The Coming Democratic Crackup

By Robert Parry
Global Research, May 17, 2016
Consortium News 16 May 2016
Region: USA
Theme: US NATO War Agenda
In-depth Report: U.S. Elections

DemocraticLogo-400x390If the Democratic Party presses ahead and nominates hawkish Hillary Clinton for President, it could recreate the conditions that caused the party to splinter in the late 1960s and early 1970s when anti-war and pro-war Democrats turned on one another and opened a path for decades of Republican dominance of the White House.

This new Democratic crackup could come as early as this fall if anti-war progressives refuse to rally behind Clinton because of her neoconservative foreign policy – thus infuriating Clinton’s backers – or it could happen in four years if Clinton wins the White House and implements her militaristic agenda, including expanding the U.S. war in Syria while continuing other wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya – and challenging Russia on its borders.

Clinton’s neocon policies in a prospective first term could generate a “peace” challenge similar to the youth-driven uprising against President Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War in 1968.

Indeed, in 2020, anti-war elements of the Democratic Party might see little choice but to seek a candidate willing to challenge an incumbent President Clinton much as Sen. Eugene McCarthy took on President Johnson, leading eventually to the chaotic and bloody Chicago convention, which in turn contributed to Richard Nixon’s narrow victory that fall.

Parry-Clinton-PanettaImage: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at NATO conference in Munich, Germany, Feb. 4, 2012. (Official Defense Department photo)

A difference between Johnson and Clinton, however, is that in 1964, LBJ ran as the “peace candidate” against the hawkish Republican Barry Goldwater (who incidentally was supported by a young Hillary Clinton), whereas in 2016, Clinton has made clear her warlike plans (albeit framing them in “humanitarian” terms).

After winning a landslide victory against Goldwater, Johnson reversed himself and plunged into the Vietnam War, fearing he otherwise might be blamed for “losing” Indochina. With Clinton, there’s no reason to expect a reversal since she’s made no secret about her plans for invading Syria under the guise of creating a “safe zone” and for confronting nuclear-armed Russia along its western borders, from Ukraine through the Baltic States. In her belligerent rhetoric, she has compared Russian President Vladimir Putin to Hitler.

Courting Bibi

Clinton also has vowed to take the U.S.-Israeli relationship to “the next level” by embracing right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who expects to convince President Hillary Clinton to end any détente with Iran and put the prospect of bombing Iran back on the table. Clinton would seem to be an easy sell.

Another feature of the LBJ-Hillary comparison is that the Democratic Party’s turn against the Vietnam War in the 1968 and 1972 campaigns prompted a collection of pro-war intellectuals to bolt the Democratic Party and align themselves with the Republicans, especially around Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Parry-NetanyahuImage: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on March 3, 2015. (Screen shot from CNN broadcast)

Those Democratic hawks became known as the neoconservatives and remained attached to the Republican Party for the next 35 years, eventually emerging as Official Washington’s foreign policy establishment. However, in some prominent cases (such as Robert Kagan), neocons are now switching over to Clinton because of the rise of Donald Trump, who rejects the neocon passion for interventionism.

In other words, just as Johnson’s Vietnam War escalation — and the resulting fierce opposition from anti-war Democrats — set in motion the neocons’ defection from the Democrats to the Republicans, Clinton’s enthusiasm for the Iraq War, her support for escalation of the Afghan War, and her scheming for “regime change” wars in Libya and Syria are bringing some neocon hawks back to their first nesting place in the Democratic Party.

But a President Clinton’s transformation of the Democratic Party into “an aggressive war party,” whereas under President Barack Obama it has been “a reluctant war party,” would force principled anti-war Democrats to stop making excuses and to start trying to expel Clinton’s neocon pro-war attitudes from the party.

Such an internecine battle over the party’s soul could deeply divide the Democrats between those supporting Clinton – as “the first woman president” and because of her liberal attitudes on gay rights and other social issues – and those opposing Clinton because of her desire to continue and expand America’s “perpetual wars.”

The Sanders Resistance

Some of that hostility is already playing out as Clinton backers express their anger at progressives who balk at lining up for Clinton’s long-delayed coronation parade. The stubborn support for Sen. Bernie Sanders, even after Clinton has seemingly locked up the Democratic nomination, is a forewarning of the nasty fight ahead.

Parry-SandersImage: Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

The prospects are that the animosities will get worse if Clinton loses in November – with many anti-war Democrats defecting or staying home thus infuriating the Hillary Democrats – or if Clinton were to win and begin implementing her neocon foreign policy agenda which will involve further demonizing “enemies” to justify “regime changes.”

If anti-war Democrats begin to resist, they can expect the Clinton-45 administration to stigmatize them as (fill-in-the-blank) “apologists” and “stooges” of “enemy” powers, much as happened to protesters against the Vietnam War and, more recently, to Americans who objected to such U.S. interventions as the Iraq War in 2003 and the Ukraine coup in 2014.

Yet, few Democratic strategists seem to be aware of this looming chasm between anti-war and pro-war Democrats. Many of these insiders seem to believe that the anti-war Democrats will simply fall in line behind Hillary Clinton out of fear and loathing for Donald Trump. That may be the case for many, but my conversations with anti-war activists suggest that a significant number will vote for a third party or might even go for Trump.

Meanwhile, most mainstream media commentators are focused on the divisions between the pro-Trump and anti-Trump Republicans, giving extensive TV coverage to various stop-Trump scenarios, even as many establishment Republicans begin to accommodate to Trump’s populist conquest of the party.

But it’s clear that some prominent Republicans, especially from the neocon camp, are unalterably opposed to Trump’s election in November, fearing that he will turn the GOP away from them and toward an “America First” perspective that would repudiate “regime change” interventions favored by Israel.

Thus, for many neocon Republicans, a Trump defeat is preferable to a Trump victory because his defeat would let them reclaim command of the party’s foreign policy infrastructure. They also could encourage President Clinton to pursue their neocon agenda – and watch as pro- and anti-war stresses rip apart the Democratic Party.

So, the establishment Democrats – with their grim determination to resuscitate Hillary Clinton’s nearly lifeless campaign – may be engaging in the political equivalent of whistling past the graveyard, as the ghosts of the party’s Vietnam War crackup hover over Election 2016.

[For more on this topic, see’s “Neocons and Neolibs: How ‘Dead’ Ideas Kill”; “Yes, Hillary Clinton Is a Neocon”; and “Would a Clinton Win Mean More Wars?”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon

The original source of this article is Consortium News
Copyright © Robert Parry, Consortium News, 2016

Posted by Ainhoa Aristizabal — Unruly Hearts editor

Why Bernie Sanders Should Stay in the Race – —and How He Can Win

By Kevin Zeese and Patrick Walker
Global Research, May 16, 2016
truthdig 13 May 2016
Region: USA
In-depth Report: U.S. Elections

Ainhoa Aristizabal — Unruly Hearts editor

Senator Bernie Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders

Make no mistake: Settling for Hillary Clinton means abandoning the political revolution that Bernie Sanders has inspired. It means unconditional surrender after overcoming many obstacles in a rigged primary. That’s why the revolution must continue through November and beyond, and the Vermont senator’s supporters must urge him to keep fighting.

The West Virginia primary on Tuesday illustrates why. After his victory there, Sanders wrote: “There is nothing I would like more than to take on and defeat Donald Trump, someone who must never become president of this country.”

Unfortunately, he is unlikely to get that opportunity from the Democratic Party. If Sanders does not remain in the race until the end, he will very likely be helping the Republican candidate. Why? Because nearly half of his voters in West Virginia said they would switch their vote to Trump in November. In fact, we will explain why the best way to prevent Trump from taking the Oval Office would be for Sanders to run on a ticket with Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate.

Sanders’ current plan is to get some of his policies into the unenforceable Democratic Party platform and then simply endorse Clinton for president. But because that platform is unenforceable, it will have little value and is belied by the reality that the Democrats serve big business.
Clinton has a long history of representing Wall Street, Wal-Mart, weapons makers and insurance companies. She is in many ways the opposite of Bernie Sanders. The CEOs on Wall Street—and even the Koch oil barons—want her as the nation’s chief executive because her vision and political views align so perfectly with their own. The global 1 percent will be relieved if, when the revolution ends, they are still in charge and the oligarchy lives on. We can’t let it end that way.

The Corrupt and Unfair Democratic Primaries

Sanders was an independent for more than three decades until joining the Democratic Party last year, and he knew going into the primaries that he would be fighting establishment Democrats who are closely tied to everything he opposes. No insurgent has won a Democratic primary since the current system of superdelegates was put in place in 1982 to stop them.


This year, that anti-insurgent system also included a plan to have a limited number of debates (and independent and third-party candidates are blocked from participating in them). The number of debates dropped from 25 in 2008 to less than half that numberthis election season—and many were scheduled at times when few voters would be able to watch them. Clinton gave in to pressure for more debates when she thought it was in her interest. Ironically, in each of those face-offs, Sanders at least argued Clinton to a draw, and many saw him as the victor. Thus, the debates did not stop his revolution; in many ways, they grew it.

Another part of the establishment’s anti-insurgent plan is to front-load the primaries and caucuses by having 39 states and territories vote all in the month of March. This strategy usually destroys insurgents because they do not have the money to compete with well-funded, big-business establishment candidates. The Sanders revolt overcame that obstacle by raising millions in small donations.

Closed primaries are also a feature of that anti-insurgent plan, disenfranchising millions of voters who don’t want to join the Democratic or Republican parties. More than 6 million people were deprived of such a vote in New York and Florida alone.

In addition to these anti-democratic tactics, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, was the national co-chair of Clinton’s 2008 campaign. Such an in-the-face conflict of interest shows audacious hubris, and the Democrats clearly thought that they could get away with anything to nominate Clinton. Wasserman Schultz has been consistently biased in Clinton’s favor, as indicated by her action to deny Sanders’ campaign access to the voter database just before the Iowa primary.

In August 2015, Clinton set up an agreement with 33 state Democratic parties for a joint fundraising agreement with the Hillary Victory Fund. This was before the first primary in a contested nomination. Not only was the DNC headed by a Clinton operative, but state parties were tied to Clinton’s fundraising, creating an unbreakable bond between her and the party. This allowed Clinton’s wealthy donors to multiply their donations astronomically. “A single donor, as Margot Kidder wrote at Counterpunch, “by giving $10,000 a year to each signatory state could legally give an extra $330,000 a year for two years to the Hillary Victory Fund.

“For each donor, this raised their individual legal cap on the Presidential campaign to $660,000 if given in both 2015 and 2016,” Kidder said. “And to one million, three hundred and 20 thousand dollars if an equal amount were also donated in their spouse’s name.”

Clinton’s superdelegates are chairs of key standing committees as well.

Sanders has complained to the DNC that the way these funds have been used violates federal election laws. He also wrote a letter to Wasserman Schultz, saying that she is tipping the scales for Clinton’s benefit.

Throughout the primary process, there have been voting irregularities. There are too many to review in this article, but they involved the erasing of voter registrations, an insufficient number of polling places, polls that opened late, and so on. In New York and Arizona where some of the worst problems were reported, investigations are ongoing.

Now, Sanders is heading into a Democratic Convention that is rigged against him, and he has more than enough reason to reconsider his previous plan to endorse Hillary Clinton. The 2016 election is historically unique and presents a perfect storm for an independent candidate. As a third-party candidate, Sanders could win the popular vote as well as the 270 electoral votes necessary to take the presidency—and his campaign would actually hurt, not help, Donald Trump.

Jill Stein of the Green Party has indicated that she is open to discussing how she can work with Sanders. By choosing her as his vice presidential running mate and becoming the Green Party nominee, Sanders could get on enough ballots to pose a solid independent challenge to two of the most unpopular major-party candidates in recent memory. It is a historic opportunity that should not be missed.

A General Election More Favorable to an Independent Than Ever Before

Sanders, the longest-serving independent in U.S. history, is well-positioned for a general election campaign because, for the first time, independents make up the largest group of voters. According to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 50 percent of Americans consider themselves independent, and fewer than 30 percent align with either major party. Only 21 percent identified as Republicans and 29 percent as Democrats. A 2015 Gallup poll similarly found that a record high number of Americans—43 percent—consider themselves to be independents.

Since 2008, many more Americans have come to reject the two-party system because voters recognize that both the Democratic and Republican parties represent the interests of big-business donors. Gallup also reports that 60 percent believe a third party is needed “because the Republican and Democratic parties ‘do such a poor job’ of representing the American people.”

In addition, Sanders’ views on the corruption of the American economy and other issues have become the national consensus. A 2015 poll found 83 percent agree and nearly 60 percent “strongly” agree that “the rules of the economy matter and the top 1 percent have used their influence to shape the rules of the economy to their advantage.”

Americans agree that policies enacted since the economic collapse have benefited Wall Street, big corporations and the wealthy—but not the poor and middle class. By a factor of 2-to-1, people in the United States oppose corporate trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and, by a factor of 3-to-1, believe that such deals destroy more jobs than they create.

Three-quarters of Republicans favor a steep rise in the minimum wage. Four out of five voters, including three-quarters of Republicans, want to expand Social Security benefits. On Sanders’ top issues—Wall Street regulation—pollster Celinda Lake reported that 91 percent of those asked agree that financial services and products must be regulated to ensure fairness for consumers. Lake also found that 79 percent agree that financial companies should be held accountable with tougher rules and enforcement for the practices that caused the financial crisis.

The influence of Wall Street on candidates is also near the top of voters’ minds, with 84 percent of likely 2016 voters saying that they are concerned and 64 percent indicating that they are very concerned. Majorities across party lines say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate or member of Congress who received large sums of campaign money from big banks and financial companies, and 72 percent of Democrats, 54 percent of independents and 52 percent of Republicans say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who favored tough rules on Wall Street to prevent irresponsible practices and abuses.

It is hard to imagine a better political climate for a Sanders-Stein general election campaign.

Sanders Would Be Running Against Unpopular Candidates From Divided Parties

Sanders, if he stays in the race, would be running against the two most disliked major-party nominees in history. Donald Trump is viewed favorably by just 24 percent of the voters and unfavorably by 57 percent, making him by far the least-liked major-party front-runner since CBS began tracking such ratings in 1984. Hillary Clinton is viewed favorably by 31 percent and unfavorably by 52 percent.

Sanders’ results are the opposite: His 48 percent favorability rating is by far the highest ever recorded. In the previous eight presidential cycles, there has never been a poll showing both major-party candidates with negative net-favorability ratings, let alone double-digit ones.

On top of that, Sanders would be running against two divided parties. The last two Republican presidents and the last two Republican presidential nominees have said they will not even attend the Republican National Convention, and House Speaker Paul Ryan has said he is not ready to support Trump. The Hill newspaper has published a list of the top 99 Republican leaders who do not support Trump, and a CNN/ORC poll shows that one-third of Republicans would be dissatisfied or upset if Trump becomes the nominee. Trump recognizes these deep divisions and is telling the media he does not need a united party.

Even the Koch brothers are saying that they prefer Clinton to Trump, and Clinton is embracing this development. The New York Times has reported that “Clinton’s campaign is repositioning itself, after a year of emphasizing liberal positions and focusing largely on minority voters” and is making “a striking turn … hoping to gain the support of Republican voters and party leaders including former elected officials and retired generals disillusioned by their party’s standard-bearer.” If Sanders endorses Clinton, she will have cover to move further to the right.

According to the Times, Clinton is “confident that the young people and liberals backing Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont will come around” to support her in November. But the reality is that the primary season has revealed a great divide within the Democratic Party. A McClatchy-Marist poll found that 25 percent of Sanders supporters will not vote for Clinton, and a Wall Street Journal poll found that 33 percent of Sanders supporters will not vote for Clinton. Many Sanders supporters describe her as Sanders’ opposite: He opposes Wall Street, and she is a Wall Street Democrat.

A Trump Victory May Be More Likely Without Sanders

The big fear is that a run by Sanders would result in a Republican victory for Donald Trump. People always hark back to the Gore-Bush-Nader race of 2000, but that is the mistake of fighting the last war and not the current one. (It is also a myth that Nader cost Gore the election.) Things have changed drastically in the 16 years since then. The risk of a Trump victory may actually increase if Sanders does not run.

In the Nader era, independents and the two parties almost equally divided the electorate. Now the two parties are below 30 percent (the Republicans at 21 percent), and independents are over 43 percent. Not only do fewer voters consider themselves Republicans or Democrats, but even many of those who do are not enthusiastic about their party or their likely nominees.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey found 7 percent of Sanders voters could see themselves supporting Trump. These Sanders supporters share a strong dislike of Hillary Clinton and see both Trump and Sanders as outsiders who understand their economic hardship.

Trump is now pursuing Sanders voters. According to AlterNet’s Steven Rosenfeld, Trump has “recited Sanders’ critique of trade deals, the Iraq war, Clinton’s Goldman-Sachs speeches, and even slammed Medicare prescription drug price gouging as he paints himself on the side of frustrated Americans.”

“As he said on the eve of Indiana’s primary,” Rosenfeld continued. “ ‘I think a lot of theBernie Sanders young people are going to join my campaign.’ ”

Trump may be right. “Forty-four percent of Sanders supporters surveyed said they would rather back the presumptive GOP nominee in November,” an exit poll after the West Virginia primary found, “with only 23 percent saying they’d support Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.” Moreover, “31 percent … would support neither candidate in the likely general election match-up.”

Without Sanders in the picture, Trump could run to Clinton’s left, broadening his support base and capitalizing on Clinton’s weaknesses. On Wall Street corruption, Trump will be able to say that he did not take funds from Wall Street while Clinton has. Trump hasproposed taxing Wall Street, whereas Clinton protects the investment class. Trump has come out for raising the minimum wage while Clinton has been slow and hesitant to support raising it to $15 an hour. Sanders has already taken these popular positions, making it harder for Trump to benefit from them if Sanders were in the race.

Even on the issue of militarism, where Clinton is weak, Trump has made some sensible statements against wars that contrast with Clinton’s militarist positions. Sanders has run to her left on Iraq, Libya, Syria and Israel, as well as on regime change and military engagement. Jill Stein would bring an even stronger view against intervention and militarism, leaving little room for Trump to take advantage of Hillary’s penchant for war, militarism and intervention.

The dynamic of the race would also be different if Sanders is running. Both Sanders and Clinton would have a common opponent in Trump, and each would echo the other’s criticism of him. Together, they could prevent Trump from growing his base of support.

Sanders-Stein Could Win 270 Electoral Votes

In April, after the New York primary results came in, Sanders described his winning coalition:

“The reason we are doing so much better against Republican candidates is that not only are we winning … Democratic votes, but we are winning independent votes and some Republican votes as well. That is a point I hope the delegates to the Democratic convention fully understand. In a general election, everyone—Democratic, independent and Republican—has the right to vote for president. The elections are not closed primaries.”

Sanders has defeated Trump by more than 14 points in the last 10 polls measuring who would win if they ran against each other. And Sanders and Clinton are neck and neckin national polls. Sanders, the most popular politician in the country, does best among independents and youth and is the strongest general election candidate.

Positive or negative ratings often determine the outcome of the election. Sanders is the only candidate who is generally viewed positively.

“Overall, a clear portrait of Sanders emerges that is different from those of the other candidates,” Gallup reported. “He has a generally positive image, wins on the ‘softer’ dimensions of leadership and is above all else seen as caring, enthusiastic and consistent.” Further, Sanders “does well across all the [leadership] dimensions, with a more even distribution of perceived leadership characteristics than is the case for the other candidates.”

In comparison, The Wall Street Journal found that 56 percent of both Trump and Clinton voters said they would cast their vote simply because they didn’t want the other candidate to win.

Sanders does better among independents, the new plurality that will decide the election, than Clinton or Trump. In the primaries, he beat Clinton among independents by 29 percent. She has done poorly with independent voters in the primaries thus far and has been unable to win the independent vote in any state other than Alabama.

New voters, especially young ones, are also likely to be a big factor in the outcome of the election, as a Harvard Institute of Politics poll shows. Jill Stein takes strong positions on college debt and tuition, even stronger than Sanders. She is calling for confronting youth tuition debt, not just the current cost of college.

The Sanders-Stein team would excite youth because its agenda would positively impact young people’s lives. While more difficult to reach, even the poor who have been disenfranchised by the two Wall Street parties may even see hope and come out to vote. Finally, Sanders-Stein could unite all the parties on the left, including Green, Socialist and Progressive parties.Sanders would also do well enough in polling to ensure the duo’s inclusion in the presidential debates.

Standing side-by-side with Clinton and Trump would position Sanders well and reach an audience of 60 million. Everything could change with those debates, and the legitimacy of the Sanders-Stein campaign would be solidified. Once people see their potential to win, their numbers would increase. Sanders has already built an impressive national organization of volunteers and donors, and his campaign as a Green Party candidate would be seen as viable by the media and by voters.The other claim being put forward is that no candidate would get 270 electoral votes and that the Republican-led House of Representatives would then decide the election.

History shows this is more fear than reality. As Lawrence Tribe and Thomas Rollins wrote in The Atlantic in 1980—when there was a similar fear that the Reagan-Carter-Anderson race would leave the decision to the House: “[E]xperience teaches that our fears may be more a product of reflex than reflection.”There have been many multi-candidate races in American history, but the last time the House decided the outcome was in 1877—and that was not even because of a multi-candidate race. In fact, the losing candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote. The result got pushed to the House because of fraud. Before that, the House stepped in in 1824, when we had a very different electoral system. Fast-forward to 1992, when Bill Clinton won 40 percent in a three-way race and got 270 electoral votes.

In the unlikely event that nobody received a majority of electoral votes, Clinton and Sanders could negotiate before the Electoral College voted on Dec. 15 and avoid a House decision. Tribe and Rollins wrote that “a candidate might simply persuade the electors chosen to support him on November 4 to cast their ballots for someone else. Indeed, electors could do so on their own, since the Constitution makes them free agents.”

Each candidate could ensure control of how his electors voted by signing a contract with them, as George Wallace did in 1968. Two days before the election, Nixon and Wallace were negotiating on the electors, but then Nixon won the Electoral College and no deal was needed. Imagine what a Sanders-Clinton negotiation could produce.

In the unlikely event that nobody received a majority of electoral votes, Clinton and Sanders could negotiate before the Electoral College voted on Dec. 15 and avoid a House decision. Tribe and Rollins wrote that “a candidate might simply persuade the electors chosen to support him on November 4 to cast their ballots for someone else. Indeed, electors could do so on their own, since the Constitution makes them free agents.”

Each candidate could ensure control of how his electors voted by signing a contract with them, as George Wallace did in 1968. Two days before the election, Nixon and Wallace were negotiating on the electors, but then Nixon won the Electoral College and no deal was needed. Imagine what a Sanders-Clinton negotiation could produce.

Sanders and Stein could be a coalition that could not only win a plurality of popular votes in a three-way race but could also win 270 electoral votes. (Here is one possible map of how Sanders could pull it off.)

Their campaign would also bolster the campaigns of progressives who are running for Congress and share the Sanders-Stein agenda; and it would open space for future independent party challenges to the corporate political duopoly.

The Path to Ballot Access Across the Nation

This late in the game, there is only one path to getting on the ballot across the nation, and it cannot be done by running as an independent. Sanders would need to create an alliance with the Green Party, which is currently on 21 ballots (including some of the largest and most difficult states) and is on a path to being on almost all ballots.

Twelve states have deadlines for ballot access for independent candidates before the Democratic National Convention, which will take place July 25-28. Some important states are in that group, including Florida, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas and Washington. By Aug. 15, 18 more states are due, among them California, Colorado, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Thus, it is impossible for Sanders to run an independent campaign after the Democratic National Convention.

But there is an alternative: Jill Stein, the presumptive nominee of the Green Party, wrote to Sanders after the New York primary to discuss “ways they and their campaigns could work together to win a progressive political revolution in the United States.” Stein sought to “have a conversation to explore possible collaboration, in this hour of unprecedented crisis and potential for transformative change.” In an interview with Dennis Trainor Jr., she said she would even be open to running as the vice presidential nominee if Sanders wanted the Green Party presidential nomination.

Sanders should meet with Jill Stein to determine where this could lead. Even if Sanders decides not to do anything further, meeting with Stein would strengthen his hand in negotiating with Clinton. The Democrats would then realize that Sanders has somewhere to go other than the Democratic Party, and the alternative path is consistent with his history as the longest-serving independent in the Congress.

Electing President Sanders

Those who want to see the Sanders campaign continue through Election Day need to urge Sanders to meet with Jill Stein and to not endorse Clinton. Sanders will only change course if he is pushed from the grass roots. In addition to massive petition, email and social media campaigns, people need to plan to come to the Democratic Convention and protest outside and inside, saying: “No Endorsement for Hillary” and “Sanders, Run Green.” If grass-roots activists succeed in doing so, the 2016 electoral revolution could end with President Sanders in the White House.

Patrick Walker, a veteran anti-fracking and Occupy Wall Street activist, is co-founder of Revolt Against Plutocracy and co-creator of the Bernie or Bust pledge, which spawned the nationwide Bernie or Bust movement. This article represents both his personal views and the official standpoint of Revolt Against Plutocracy.

Kevin Zeese has worked on multiple Green and independent campaigns, including as spokesman for Ralph Nader in 2004. Zeese is co-director of Popular Resistance, which grew out of the Occupy movement. This article represents his personal views.
The original source of this article is truthdig
Copyright © Kevin Zeese and Patrick Walker, truthdig, 2016

Ainhoa Aristizabal — Unruly Hearts editor

German Refugee Shelters Face Sexual Assault Problem


Cases of sexual assault in German refugee shelters are on the rise, with women and children facing the greatest danger. Despite pleas for help from the government, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition has done little to offer additional protections.

By Riham Alkousaa, Julia Klaus, Ann-Katrin Müller and Maximilian Popp

Diala Hasan was surprised by her attacker in the kitchen of the refugee hostel where she is staying. She was cooking rice with peas when a fellow resident from Macedonia suddenly appeared. He commanded her to “come to my room.” He then grabbed the young woman’s face with his thumb and index finger, pressing his body against hers. Hasan resisted and screamed. She was only able to free herself with great effort.

A few weeks after the attack, Hasan, a 17-year-old high school student from Damascus, is sitting on a stool in the asylum-seeker hostel in Bergisch Gladbach, a city located 15 kilometers (9 miles) east of Cologne. She is fiddling with two hand-made bracelets on her right arm. Her voice shakes as she talks about her life in the shelter. She says that she and her two sisters, nine-year-old Hala and 22-year-old Israa, have been repeatedly stared at and groped, and that male residents have hissed obscene comments at them. It happens in the courtyard, in the kitchen and in the hallways. One man kept coming into their room while she was sleeping.

Hasan doesn’t understand why the shelter administrators have done nothing about the assaults. Following the attack in the kitchen, police officers showed up at the hostel, but they only repeated what the guards had already said, Hasan says: Sorry, but without proof we can’t help you. It is a sentence that female refugees in Germany often hear.

More than 440,000 people applied for asylum in Germany last year, with roughly a third of them being women and girls. Their number has increased in recent months. According to a February estimate by the German Foreign Ministry, up to eight of 10 refugees on the Balkan Route were women and unaccompanied minors in the weeks preceding the report. They were hoping for a life in safety but were, like Diala Hasan, frequently disappointed. “Nobody helps us,” she says. “We are completely alone.”

The German government was unprepared for the extremely rapid rise in the number of asylum-seekers coming to the country in 2015. States and municipalities were forced to quickly find shelters for the new arrivals. Gymnasiums were emptied out to make room and former building supplies stores were hurriedly modified. More recently, the number of refugee arrivals has dropped significantly, providing the government with an opportunity to focus more on integration.

Failing to Provide Protection

But Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing coalition is failing to provide protection to exactly those people who need it most: women, children and minorities who have fled their homes. The government’s commissioner responsible for the issue of sexual violence against children, Johannes-Wilhelm Rörig, is currently dealing with 40 cases of sexual assault on children inside refugee hostels in recent months, including cases of rape and even genital mutilation performed on a small girl. The number of unreported cases, Rörig fears, is likely much higher: He says that many refugees are afraid of approaching the authorities due to worries that doing so may adversely affect their asylum applications. “How many cases are still needed before something changes?” he asks. “Fifty? One hundred? A thousand?”

Back in 2013, the EU issued a directive to member states requiring them to “take into consideration gender and age-specific concerns and the situation of vulnerable persons in relation to applicants within the premises and accommodation centers.” The directive also specifically mentioned “appropriate measures to prevent assault and gender-based violence” in addition to access to “psychological treatment or care.” Thus far, however, the German government has been ignoring the directive.

It’s not entirely for lack of trying. Last fall, the Family Ministry in Berlin proposed the inclusion of protections for women, children and minorities in a draft law addressing refugees and asylum-seekers in Germany. But the Interior Ministry, under the leadership of Thomas de Maizière, a member of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, removed the passage prior to the law’s approval early this year. The passage was allegedly struck so as to save German states from extra work. But Interior Ministry sources say the real reason was to discourage further refugees from coming by way of more restrictive asylum policies.

It is “despicable” that bureaucratic effort was used as an argument against providing better care to those in need of protection, says government commissioner Rörig. “Whether people are protected from sexual violence currently depends on chance and the commitment of individual people,” he says. Last fall, the European Commission opened an infringement case against Germany to address its lack of compliance with the Brussels directives.

Conditions in refugee hostels in Germany are intolerable for many women. Shorouk Kerd, a 21-year-old law student from Homs, Syria has lived for the past seven months in a former elementary school in Bielefeld together with her husband, Mohamad Ali Hamami, a 32-year-old carpenter. For almost their entire stay there, the couple shared a room with eight other refugees, only now have the others moved out. Plastic tarps serve as walls, the bathroom is three floors down, there is no kitchen and food is delivered. Up until just a few weeks ago, Kerd didn’t even have a bed and had to sleep on the floor. “I can hardly breathe here,” she says.

Battling Depression

Kerd is in her sixth month of pregnancy and is becoming worried about the baby. She already had one miscarriage shortly after her arrival in Germany. At the time, she was housed together with 300 people in a gymnasium in Bottrop.

Since she has lived in mass accommodations, she has had trouble sleeping and is battling depression and anxiety attacks. She only leaves her room in the company of her husband and says there are drunken refugees in the hallways at nighttime. Kerd says she has nobody to talk to about her problems and that only men work at the hostel. The director is a woman, but she is often unfriendly. The state has thus far not provided her with the services of a midwife for pregnancy care, saying that there are insufficient funds. In January, a doctor found that the couple badly needs their own apartment, but nothing has come of it.

Women are often victimized several times. Many of them experienced sexual violence in their home countries or during their flight to Europe — and now they are vulnerable once again in Germany. The spectrum of abuse ranges from pick-up lines paired with threats to groping and even rape. The lack of a private sphere is also a problem for the women: They are never alone. Many women only want to take off their headscarves behind closed doors, but there are none.

Little is known in Germany about the extent of violence against refugee women and there has been little research into the issue. In one of the few studies that has been undertaken, four out of five respondents said they had been the victims of psychological violence with every second woman saying they had suffered physical violence. The study is now more than 10 years old, but experts believe it is improbable that the numbers have sunk since then.

In addition to other refugees, the perpetrators also include security personnel, care-givers and volunteer helpers, all of whom can take advantage of existing structures to easily approach their victims. Institutions such as schools, boarding schools and daycares, where there are clear hierarchies of power, are considered to be particularly prone to violence and abuse, says Ursula Enders, head of Zartbitter, a center for victims of sexual violence in Cologne. Refugee hostels are also susceptible, she says. “It infuriates me that nothing is being done.”

Persecuted Minorities

In addition to women, minorities are also the victims of attacks. Boris Fadeyev relates how several men stormed into his room in a Berlin refugee hostel three months ago. One of them yelled: “Do you smell that? It stinks like shit here, you fag!”

Fadeyev, whose name has been changed for this article, is 33 years old and fled last year from Russia to Germany. He is gay and was persecuted back home because of it. His own father wanted to shoot him. “I came to Germany to find protection,” Fadeyev says. When his roommate in the refugee hostel, a Moldavian, found out that Fadeyev was homosexual, his problems started anew. His roommate insulted him and threw dishes at him.

Fadeyev says that nobody helped him, but he also didn’t lodge a complaint. “That would have only made it worse.” Fadeyev no longer felt safe in the hostel. Ultimately, a social worker found a spot for him in one of the few refugee shelters in Germany for gays, lesbians, transsexuals and bisexuals. Now, Fadeyev says, he feels free for the first time.

Experts like Heike Rabe from the German Institute for Human Rights have been demanding for months — in vain — the introduction of minimum standards for refugee hostels such as those that exist in youth hostels. Those demands include separate and lockable showers and bathrooms for men and women. Furthermore, Rabe says, hostel personnel must be trained in dealing with instances of sexual violence and women must be provided safe havens and support from social workers in addition to being better informed about their rights in Germany. Should they become victims of violence, Rabe says they must be quickly brought to a safe place. Currently, she complains, it takes too long for the authorities to react by, for example, sending perpetrators or victims to a different refugee hostel.

“The situation in the refugee shelters is bad in many places and indications of violence and sexual attacks are unfortunately on the rise,” says Ralf Kleindiek, state secretary in the German Family Ministry. In March, he sent a letter to Interior Minister de Maizière in which he proposed a compromise. German states, he suggested, should be encouraged to develop a plan for helping those refugees in particular need of protection.

‘Even War Is Better’

The Interior Ministry still hasn’t answered. When contacted, the ministry said it was examining the proposal but that responsibility lies with the states. According to his spokesman, de Maizière sees the need for action primarily when it comes to “the safety of asylum-seekers of the Christian faith.”

The Chancellery has likewise declined to address the issue. Angela Merkel recently rebuffed a request from the heads of Germany’s largest charity organizations for a nationwide law addressing the issue and said it was up to the states. In mid-April, leaders of the chancellor’s governing coalition intended to address the issue during a regularly scheduled meeting, but it was deferred. During the chancellor’s meeting with state governors just over two weeks ago, the issue didn’t even make it onto the agenda.

The Family Ministry has resorted to launching individual initiatives. Municipalities, for example, can apply for assistance from the KfW, a German government-owned development bank, should they wish to remodel their refugee hostels to address issues of violence and sexual assault. There is up to €€200 million available for such projects. Furthermore, UNICEF is to hold training sessions and distribute informational material in 100 refugee facilities. Also, child-friendly zones are to be established.

Thus far, nothing has changed in the refugee hostel where Diala Hasan lives. Hasan’s older sister suffered so much from the situation in the shelter that she tried to commit suicide. A security guard was able to save her at the last minute. The three sisters are now considering whether they should return to Syria. Diala Hasan says: “Even war is better than life here in the refugee shelter.”

Posted by Ainhoa Aristizabal — Unruly Hearts editor