they cannot be achieved, but they insist on them just the same.


There is an interesting note of irony here.  The original Tea Partiers who operated during the late colonial period of our history were the merchants who ran the General Stores in the colonies of Boston, New York, and several other cities at the time.  Among other items they sold tea, which was the national drink.  The British East India Company brought the tea over and sold it to the colonial merchants.  It was fairly expensive and heavily taxed by the British government.  The colonial merchants did not appreciate the high price of the tea nor the tax so they bought much cheaper smuggled tea.


Shortly before the Revolutionary War the British East India Company was at the point of bankruptcy.  Since many members of Parliament owned shares in this company they passed a law lowering both the cost of the tea and the taxes on it.  The official price of this tea, including the taxes placed upon it, was now cheaper than the price of the smuggled tea.  The men who dumped the crates of tea into the harbors of Boston and New York were the merchants who all had a large stock of smuggled tea in their warehouses.  They rubbed red ocher over their bodies and performed the action after dark.

These were the patriots that the modern Tea Partiers have named themselves after.  I sometimes get the feeling that the nomenclature is as apt today as it was in the late 18th Century.


John Boehner, as Speaker, has operated between their whims and sanity.  He is not a Tea Partier.  He has been forced at times to get Democratic support for some of his bills so he could get them passed.  His job as Speaker has been a very difficult and frustrating one.  How do you lead a group that is essentially marching backwards, sometimes in several different directions at the same time and has no real understanding of government?  They have shut down the government at the cost of many millions of dollars.  They have passed a bill doing away with Affordable Health Care over fifty times that never even once reached the Senate.  Where they have been successful they have passed legislation that has massively increased unemployment during a time of recession, one example would be the sequester law, which is supposed to be an economizing measure, but that is basically choking this nation.


The Republicans were threatening to shut the government down again.  The first shut-down was about getting rid of Affordable Health Care; this time it was over the issue of continuing the funding of Planned Parenthood, accusing them of being a national facility for committing abortions.  Even though no federal funds can be used for abortions by any group the Republicans are pushing the fact that since this organization performs abortions it should not be funded.  Planned Parenthood is a women’s and to some extent male medical facility.  Many people who cannot afford medical care receive that there free or for a payment of what they can afford.  Abortions are about 3% of what they do for the poorer women of the United States.  Cancelling this organization by defunding it would strike a heavy blow against the poor and needy of the country.


The Republicans present Planned Parenthood as an abortion clinic, period.  It is over this issue that the far right of the Republican Party and the Evangelicals in Congress want to shut down the Federal Government.


In fact Carley Fiorina has made an exaggerated and fabricated image of an abortion the cornerstone of her 2016 presidential campaign.  She has sent out robocalls using this message as an appeal and request for funds.  She describes a living born fetus kicking its legs as Planned Parenthood sells its brain for medical research.  The woman, who gave birth to this fetus which was still-born denounced Fiorina for misusing her dead child as an example of a Planned Parenthood action.  Planned Parenthood had nothing to do with the false image that Fiorina supposedly based her statement upon.  It was a blatant fabrication, a lie, and she used the child without getting permission from the mother who has protested over this act.


Interestingly the Republicans keep looking to find Planned Parenthood guilty of breaking the law.  There have been four Congressional investigations by a Standing Committee in Congress.  None of them have found any evidence of illegal activity.  As a result of all this Congressional bashing more of the general public have come to support Planned Parenthood.


With the October 31 resignation of John Boehner this issue of closing down the government of the United States has gone away, at least until December of 2015.  A short term funding bill has gone through the Senate, espoused by the Republican Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and supported by the Democrats and enough Republicans to end a filibuster by Senator Ted Cruz.  Obviously there can be no filibuster in the House of Representatives and the bill was later brought up there by an unpressured Speaker and passed by the Democrats with a small number of Republicans voting for it.  The issue will not come up again until December when the new Speaker of the House of Representatives will have to again deal with this issue of funding the government.  Will the issue of Planned Parenthood come up again?  Will the Republicans find another excuse to close down the government?  After all the Tea Party tends to find the entire National Government repressive.  They seem to want to hurt it.


By resigning as Speaker John Boehner, in a manner of speaking, has held up his middle finger to the far right in his party.  He will be in power for a short period of time.  The Tea Partiers can no longer pressure him to do anything.  There will be no immediate government shutdown.  Ted Cruz, who is very brave leading other people to take risks will be ineffective here.  The far right Republicans do not have a majority within their own party in the House.  They cannot elect one of their own as the new Speaker.  And the election for a new Speaker will not take place until November 1, the day after John Boehner is no longer Speaker of the House.


The way it looks at present is that the next Speaker will be Kevin McCarthy, the current majority leader.  He was first elected to the House in 2008, became majority leader in 2014 when Eric Cantor lost the election to a far right member of the Tea Party.  Politically McCarthy comes from an overwhelming Republican District in Bakersfield, California.  While not a Tea Party member he has signed a pledge sponsored by Americans for Prosperity promising not to vote against any climate change legislation that would raise taxes on affected companies. McCarthy is pro-life.  He has voted against Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care.  During his eight years in the House there are no real bills he has originated.  Where does he stand in relation to the Tea Party?  If he’s elected we’ll find out in November of this year.


A strange thing about Kevin McCarthy is that he occasionally has a problem in a public speech expressing a coherent sentence.  He also mispronounces words adding letters to them and his sentences sometimes become a flow of words that are meaningless to everyone, possibly except for himself.  In addition from what he’s said he feels that the House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, always looks at him contemptibly.  Many members of the far right feel he is too liberal to be their Speaker.


Recently [n a moment of exultation Kevin McCarthy, while being interviewed on Fox News, without being asked, proudly stated that Hillary Clinton’s popularity numbers had been very high but after testifying four times before a Standing Committee on Benghazi her popularity dropped considerably.  He implied strongly and happily that these appearances lowered her popularity significantly.  There is also a fifth Benghazi hearing coming up since the prior four have not been able to place any blame on her.  He confirmed what the Democrats had been saying since they started that these hearings are politically motivated.  Of course McCarthy tried to step back from what he said a day or two afterward.


In one sense this is very sad because these four hearings are estimated to have cost the American taxpayers about four million dollars.  This is a strange way for a political party that prides itself upon reducing government spending to spend four million dollars to achieve a so-called political point.  If he is elected Speaker of the House of Representatives it should be interesting if not strange.  His tenure may be very short.


John Boehner is currently a free agent.  No one can bring any pressure upon him.  He has stated that there will be no government shut down.  If he wished to do so he could deal with the problem of immigration that this country has been facing and ignoring for a number of years.  There are other legislative items that need to be dealt with.   He would have the Democratic votes and probably enough Republican votes to pass almost any bill.  If he does this what the Senate will do is an open question, but McConnell might very well go along with him.  McConnell has stated that the Republican majority will show the country that it can govern.


For the first time since his election as Speaker of the House of     Representatives John Boehner is a free agent.  No one can now bring pressure or make demands on him.  He has about a month left to serve in this position and then he is retired from the House.  At the age of 65 he can go back to Ohio and actually retire if he so desires since he currently is estimated as having a net worth of about five million dollars and a generous retirement program from Congress, having served in the House since 1991, 24 years.


Instead, if he so desires, he can serve one or another large corporation as a lobbyist and earn additional millions of dollars.  Eric Cantor, when he lost the 2014 election to a more reactionary Tea Partier and was no longer Majority Leader of the Republican’s in the House, took a highly lucrative position earning over a million dollars a year.  Boehner can do the same thing.  The problem here is that once he takes the job he has to follow orders and he is lobbying for the interests of a large corporation.  This is not necessarily a good thing; it somehow resembles selling your soul for money.


On the other hand John Boehner can offer his services to a low dollar entity like the Catholic Bishops or to a people oriented enterprise like the movement to end violence against women.  There are many such organizations that would love to have his help as a Washington lobbyist.  He could get a great deal of fulfillment working for one or even several of these.


Besides keeping the government functioning how does Boehner’s retirement affect the House of Representatives?  First off many House Tea Partiers consider it a victory for themselves because he was never one of them.  He has occasionally played golf with President Obama, who they consider the enemy.  But the new Speaker will not be a Tea Partier; they don’t have enough votes for that.  Will they be able to control the new Speaker?  Will they be able to shut the government down in December of this year?  Presumably the Congressional Tea Partiers in the Senate would also like to get rid of Mitch McConnell, force him to resign from the Senate.  Among some conservatives there is a “Ditch Mitch” campaign.   Will they be able to do any of this?  If they were somehow to succeed in carrying out their nefarious agenda what will happen?  Those are interesting questions.


In my estimation if they were to succeed in any of this, particularly in a Presidential Election year they would probably discredit themselves, particularly the House of Representatives, before the voting public and could conceivably, even with gerrymandered voting districts and some suppressions of the vote, end up with a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.  John Boehner may have started a roller-coaster going with ever-increasing speed downhill for the Tea Party.  We will see where it ends.

Official portrait of United States House Speak...

Official portrait of United States House Speaker (R-Ohio). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)