Feminism is more than burning bras and not shaving your armpits. Being a feminist means demanding equal pay for equal work, taking charge of our bodies, gender freedom, ending domestic violence and rape culture, and crushing the all powerful patriarchy.

No, it does not mean we hate men, in fact many feminists actually are men! Yes, it does mean standing together with our sisters and trans sisters, but it does not mean bullying other women into thinking how we think and pushing our ideals on others.

I was offended when Gloria Steinem, a famous voice of the feminist movement, and Madeline Albright, the first female secretary of the state, said that any woman who doesn’t back Hilary Clinton is not a feminist. They went on to say that girls were just voting for Bernie Sanders because he was popular with men.

Albright said “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” She has famously used this phrase for other more appropriate situations in the past. “When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie,’ ” Ms. Steinem said.

In 1996, when Sanders faced Republican Susan Sweetser in a bid for re-election to the House, he found himself up against a female candidate. Then Gloria Steinem went to Vermont to endorse Sanders, saying in jest that she’d come to dub him “an honorary woman.”

Even though Bernie Sanders is a cis gender white male he is more of a feminist than Hilary Clinton. I feel the Bern because I did my homework, not because any boy told me to do so.

Women for Bernie
Feminists for Sanders in the Vermont Vanguard. Will You Vote for…Substance or Image? | Vanguard Press | Nov. 2, 1986

Hilary Clinton responded to the female criticism by saying “I have spent my entire adult life making sure that women are empowered to make their own choices—even if that choice is not to vote for me.” If Hilary does win the democratic nod I will still vote for her over any Republican, I do agree with her on some things and definitely don’t think she is as evil as the other side.

Feeling The Bern is a movement that will improve the lives of women. He supports paid maternity leave, calls on men to join in fighting the gender wage gap, and has always supported gay rights.

She stated that she would have supported the Defense of Marriage Act if she was in power and then only “evolved” to support gay marriage later in her career. I do not agree with her corporate strand of feminism and believe that in order for women or anyone to succeed in this country we need a democratic revolution and socialist overthrow.

Clinton has even accepted donations from countries that treat women terribly, while Sanders is being funded by the everyday people. Ideology is more important to me than gender.

I remember being 18, my first time voting. Candidates in the primary included Hilary Clinton and Barak Obama, a woman and a black man, holy shit. I stood in the booth and cried because I knew what kind of moment this was.

People fought for ME and that there was so much more to be done. Change is still brewing. There was a time where both women and people of color could not even vote let alone run for president. I thought of all the suffragettes and civil rights activists that fought for this basic human right.

Barack Obama got my vote that day just as Bernie Sanders will get my vote this coming election. I will never understand why so many young voters don’t show, every voice counts. We must educate ourselves and join together to take charge of our own future while fighting oppression. You can’t complain if you don’t vote.

Feminist Art
Feminist Art in The Brooklyn Museum

There is no answer to why humans judge others based on the color of their flesh, age, sex, orientation, or presentation. We must accept each other’s differences and appreciate unique beauty. Be the change you want to see and never tolerate ignorance or hate. Strive for peace, acceptance, freedom and above all else love. Sexism infiltrates all parts of life.

I was bartending last night and a man came in with two of his grown sons. He said to me early in the conversation ” Are you married?” I said no happily, still smiling, and told him that wasn’t in my cards. He then asked me if I wanted children, I laughed and said NO, “Oh that will change when you find the right man.”

WHAT? The smile was gone. No, I do not need to find the right man to complete my life, I don’t need anyone. I am perfectly happy with my cats and independence.

It was so ignorant for him to assume anything about my sexuality and throw his values on me. He was obviously religious and has money, he mentioned that he had eight children and it was the best thing in his life, especially now being older. I told him that over population was a real thing and I would have no part of it.

A moment later a man playing in the band said to two women sitting at the bar (who were obviously on a date with each other) “Why are these two lovely ladies sitting alone at the bar? Come on men! Take care of these lonely girls!” They looked at each other and said,”No, thank you!”

No woman should ever feel judged or unsafe. Protest the propaganda and spark inspiration and change. Stifle hate with beauty and truth. Be a feminist, a humanist, an informed voter, and a person who stands up for what is just. Make the world a better place to live in by taking an active part in its reconstruction. Choose your candidate based on their history and credentials, not their gender. Of course I want a female president, but it must be the right woman!

* Featured image Meredith Nierman/WGBH

It wasn’t long after news of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing hit social media on Saturday that we got an idea of what the Republicans were planning, courtesy of Conn Carroll, Communications Director for Senator Mike Lee of Utah:

This sentiment was echoed in much more nuanced terms by GOP Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz:

It is clear that the Republicans, who now control the US Senate, plan to block any Supreme Court nominations current President Barack Obama makes to replace Scalia on the bench. Their motivations are clear and it is possible for them to achieve this goal, with a little over a year to go before the next President is sworn in.

But if they do succeed in carrying out this plan, they may have wished they hadn’t. Nobody knows who the next President will be or which party will have a majority on the Senate.

Republican Dream Scenario is Just a Dream

The GOP is clearly hoping one of their own moves into the White House and nominates a right-leaning candidate which the Senate, still controlled by Republicans, quickly confirms. Now, I know that you have to approach an election with the attitude that you are going to win, but even GOP strategists must realize that their dream scenario is a bit of a longshot.

It’s extremely likely, thanks largely to gerrymandering, that the Republicans will still form the majority in the US House of Representatives, a body that has nothing to do with Supreme Court nominations. They have a likely, though not definite, chance of retaining control of the Senate, too, so there is a decent chance they will retain control of the confirmation process if they succeed in delaying.

When it comes to winning the Presidency, the odds are not in their favour. When a two-term President is still popular at the end of his second mandate, there’s a good chance his party will keep the Oval Office, for at least another term.

George W. Bush was extremely unpopular across the board when he left office, to the point that John McCain didn’t really want him helping out during the campaign. Obama is still loved or at least respected by most of those who voted for him and the people who hate him now hated him in 2008, too.

Also, the Democrats have narrowed their options to two and the debate is pretty much centered on how much to the left of Obama the party should go. The Republican field, on the other hand, is still wide open.

Factor this all in and the possibility of a Republican being able to nominate the next Supreme Court Justice, while not an impossible scenario, is not the likely scenario. So the question becomes: Why would the GOP gamble everything on a bet they very well may lose?

Irrational Fear of Obama or Playing to the Bigoted Base?

Despite all the rhetoric the right throws at him, President Obama is a solid practitioner of incrementalism. Anyone he nominates to the Supreme Court, though perhaps harboring a liberal bias on some issues, would be, by and large, a moderate. Not just that, but someone specifically selected to pass through confirmation by a majority Republican Senate.

us supreme court

FTB’s legal columnist Samantha Gold listed some of Obama’s potential choices. These are all qualified jurists who really don’t scream anything close to radical activist. One of them, David Jeremiah Barron, even once wrote a legal memo justifying drone strikes against US citizens. While this horrifies me, I don’t see why law and order “kill the terrorists at all costs” Republicans would have a problem.

What may make the GOP nervous about confirming some of these names? Could it be the names themselves? Sri Srinavasan and Jacqueline Hong-Ngoc Nguyen both have the qualifications to justify being on the SCOTUS, but they also both have names that don’t sound white, because they’re not. They also both weren’t born in the US.

None of this should matter, but it may matter to the more racist elements of the Republican base. We’re talking about people who care less about the fact that Srinavasan graduated from Stanford Law than the fact that he swore his oath to the circuit court on the Baghavad Gita instead of a Bible.

Now, of course the Republican Party can’t come out and say that racism played a role in their decision to force a delay in the nomination. What they can do, once it becomes widely known that the Thurmond Rule (what they are using currently to justify pushing the nomination to the next President) is not an actual rule and also doesn’t even apply until the last six months of a President’s term, is play the fear and hatred of Obama card.

It’s something they have mastered. Irrational paranoia over a moderate incrementalist. In this case, though, it may give them a result that will make approving an Obama nominee seem like the safe bet.

What Could Happen

Let’s look at a few hypothetical situations that could arise after the Senate Republicans delay filling Scalia’s seat until the next US President is sworn in:

  1. Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders is the next President and the Republicans still control the Senate: The list of potential nominees would be similar, though maybe not that drone supporter guy in the case of a Sanders presidency. All the Republicans accomplished was leaving the court deadlocked for a year with no purpose behind it.
  2. Clinton becomes President and the Democrats take control of the Senate: She could nominate some of these people but would be free to go with a judge decidedly more liberal.
  3. Sanders becomes President and the Democrats take control of the Senate: The Republicans freak out, call a lame duck session and try with all their waning power to confirm Obama’s nominee because they know Bernie won’t pick a moderate or even close!

Never mind the fact that the current Republican course of action has them completely and deliberately ignoring their constitutional responsibility to promote an illogical fear of Obama and appease the more racist elements of their base, it also has them throwing everything behind a bet there is a good chance they won’t win.

During the first Democratic Debate a few months ago, all the candidates were asked a rather simple question: “Black Lives Matter or All Lives Matter?” The moderator called on Bernie Sanders first and the Senator answered simply “Black Lives Matter” before addressing the issue of racial injustice in America.

While Hillary Clinton spoke of racism as well, she dodged the actual question, perhaps afraid to attach herself to a protest movement that mainstream white America wasn’t sure about. Sanders had no problem throwing his support behind Black Lives Matter that night and he still doesn’t.

On Thursday, his campaign released their latest ad, though you wouldn’t know it was a Sanders ad (aside from the logo in the bottom-right of the screen) for the first two minutes and 37 seconds of the 3 minute and 56 second spot. For most of the ad, Erica Garner talks about her daughter, fighting racism, her father Eric Garner who was murdered by police and her work with Black Lives Matter.

This is a very powerful and moving ad and one which flips the script on standard campaign advertising, making it more about the story of the person supporting the candidate than the politician. It is also rather slick and clearly professionally produced. This ad wasn’t made on the cheap.

It has now become clear that the hefty amount of small donations pouring into the Sanders campaign are being put to good use. Even if Bernie doesn’t become president or even win the Democratic nomination (though I really hope he does both), he is helping to spread the Black Lives Matter message in a way that only a well-funded presidential campaign can.

Bernie is putting the issues and the message first. Maybe that’s why Garner says in the video “I think Bernie is a protester.”

Panelists James Douglas and Niall Ricardo discuss the success of Bernie Sanders in the US Democratic Primaries, the state of the Montreal theatre scene and Roosh V, the so-called “pickup artist” who recently got doxxed and pretended to cancel a series of meet-ups. Plus an interview with Montreal feminist Katie Nelson who was part of a group who thwarted Roosh’s Montreal meetup, the Community Calendar and Predictions!

* Please note that this was recorded prior to the New Hampshire Primary

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau
Production Assistant: Enzo Sabbagha

Panelists

James DouglasMontreal theatre scene veteran, FTB contributor, member of the People’s Gospel Choir of Montreal

Niall Ricardo: FTB political columnist

* Katie Nelson interview by Jason C. McLean

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

As the news set in over Iowa yesterday, flashbacks of Monday night’s Democratic and Republican primaries were playing on loop on every TV screen in the state. The most amazing development, that made its way to every morning talk-show throughout the nation, is that Socialism and Social-Democratic ideals have taken center stage in a Democratic Primary for the first time since probably Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal agenda.

As Noam Chomsky said last week, Bernie Sanders is far from being a Marxist-Leninst in any way, unfortunately for the red-baiting  Clintonites and Republicans who would love to mark him as such, but his showing in Iowa is nothing short of revolutionary and it says a lot about the current shift within American society. This is manifest in the exhilarating progression of Sanders’ claim on the Democratic nomination and the way he went about opening up an avenue to victory.

From the day Bernie Sanders launched his presidential bid, it seemed by current standards he was doomed to run within an unequal playing field without any of the perks of the American political system such as private financing and Super PACs. But Bernie’s unorthodox take on politics went well beyond just political financing when faced with and compared to the “Trump insurgency” in the Republican camp.

Bernie took a completely divergent path. For every outlandish xenophobic comment Donald Trump made, the Sanders camp refocused their message on the profound class divisions that divide America and it seemed to hit a nerve.

Despite what some of Clinton’s most vocal supporters have stated in the past few weeks, Bernie is in fact the anti-Trump movement. Anti because he succeeds where Trump fails in giving a voice to the preoccupations of the American working-class, precarious youth, impoverished racialized communities throughout the United States and large swathes of marginalized Americans.

This is evident when you compare Trump and Sanders’ speeches last night. Trump’s was all form, no content. Sanders’ was a vision to channel frustration, to build on the anger, to convert it into hope. Where Trump’s populism is merely an orgy of  self-fulling masturbatory rage, Bernie converts the righteous indignation of his supporters over a rigged system and a broken economy into the energy that has fueled his rise. Where Trump’s support evaporates, Bernie’s support solidifies.

The foundation of the Bernie Sanders phenomenon resides in the fact that he has quite skillfully crafted a new gravitational center within the Democratic Party with new political reference points and mobilized a different political rhetoric using the symbols that had resonated with American during the Occupy Movement.

Bernie Sanders, like his Spanish counterparts in Podemos, understands that with left-wing populism rooted in concepts and mottos like the 99% versus the 1% and the have-alls versus have-nots, properly framing a new paradigm is essential to hatching a viable anti-establishment movement.

Marx, in the 19th century, spoke of the revolutionary subject, a concept that would influence Marxist and critical theory for decades. For Marx, writing from the deepest bowels of the European Industrial Revolution, the revolutionary subject of his age, on which all of his theory revolves, was the nascent European working-class. One of the most amazing developments yesterday, beyond the fact that a self proclaimed democratic socialist got 49.6% of the vote in an Iowan democratic primary, is the proof that the conceptualization of a new revolutionary subject in North American advanced capitalism isn’t a far-fetched idea.

The coalitions that led SYRIZA to victory last year in Greece and Podemos to victory in Spain, the political coalition that brought Evo Morales to power and the Venezuelan social movement at the backbone of the Bolivarian revolution, although existing within very distinctive sociopolitical environments, have striking parallels. Youth, urban poor and precarious minimum wage workers were at the forefront of these diverse movements.

What pushed the SYRIZA, Podemos and Latin American movements to seize power was that they broadened their horizons and political constellations. That will be the Bernie Sanders phenomenon’s ultimate test. Can this movement pick-up stream in South Carolina among African-American voters? Among Latino voters in Nevada?

Bernie needs to break the Clinton hegemony in these groups and truly integrate questions of racial justice and speak to the issues that affect women and women of colour in particular. He must tackle the hypocritical idea that a candidate financed by America’s biggest financial institutions, those which maintain a corporate patriarchal system with obscene levels of pay inequality and back up the prison-industrial complex, is somehow more apt to speak on issues of gender and race inequality.

While the shockwaves Bernie sent right through the spine of the Democratic National Committee are marvelous for us left of center spectators, the real landmark accomplishment is that a whole generation of Iowa caucus goers identified a self-proclaimed socialist as their champion. For the political left in Canada, Bernie’s showing in Iowa and his campaign in general is a call for us to re-think our strategy.

A while back, after SYRIZA’s victory in Greece, the Tyee featured an article that begged the question: “Is a Canadian SYRIZA possible?” I don’t know if it is, or even if that’s what we should want, knowing what happened to them. A Bernie Sanders-type movement, however is possible in Canada.

The success of Bernie’s brand of nominal Socialism is reason for some on the Canadian left to reconsider their so-called third-way-ism, but beyond that Bernie’s tackling of Clinton can give us ideas on how to tackle the fluffy progressiveness of the Liberals. Also, his polarization of the political debate can teach us how redefine the political debate here in Canada, allowing the emergence of a true left-wing, right-wing divide.

We have a lot learn from Bernie’s emergence within the saturated American political spectrum.

A luta continua

Thanks to the confluence of fracturing geopolitics and disenchantment with all things Capital, the blizzardy state of Iowa is something of a hot treat for us Canucks.

We’ve won cushy first row seats, been served a thrilling crescendo to the presidential Primaries, eleven months in the making, now just hours to first eruption.

Northern Naivété

The treat, I argue, lies not despite, rather in spite of, our Canadian naivété. For when it comes to all things Electoral College, it will only backfire to ask questions. Do not ask your US friends to Statesplain the arcane Electoral College inner workings to your pure Northern mind. You’ll just get confused, then pissed, then broken, when it comes to the pleasure of this tragi-comedy from the vantage of our comfortable perch.

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 1.23.00 AM

Is it somewhat grotesque to play dumb, to simply sit back & revel? Certainly. Yet grotesquerie is not evil; what’s more the Presidential run-up is structured in part upon the blueprint of the spectacular, in which the latter must exist as precondition. If we can breathe once in awhile and enjoy our complicity as spectators, it’s time to practice some pleasurable gratitude.

The items on the menu we’re treated seem worth it. This 15-strong (previously 25) straight out of central casting.

Tragicomedies

The most adrenaline viewing experience can sometimes come from uncovering the latest cult B-movie relic or the season’s first sleeper hit.

Carson-Attkisson-2

They do have the quality of folk in some quickly drafted spec script, long buried in the unread pile.

  • The billionaire with the gold-plated private jet (who, in case you missed it, our real life version literally invited kids under 10 years old to ‘go run through the jet’ yesterday, ‘without your parents’)
  • The disheveled, grandfatherly, somewhat too-Brooklyn sounding socialist (who, in true 60s Hollywood form, is vaguely, culturally Jewish, never overt).
  • The loopy (okay, Ambien-laden) professor who supposedly once saved humanity, yet somehow cannot process everyday verbal cues.
  • Finally, of course, the brusk, unwavering Bible-thumper. Who is unwavering. In his commitment. To being…unwavering (see this)

If Canadians (like me) remain baffled at the disproportionate frenzy over puny Iowa & New Hampshire, states without major cities whose combined population totals less than 1% of US, it’s best to stay baffled.

Don’t seek clarity. Don’t ask questions. Don’t analyze.

Yet don’t minimize it.

I won’t pretend to enlighten you. Yet beyond its importance as an early voting state, the esoteric ethos of Iowa’s importance might be summed up in one 1976 anecdote (given my record of posting here, you may not be shocked that it happens to involve cooking, television and food)

You see, there was one sleeper candidate, not a serious contender, who said things like:

jimmy-carter-iowa-1976-ap

 

“The people of this country…want a fresh face, not one associated with a long series of mistakes made at the White House and on Capitol Hill.” (Source: The Atlantic)

The startling resonance of this statement with 2016’s anti-establishment candidates is clear; yet it’s important to know that it’s orator, Jimmy Carter, was at the time virtually unknown in the North.

So beyond soundbites like these, Carter had to pound the pavement hard in the Buckeye state, attempting to leverage the character-driven canvassing in this early state. There was time for platforms and talking points and endorsments and debates all year long.

Iowa, buoyed by new rules in the College process, was about human to human judgment; hoards of Iowans in a sense doing a solid for their compatriots, by suspiciously eyeing up the humanity, character and nature as leader.

His performance, as outlined in a recent The Atlantic piece, became legendary, securing him the shocking second-place finish—later, the nomination, the Presidency.

Like marinating fish in pan

Yet the pavement pounding involved one true kicker (to me): something so simple all it required was some fish and a pan. Carter’s Iowa morning cooking show appearance has, to my knowledge, never since been repeated in Primary mania: shocking given its simple and symbolic reach.

During one early morning interview on a local television station, Carter embraced the politics of personality when he dressed up in an apron and chef hat to show to audiences how he liked to cook fillets of fish. He talked about the way he would slice the fish and how he liked to marinate them overnight. The appearance was a smash hit.

(Source: The Atlantic)

 

If the Iowa primary is the way to the White House, and food is the way to human Iowan hearts, it’s shocking that other candidates, especially in this magnanimous era of food TV, haven’t done it.

So help these poor candidates out. What do you think Bernie or Marco should prepare? Drop us your fave below or use twitter (@ForgetTheBox@JoshDavidson)

Poll

My picks:

  • Cake Wars, Episode 19, ‘Sweet Revenge,’ feat. Jeb Bush vs. Hilary Clinton
  • Worst Cooks in America: Bernie Sanders gets his salami sandwich creation critiqued by Anne Burell
  • Guy’s Off the Hook, Episode 999: Guy Fieri gets up to some zany antics in the church kitchen w Ted Cruz

Bonus

If you must, you can chomp on some competition basics, for I’ll concede that even cooking competition shows get enhanced by the viewer grabbing hold of key rules.

Why Iowa, NH & SC matter, explained by a Canadian:

  • The early states are early. So they come first. Early risers get worms. These states set the tone for the rest
  • Early state importance has risen since 1976, not just due to performances like Carter’s. It’s also thanks to the exponential rise in our reliance on polling when it comes for our own decision
  • Iowans sport an inordinate amount of family diners, which the US constitution dictates must be used for “everyman” PR poses by candidates. Cash-strapped campaign teams also benefit from cheap hearty fuel (and supposedly the nation’s best hashbrowns)
  • Since New Hampshire motorcycle riders do not wear helmets, candidates long ago began to feel an obligation to solicit their votes early, in case of later hospital overcrowding

Last night, Donald Trump took his travelling Muslim-bashing, racist-baiting, headline-grabbing roadshow to a place that few probably expected it would go: the Flynn Center in Burlington, Vermont. The Burlington Free Press has a rather thorough report on all the turmoil and protest the event caused and screening tactics at the door.

What it didn’t touch on, though, is why Trump made the trip in the first place. Why would a Republican front-runner, still trying to get the party’s nomination, spend a Thursday evening campaigning in a state that has voted Democrat in presidential elections since 1992? In Burlington, of all places. A city so much to the political left that local power is split between the Democrats and the farther left Vermont Progressive Party.

Does he want to show GOP voters that he is the candidate who can, finally, flip those three Electoral College votes Vermont has? Doubtful. Most likely, he is thinking beyond the primaries to the General Election and trying to prove to Republicans that he can have an impact in the hometown and home state of his future opponent Bernie Sanders.

But wait, I thought Hillary Clinton was a lock for the Democratic nomination. That’s what all mainstream and even some of the larger internet media sources have been telling us for months, after all.

I have been skeptical of those assurances as thousands of people across the US have been flocking to Sanders rallies in several states. Meanwhile Bernie has been showing up on mainstream talk shows, maintaining support from his base of unions, and getting endorsements from the likes of Seth MacFarlaine.

While those controlling the Democratic Party and their well-placed media friends want everyone to think it will be a Hillary landslide, people on the ground probably know better. The Trump Campaign may have figured out just who the opponent will most likely be and have sent their candidate into the lion’s den rather early in the game.

Yes, Donald Trump is an idiot, but his strategists know a thing or two about politics. They know how to grab headlines and they probably know who Republicans think the Democratic nominee will be.

Now, to play Devil’s Advocate, maybe this move was an attempt by the Trump Campaign to help make Bernie his opponent. That doesn’t make sense if you look at the polls that say Sanders would clearly beat Trump in a general election. Also, the media hardly touched this event, the same media that loves to report on anything the Donald does.

If you need proof that Bernie Sanders is the Democratic candidate to beat in the primaries, you have it. Donald Trump just campaigned in Vermont.

Our 16th podcast is our holiday/2015 Year-in-Review Special. Regualr panelists Jerry Gabriel and Josh Davidson discuss some of the top events and stories of 2015 including the Canadian Election and the rise of Justin Trudeau, Just for Laughs, the Quebec anti-austerity movement and police repression, Bernie, Hillary and Trump, the Montreal music scene and more! Plus the Community Calendar, Sergakis Report and Predictions for 2016!

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau

Panelists

Jerry Gabriel: FTB contributor

Josh DavidsonFTB food columnist

FTB Podcast also available on iTunes

FTB Podcast: 2015 Year-In-Review Special by Forget The Box on Mixcloud

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

Panelists Quiet Mike, Josh Davidson and Jerry Gabriel discuss our new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the defeat of the NDP and the overall results of the Canadian Election and Bernie Sanders and the US Democratic Debate. Plus a Sergakis Update and Predictions.

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau

Panelists

Quiet Mike: Editor-in-Chief of and columnist on QuietMike.org

Josh Davidson: FTB food columnist

Jerry Gabriel: FTB contributor

* Please note: This podcast was recorded prior to the events in Paris

FTB Podcast #13: Canadian Election Results, Bernie Sanders and Sergakis Update by Forget The Box on Mixcloud

FTB Podcast also available on iTunes

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

Did you catch the Democratic US Presidential Debate, or #DemDebate as Twitter chose to call it? I did. As a Canadian drowning in niqabs and other manufactured scandals pouring out of our current federal election, I have to admit I’m a little bit jealous.

Yes, by and large, American politics is unabashedly a circus. Presidential debates, especially those which happen before the primaries, remind me of WWE wrestling: cheering crowds, commercial breaks and people verbally bashing each other over the head with the steel chair of scandal.

The Republican debates this year have been just that. Ridiculous displays of soundbite-based one-upmanship. And that’s even before you factor in Trump.

What I witnessed from the Democrats, though, was a horse of a different colour. Sure, there were the commercial breaks and the cheering crowds, but the discourse, for the most part, was civil and issue-based.

The candidates genuinely seemed to be arguing their case and sticking to topics which mattered. A sharp contrast not only to the GOP but to our recent Federal Leaders’ Debates here in Canada.

The most beautiful moment, for me, was when Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton were discussing, not arguing, discussing, the benefits of democratic socialism versus those of capitalism:

While politicians here are afraid of the word socialism (just as American politicians were, well, up until Tuesday), we see it being discussed rationally as an opposition to the dominant economic theory on prime-time American TV in front of millions.

Wow, just wow. The times they are a changing, I guess. Just didn’t thing that ‘Murica would be leading the way. Anyways, back to the debate and my thoughts on it:

The Winner: Bernie Sanders

I’ll admit, I’m a little biased towards the lovably progressive democratic socialist Vermont Senator, but in my honest opinion, he really did win this debate. His best moment came not at the expense of, but in defense of, Hillary Clinton.

When moderator Anderson Cooper asked the former Secretary of State about the so-called Email Scandal, she responded that she was going to testify as she had nothing to hide, but felt the whole thing was a little too partisan and a distraction. While her defense was good, it was nothing like what Sanders had to offer on the subject. Enjoy:

Taking his opponent’s side in such a way may not have been “good politics” in the traditional sense, but it worked great for him politically. He came across as genuine and passionately concerned about real issues even if it meant destroying criticism of a political rival.

Another strong moment came when all the candidates were asked the simple question “black lives matter or all lives matter?” Cooper called on Sanders first and he responded by saying simply and clearly “black lives matter” before explaining his plans to combat racial injustice. When it was Clinton’s turn, she spoke about racial inequality but never answered the question that was posed.

When Cooper asked Sanders about how an admitted democratic socialist could possibly become president given a poll that said 50% of Americans would never vote for a socialist, the senator said it was by explaining to the public just what democratic socialism was. He then did just that, using talking points from his campaign which didn’t sound too different from much of what the American left has been saying for the past few years.

Sanders’ one weak point in the Democratic primaries will be his record on guns. That became quite apparent at the debate.

Explaining that he was a senator from a largely rural state, he defended some of his previous votes against various forms of gun control in a way that may appease some of the Democratic base, but not all of it. However, for those thinking strategically, if he becomes the nominee, his gun record may help him win over some Republicans and independents in a general election.

Close Runner Up: Hillary Clinton

The presumptive Democratic nominee since a few days after Obama won his second term in late 2012, Hillary Clinton didn’t disappoint. She was confident and sharp and relied on her experience.

Most of the mainstream media declared Clinton the victor and CNN even prepared this video of her best moments:

She was also dismissive when she needed to be. Following the exchange between Clinton and Sanders on the so-called Email Scandal, Cooper called on Lincoln Chafee who had made this issue one of his talking points. Chafee reiterated his views that it was a sign of poor judgement on her part and Cooper asked Clinton if she wanted to respond. She simply said “no” to raucous applause.

Clinton did well, but her biggest drawback may be her record. This came up quite a few times in the debate. Unlike Sanders who was criticized for one issue alone, guns, Clinton had to answer for her vote in favour of the Iraq war which she now says was a mistake, her previous support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership which she now opposes and more.

She handled it well, citing one-time opponent and critic of her Iraq war vote President Barack Obama’s confidence in her judgement demonstrated by appointing her Secretary of State. She also argued that everyone on the stage had changed positions on something.

Now that she is positioning herself as a progressive candidate, will that be enough when Bernie Sanders has a better record on most progressive issues? Time will tell.

The Losers: The Three Other Guys on the Stage

Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb, and Lincoln Chafee, this was your one chance to come out of obscurity (I had to Google your names even after watching the debate) and have an impact on the campaign and you all blew it. For the most part, you seemed likeable and doing this for the right reasons and helped keep the debate cordial, but it’s not enough.

I’m a champion of the underdogs, but in this case, none of you three warrants championing. I’m not sure if the nominee will be Sanders or Clinton, but I am sure it will either be Sanders or Clinton. Even if Vice President Joe Biden enters the race, he will only help one of those two and hurt the other.

I’m sure people are now thinking about the prospect of a Democratic ticket with the two frontrunners on it. The only question being whose name will be on top.

The only question for me is when will Canadian debates catch up.

This post originally appeared on QuietMike.org and is republished here with permission from the author

Politics in the Great White North has often been referred to by Americans as boring, dull and uninteresting. This widely held opinion also extends to Canada’s national elections; they are too short and too civil. Canadians even take pride in these facts. “At least we aren’t as crazy as those damn Yankees,” we would say.

Canadian politics, the elections in particular, are indeed mind-numbing and tedious. More so when you take into account we are midway through the longest election campaign in modern Canadian history. A month in and I’m ready for bed already. Speaking as seasoned follower and analyst of politics in general, I feel election forty-two is missing a great deal of fire so far.

What makes this campaign season so epically dismal isn’t the lack of money being spent on campaigns or the amount of attack ads on TV, it isn’t even the issues themselves (although they aren’t helping), it is the uninspiring party leaders who are at fault.

Not an Inspiring Bunch

There are four real parties running candidates throughout Canada this fall, three of whom, who as of now, have a shot at winning. The main three, the Conservatives, the Liberals and the New Democrats are in a virtual three way tie. Elizabeth May‘s Greens are still a distant fourth.

First off you have Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party. Harper had a terrible first month on the campaign trail. Harper had to endure the fallout from the Mike Duffy trial as well the struggling economy which is now in official recession. His handling of the death of a 3-year-old Syrian refugee didn’t help.

harper trudeau mulcair

On the Campaign trail Harper has gone into hiding. He has employed his “chickenshit strategy” where candidates have reportedly been urged to skip debates and avoid the media. Harper himself has already promised to skip the English broadcasters’ debate. Even though the Conservatives are running their campaign as a party on the way out, they can still win.

Next we have Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party. The young Mr. Trudeau reminds me of an inexperienced Hillary Clinton. For the last decade, the Liberal party has gone after the centrist vote, driving down the middle of the road on social issues (except marijuana legalization) and on the right on economic issues.

Under Trudeau, it appears Liberal strategy has not changed and again, it’s not really working. Being the centrist party also means you take the brunt of attacks from conservatives and NDP, all three of whom are sucking up to voters who don’t really follow politics.

Last we have Tom Mulcair’s New Democratic Party (NDP). Tom is an ex Quebec Liberal and it shows. The NDP used to be known for its socialist leanings, but not anymore. Now it seems they are just another Liberal Party without the experience. A socialist party in favor of the TPP agreement? Really?

Playing it Safe and Boring

The three political parties at the top, while different, are all playing it safe catering to the same middle of the road voters and as a consequence boring the crap out of everyone. The problem is, the political ideology of Canadians does not lie at the center.

Last week, before the refugee story started to emerge, the media was fixated for days on which party leader wanted to balance the budget. Trudeau would run a short term deficit to turn the economy around while Mulcair and Harper would balance the budget at all costs. And you wonder why Canadian politics is boring?

Balancing the budget, while important, is not the most pressing economic issue of our time and it would be nice to stop pretending it is. Like the United States, and following a decade of Harpernomics, income inequality should be front and center, but no… Canada’s Middle Class is strong, but inequality is skyrocketing.

Canadians don’t care about the trial of a corrupt senator they can’t relate to, it’s certainly not going to change which way they vote. They don’t care about deficits if they can’t find work. Nor do they care which party leader is more ready to lead. They’re all ready or they wouldn’t be running. Uh, yawn.

Canada’s party leaders could learn a lesson from the man shaking up his party and scorching the campaign trail south of the border. Someone who is lighting a fire under the asses of the electorate and bringing important issues to the forefront of people’s minds.

Searching for Sanders

No, it isn’t Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. There is a big difference between bringing excitement and bringing in TV ratings. American Senator Bernie Sanders, the proud socialist from Vermont, has been packing them in by the thousands for months now. And he’s done so by campaigning on the economic issues that common people can relate to. He is bringing a sense of hope and passion to U.S. politics that Canadians can only dream of.

Granted, aside from wealth inequality, Canadians don’t have the same problems Americans have, but that is no reason not to be passionate about the policies you care about and the future of your country.

Canadians saw that passion once, in another proud socialist. Four years before Americans were feeling the Bern, the late Jack Layton of the NDP was giving us the Orange Crush. Layton’s New Democrats gave the Liberal Party their greatest defeat in Canadian history. He did it by galvanizing the population by campaigning on the left.

If you want votes, you need to get people talking. No one did it better than Layton who took the NDP from virtual obscurity to official opposition. If he were still alive today, there is no doubt in my mind the NDP would be miles ahead of the pack.

Alas, we can only dream. Those days seem dead and gone. What we are left with is lesser men fighting it out over lesser policy and they wonder why only 60% of the country votes. I’m still going to vote, but it looks like it won’t be for any of these Prince Valiums.

I’ll be waiting for the Canadian Bernie Sanders to finally whisk me off my feet. They’ll be passionate about wealth inequality, the environment, health care and aboriginal rights. They’ll speak out about bogus trade deals, and shameful foreign policy. Lastly, they’ll be able to communicate their message so well that the corporate media will have no choice but to listen and talk about them. I’m looking at you Elizabeth.

President Bernie Sanders. Something that a few months ago only seemed possible to progressives sitting around in a bar after a few pints. Everyone else either thought his candidacy was a joke or something that could, at best, move the discourse more to the left.

Now, after rallies attended in the thousands, celebrity endorsements from, among others, Neil Young and Sarah Silverman and a social media love affair reminiscent of an Obama campaign, it’s looking more and more like a possibility. American politics may #feelthebern in 2016.

Donald Trump Makes it Possible

Sanders announced his campaign with a brief preceeding statement explaining that he wanted to keep it short because he had “things to do.” This afterthought approach along with the candidate’s unkempt hair blowing in the wind was comedic fodder for Jon Stewart and others at the time. It also made it clear that Sanders wasn’t a conventional presidential candidate.

With Jeb Bush looking to take the Republican nomination, a conventional Democrat seemed the likely choice to put forward as an opponent. But strange things tend to happen in American politics. Now Bush is running second to a man who is equally as unlikely a choice for President as Sanders but has much worse hair: Donald Trump.

You want to beat a Bush, run a Clinton. You want to beat a bragging uber-capitalist with white supremacist supporters, run a no-frills socialist who marched with Dr. King. It’s the logical choice.

Neither candidate can be bought, but Trump already sold out years ago, or rather became who politicians sell out to.

But it’s Hillary’s Turn!

Photograph by Keith Kissel
Photograph by Keith Kissel via Flickr Creative Commons

Hillary Clinton running as the Democratic candidate has seemed like a foregone conclusion since Obama’s re-election and still does in many ways. The mainstream media still thinks it will be her and you’d better believe party heavyweights and their financial backers still hope it’ll be her as well.

It’s her turn, after all. But then again, it was supposed to be her turn in 2008.

But that’s when a young upstart named Barack Obama came out of nowhere, won the nomination and routed the Republicans in the general election. So the Dems don’t mind backing another horse if that’s where the winds are blowing. But is popular support this time enough for them to deny Hillary a second time?

Winning is One Thing…

Barack Obama offered Hope and Change, which the Dems were fine with. That’s primarily because his change didn’t include changing where the money comes from.

While Obama’s donors included (and Clinton’s include) all the usual suspects from Wall Street, Sanders has unions and individuals supporting him financially. This is one of the reasons true progressives are drawn to him, but it’s also why Democratic Party power brokers will probably shy away.

Photograph by Marc Nozell vie Flickr Creative Commons
Photograph by Marc Nozell vie Flickr Creative Commons

Not only that, he is a democratic socialist and proud to be one. No matter how much Tea Party idiots want to believe it, Obama wasn’t. He’s from the Chicago School of Economics.

So the real question is, can the Democratic establishment put aside their vested financial interests and back a candidate who can win, but on his own terms? Or will they back Hillary at all costs?

Not #RonPaul2016

It may be easy to draw some parallels between Sanders and former upstart candidate Ron Paul. Both decided to run on major party tickets even though they didn’t really fit the party mould, both were hashtag-ready candidacies championed by the internet and both wanted to scale back the US military. Other than that, though, they couldn’t be farther apart.

Sanders isn’t an unconventional Democrat the way Paul was an unconventional Republican. He’s an independent, and has sat in the US House of Representatives and then the US Sentate as one since 1991. But instead of running for President as such like Ralph Nader did, he’s setting himself up to get major party backing and guarantee himself a spot in televised presidential debates.

Photograph by Gage Skidmore via Flickr Creative Commons
Photograph by Gage Skidmore via Flickr Creative Commons

It’s an upstart grassroots campaign amplified online, but with the intelligence of a seasoned pro and a way to win. If the powers-that-be in the Democratic Party don’t want him, just make sure enough independents register as democrats and vote in the primaries. Think of it as people using the Democratic Party as a means to an end instead of corporate donors doing exactly the same thing.

Mix popular appeal, intelligence, a bit of luck, and a horrid opponent together and we may have all the ingredients necessary for Bernie Sanders to become the next President of the United States.