Sick Bern: Bernie Sanders’ tweet cost Ariad Pharmaceuticals $387 million

Published: Salon (October 17, 2016)

With a single tweet, Sen. Bernie Sanders has cost Ariad Pharmaceuticals $387 million.

The article retweeted by Sanders was from Stat, a publication that specializes in covering health and medical news. It reported that, since the beginning of the year, Ariad has raised the price of its Iclusig chronic myeloid leukemia treatment by 27 percent. The drug now has a pre-rebate list price of $16,560 a month, or almost $199,000 a year. Even worse for Ariad’s image (to say nothing of consumers), this isn’t the first time they raised the price on that drug, having done so twice last year.

As a result of Sanders’ tweet, Ariad stock ended the day down by 14.8 percent, falling to $11.14 a share. In a statement, Ariad argued that “our pricing reflects our significant investment in R&D, our commitment to the very small, ultra orphan cancer patient populations that we serve and the associated risk with research and development.”

This isn’t the first time a Democratic presidential hopeful has hurt Big Pharma’s bottom line by criticizing unfair practices. In August, Hillary Clinton caused Mylan NV’s shares to fall by 6.2 percent within minutes of calling for them to lower their prices for EpiPens. Then in September, she drove down the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index by tweeting: “Price gouging like this in the specialty drug market is outrageous. Tomorrow I’ll lay out a plan to take it on.” It has also been reported that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has negatively impacted biotech stocks, as his perceived weaknesses as a candidate makes more likely that Clinton will be elected and implement reforms on the industry. Her plan for lowering drug costs includes allowing Medicare to negotiate them down and not allowing pharmaceutical companies to spend government grants on advertising.

The Moral Case for Hillary Clinton

Published: Salon (July 31, 2016), The Good Men Project (July 26, 2016)

“What would it take for you to vote for a third-party candidate?”

This question was posed to me by a good friend who, after supporting Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential campaign, became so disenchanted with the political process that he backed Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson in 2012 (not surprisingly, he plans on doing so again this year). Because I’m a progressive and he’s a libertarian, we naturally don’t see eye-to-eye on many policy issues. Nevertheless, he respects those differences of opinion as healthy and productive. What he doesn’t seem to respect, though, is my determination to vote for Hillary Clinton instead of a candidate who better reflects my own values – be it by supporting Green Party candidate Jill Stein or writing in Bernie Sanders, my personal choice during the primaries.

In light of the leaked DNC emails which prove that the Democratic establishment was actively biased toward Clinton, it may seem more difficult than ever to justify supporting that party’s ticket. Nevertheless, there is a strong moral argument for doing so, one that has never been effectively rebutted by anyone in my professional or personal life:

Presidential elections aren’t just about principles; they’re about human lives.

Perhaps my perspective is skewed by my academic career (four years studying American history tends to impact how a person views contemporary political events), but when I look at the choice between Clinton and Trump, I can’t help but think of how life would be better today if similar elections from the past had turned out differently. If Hubert Humphrey or George McGovern had defeated Richard Nixon, America would have been spared the trauma of Watergate. Had Jimmy Carter thwarted Ronald Reagan in 1980, we wouldn’t have had weaker labor unions and thus rising income inequality over the past third-of-a-century. Most famously, if only a few thousand votes in New Hampshire or Florida had voted for Al Gore instead of George W. Bush, we could have avoided the second Iraq War and had tax cuts that focused on families with children, college students, and aging parents instead of primarily benefiting the wealthy.

And what about Clinton versus Trump? According to a recent in-depth New York Times piece, Clinton would focus her presidency on two issues – immigration reform and creating jobs through infrastructure spending. By contrast, Trump would focus on building a wall on the US-Mexican border, banning Muslim immigration, auditing the Federal Reserve, and repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Let’s break down what these would mean in terms of human lives. Clinton’s immigration reform plan would provide a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants that would require them to pass background checks and pay both back taxes and a fine… In short, striking a balance between the humane (by not deporting them), the conservative (demanding that they pay for their crime), and the financially practical (again, by not deporting them). Her infrastructure plan would create millions of jobs while improving our nation’s roads and bridges, public transit, broadband Internet, and water systems. Last but certainly not least, the symbolic significance of her election would be an inspiration to the millions of women and girls who strive to realize their own professional dreams in this country.

With the exception of auditing the Federal Reserve, which would actually do some good, Trump’s policies would be an unmitigated disaster. Not only would his border wall cost at least three times as much as he claims, but it would be a logistical nightmare in terms of getting the rights to private land, avoiding an international incident with Mexico (which is our ally), and actually building the darn thing. Between that and his ban on Muslim immigration, Trump would cultivate what Mitt Romney accurately described as “trickle-down racism” – i.e., a national climate in which bigotry flares up against minority groups like Mexicans and Muslims. By repealing the Affordable Care Act, Trump would rip away services and legal protections that could help or have already benefited literally hundreds of millions of Americans. Finally, because there are legitimate concerns about Trump’s mental health, his blase attitude toward nuclear weapons poses an existential threat to not just our nation, but the entire world.

To answer my friend’s question: In an election where there is no substantive difference between the policies proposed by the Democrats and the Republicans, I would vote for a third-party candidate. That said, while it may be popular in some circles to claim that Clinton is no better than Trump, this assertion doesn’t bear close scrutiny. Elections are about more than conflicting ideals, but about the hundreds of millions of lives both here and abroad that will be shaped by who happens to occupy the Oval Office. Based on the facts of what Clinton and Trump would do in office, I cannot in good conscience vote against the interests of the people Clinton would help… or, for that matter, disregard the lives of the people Trump would hurt.

Sanders voters should learn from Brexit: Don’t make the same mistake as Brits and support right-wing populism

Published: Salon (July 3, 2016)

If Bernie Sanders supporters can learn anything from Brexit, it is that the English-speaking world is in the mood for a certain type of right-wing populism. On one side of the pond, the anti-immigrant and anti-free trade sentiment that swept the United Kingdom prompted that nation to vote for a historic exit from the European Union. In the United States, this phenomenon has manifested itself in the historic presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, who as I’ve explained before is the most anti-free trade major party candidate since Herbert Hoover.

It’s easy to see how, being swept up in all this sentiment, we can forget the core difference between presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and her Republican counterpart. While Trump may be effective at using a certain type of populist rhetoric, his economic plans would ultimately favor the wealthy. Clinton, though not as far to the left as Sanders, is pushing for policies that would benefit ordinary Americans.

Before delving into these differences, though, it is important to first explain where Clinton and Trump are the same. When the 2016 campaign started, Clinton had not taken a firm stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but since then she has made it clear that she will oppose the agreement and would bar low-priced imports by creating a chief trade prosecutor and increasing the number of trade enforcement officers. While Trump has tried to claim that she initially supported the deal and only switched positions because of him, Clinton’s position is actually consistent with what she wrote in her memoir “Hard Choices,” where she explained that because TPP was still under negotiation “it makes sense to reserve judgment until we can evaluate the final proposed agreement.”

Now that the TPP has been finalized, both of the major presidential candidates have gone on record opposing it – which, as Sanders supporters should already know, is the same position taken by the Vermont Senator. So where do Clinton and Trump differ?

We can start with their tax proposals. As Fortune Magazine explains, the centerpiece of Trump’s tax plan is to replace America’s seven tax rates with three: A top rate of 25 percent (down from 39.6 percent) and two additional rates of 20 percent and 10 percent. In addition to this, Trump would eliminate the tax on large estates and cap dividends and capital gains taxes at 20 percent. All of these policies would benefit wealthier Americans and would most likely force the government to take money away from programs which help the working class – in effect, redistributing wealth from the poor to the rich. Clinton, on the other hand, would increase taxes on wealthier Americans, including increasing the top bracket to 43.6 percent by adding a 4 percent tax surcharge on incomes in excess of $5 million, establishing a minimum 30 percent income tax on individuals earning in excess of $1 million, closing tax loopholes frequently exploited by the wealthy, and increasing the estate tax.

Clinton and Trump also differ on the minimum wage — in large part because Trump, not Clinton, has flip-flopped on this issue. Although Trump used to insist that wages in America were “too high” compared to other countries (!!!), he now says he is “open”to doing something about the hourly rate, although he has failed to specify what. While Clinton’s support for a $12 minimum wage may not go as far as Sanders’ $15 proposal, it is certainly a vast improvement from Trump’s ambiguousness here. What’s more, unlike Trump, Clinton has offered specific proposals to guarantee family leave (12 weeks of paid family leave and 12 weeks of medical leave), break up the big Wall Street banks, and put an “end to the era of mass incarceration” — all economic issues that directly harm low-income Americans, and which Trump has either barely addressed or not at all.

The point here isn’t that Clinton is an ideal candidate; as Sanders demonstrated with his campaign, the Democratic Party establishment is deeply flawed, so naturally any politician produced by that system will share its weaknesses. Nevertheless, there is a clear and undeniable difference between Clinton and Trump on the major economic issues facing this country. Each and every time the two candidates part ways, it is because Trump has aligned his policies with those of the wealthy classes of which he is such a conspicuous part. Clinton, for all of her faults, has offered proposals that would demonstrably improve the lives of working class Americans. These are important differences – so much so that, if Sanders supporters are smart, they’ll make sure they define this election.

This doesn’t mean that they will, though. As the Brexit vote revealed, many on the left are allowing themselves to be co-opted by right-wing populists’ use of issues like immigration (where Clinton doesn’t support bigotry and Trump does) and free trade (where the two candidates are the same). If we don’t learn from the mistakes of our British counterparts, the consequences of this oversight may be dire.

It’s time for Democrats to unify: Why even the most idealistic Sanders voter should support Clinton

Published: Salon (June 16, 2016)

We don’t know what Bernie Sanders discussed with Hillary Clinton when the two of them met Tuesday night, but it’s fair to assume that the conversation revolved around Clinton’s new status as the presumptive Democratic nominee. As the burgeoning Bernie or Bust movement clearly demonstrates, a lot of Sanders supporters are unhappy with the prospect of backing Clinton. Of course, because Green Party candidate Jill Stein has offered to run on a joint ticket with Sanders, they may not actually have to do so.

And so we find ourselves at a crucial junction in American political history. If Sanders and his supporters swallow their pride and acknowledge that, despite her flaws, Clinton offers them their best chance of achieving progressive policy changes, they will use their newfound leverage to push her to the left and then elect her president. On the other hand, if they place ideological pride over doing the right thing, they can contest Clinton’s nomination up to the Democratic convention or join Jill Stein on a third-party ticket… and their legacy might wind up being the election of President Donald Trump.

Before I encourage both Sanders and the Bernie or Bust movement to support Clinton, it is first necessary to dispense with the popular arguments used against doing so. The most common refrain that I hear from those in the Sanders camp is that Clinton somehow “stole” the nomination. Although she undeniably had far more support from the party establishment, this in its own right doesn’t constitute stealing (after all, Trump was also overwhelmingly opposed by his party establishment, with well-known results). Yes, Clinton has 581 superdelegates to Sanders’ 49… but she also won 2,219 pledged delegates to Sanders’ 1,832. More importantly, she won 15.8 million popular votes to Sanders’ 12 million, making her without question the preferred choice of a majority of Democratic primary voters.

This leaves the policy differences between Clinton and Sanders, which though meaningful are hardly prohibitive. Sure, Stein has opportunistically claimed that Clinton might be worse than Trump, but if you share Sanders’ values that assertion simply doesn’t hold up. As I’ve explained in the past, Clinton wants to invest $275 million in job-creating infrastructure spending (compared to $1 trillion for Sanders), raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour (compared to $15 for Sanders), maintain Obamacare (compared to Sanders’ support for a fully socialized health care system), and establish debt-free college tuition for low-income families (compared to free college for all public university students under Sanders). On every major issue in this election, Clinton’s stances are moderate versions of those taken by Sanders. Trump, on the other hand, favors economic policies that blatantly favor the wealthy… and, unlike both Clinton and Sanders, has focused his campaign on pandering to bigotry against Hispanics and Muslims instead of addressing the real economic problems facing ordinary Americans.

In short, anyone who shares the ideals professed by Sanders during this campaign (including Sanders himself) is morally compelled to see that while Clinton may profess a watered down version of those values, Trump embodies their direct antithesis. As a consequence, it is unconscionable to risk a repeat of the 1968 presidential election, in which a liberal insurgent (Eugene McCarthy) took his protest candidacy to the Democratic Convention and thus weakened nominee Hubert Humphrey in his unsuccessful campaign against Richard Nixon. Similarly, if Sanders accepts Stein’s offer and runs as the Green Party nominee, he risks repeating the role played by Ralph Nader in the 2000 presidential election, when his third-party candidacy siphoned enough votes away from Democrat Al Gore to throw the election to Republican George W. Bush.

That said, it’s not enough to simply point out the overlap between Sanders’ message and Clinton’s campaign platform, though. If we’re going to be ideologically honest in this election, we must remember that the Democratic Party has a long history of delivering on its promises. Franklin Roosevelt spent the 1930s passing economic and social reforms that relieved the rampant misery of the Great Depression and provided a safety net for working class Americans; Lyndon Johnson’s administration spent the 1960s passing civil rights legislation, creating Medicaid and Medicare, and waging a successful war on poverty; and Barack Obama, despite the ferocious opposition of a Do-Nothing Congress, managed to end the war in Iraq and pass comprehensive health care reform.

This is why, when a progressive like me urges Sanders and his backers to rally behind Clinton, we are the ones being principled — not the intransigents who would throw out the baby with the bathwater. The Democratic Party, for all of its flaws, is the only institution within our existing political system that could realistically achieve the objectives laid out by the Sanders campaign. Because Sanders has put in such a strong showing against Clinton, he is in a position to demand that she spend her presidency addressing the problems of income inequality and plutocracy to which he has so eloquently drawn attention. To throw all of this away in a fit of pique, or because our backers cling to the fanciful idea that a miraculous Green Party revolution might occur (despite the lack of any statistical evidence that it would win in the general election), is worse than quixotic. It is downright foolish.

If Sanders wants to make a point, he will force a contested convention and/or run as a third-party candidate. On the other hand, if we want history to remember the Bernie Sanders campaign as one that made a real difference, we will demand that he instruct his supporters to do the right thing and vote for Hillary Clinton.

Why Hillary should tap into ’90s nostalgia

Published: Salon (June 11, 2016)

Now that Hillary Clinton is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, I have a congratulatory observation for her. When I talk to strangers about politics these days, the subject inevitably turns to the 2016 presidential election. Most of them have strong feelings one way or the other about Donald Trump, but unless they’re a partisan Democrat or simply proud of the feminist milestone signified by her nomination, their feelings toward Clinton’s candidacy are tepid at best and hostile at worst. Most of them seem to respect her experience but don’t trust her character. While that is expected among conservatives, it has spread to independents and Bernie Sanders supporters… and if they don’t turn out to vote for Clinton in November, she could lose to Trump.

Considering that Trump’s record high negatives are matched only by Clinton’s, it would stand to reason that a Democrat like myself would find it impossible to change any minds here. Yet there is one observation that I’ve noticed does the trick more often than not: Just bring up the ’90s to one of the millions of Americans with a nostalgic fondness for that halcyon decade. Particularly for those of us who were raised in it, we will always have a fondness not only for the prosperity of Bill Clinton’s presidency, but the cultural milieu that surrounded it. If Bill deserves to benefit from it, however, Hillary does too — as Americans knew would happen when they elected Bill Clinton in 1992, the First Lady was his co-president. Bring that up, and suddenly many of them told me they could see the logic in pulling the Democratic lever in November.

If my personal experience is reflective of the larger reality, progressives should focus on this angle. So why don’t they?

Part of it is that Bernie Sanders has moved the Democratic Party’s base much farther to the left than anyone anticipated in this election. Now large swaths of Bill Clinton’s presidential legacy have become suspect — and rightly so. As liberal pundit Thomas Frank wrote in The Guardian, Clinton’s signature anti-crime bill in 1994 was responsible for the mass incarceration of millions of Americans, “thousands of people who have had decades of their lives ruined by zealous prosecutors and local politicians using the tools Clinton accidentally gave them.” The left has been similarly harsh with Clinton’s welfare reform package in 1996, which made sense during the low unemployment of the late ’90s but left many of the poor without a safety net in subsequent decades. The Clintons’ worst legacy, though, was the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, which had thrown almost 700,000 Americansout of work by 2010 (there is a good reason why Americans of all ideologies are united in their opposition to free trade).

Yet while these criticisms are valid, there are also legitimate reasons for respecting the Clintons’ main achievement from this period — their economic record, which can be made appealing to Americans of all ideological persuasions. Liberals can take pride in the Clinton administration’s courageous refusal to bow to Republican intimidation over Medicare cuts, allowing a government shutdown over surrendering a program on which millions of Americans depend. Conservatives can admire the fiscal discipline that led to deficit reductions and a balanced budget (although liberals may lament its human consequences), which he did even as Republicans denounced it for being the “largest tax increase in history” (which it wasn’t). Clinton was by no means solely responsible for the booming economy, but it would be disingenuous to deny that these were major factors in creating 22 million jobs.

There is also the emotional logic of appealing to ’90s nostalgia. Whenever I discuss the Clinton era with strangers, they recall the sheer charisma that emanated from the White House. Even the notorious sex scandals that got him impeached were a part of it. His oratory was always eloquent, he exuded empathy, and the man played the saxophone like nobody’s business. People just liked the guy… and as a result, he has become as much a part of the ’90s zeitgeist as Ronald Reagan is associated with the ’80s or Dwight Eisenhower with the ’50s. This can have its benefits. ’90s nostalgiais very popular in our culture right now; as Kurt Andersen succinctly put it in the New York Times, “It was simply the happiest decade of our American lifetimes.” Presidential candidates who can be linked to happier days frequently become presidents — see Richard Nixon in the 1968 election (he loved to point out that he was Eisenhower’s vice president) or the endless parade of Republicans claiming to be Reagan’s successor.

This is a potent force that Democrats can use to their advantage… and liberals should want them to do so. As I’ve written before, the Clintons have evolved from their ideological stances in the ’90s. Hillary is running for president on a platform that vows to oppose free trade deals, raise the minimum wage and focus on creating jobs instead of slashing social welfare. There is no reason to believe that, if elected, she wouldn’t strive to achieve these goals, much as her husband followed through on the conservative promises he made during his 1992 and 1996 campaigns. If you genuinely subscribe to the values of Bernie Sanders — of using your vote to help as many of your fellow citizens as possible, with a special emphasis on those who are disenfranchised — then it becomes imperative to do the right thing here. To the extent that we can be certain of these things, Clinton’s election would help a lot of people, just as Trump’s would hurt many.

If it isn’t easy for you to swallow that idea, well, hopefully the Clinton campaign fully appreciates the magnitude of that fact. Hillary may not be as likable as Bill, but that shouldn’t eclipse the logic of the current situation. She may not be an exciting candidate for president, but there is still an emotional core to the rationale behind her candidacy. It’s time her supporters started mentioning that.

How Gary Johnson can win my liberal vote

Published: The Huffington Post (June 9, 2016), The Good Men Project (June 4, 2016)

I’m a Bernie Sanders supporter, but in the likely event that the Democrats don’t nominate him, I will most likely cast my vote for Hillary Clinton.

That said, I have my reservations.

Foremost among them is Clinton’s long trail of scandals, which lead me to worry that she might not make it through her first term without being impeached. Aside from that, though, I’d prefer a president who would radically transform our nation – curb the unseemly influence of lobbyists, end the war on drugs, protect the rights of women and the LGBTQ community, and roll back America’s military adventurism overseas.

Do you know who would do these things, though? The Libertarian candidate for president, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. Normally a vote for Johnson would be a vote thrown away, but considering that Johnson polls at ten percent right now (an astonishingly high number for a third-party candidate right out of the gate) and both Clinton and Donald Trump are more unpopular than any major party nominees in recorded history, it is quite possible that Johnson will emerge a viable candidate in his own right.

Johnson must listen to the inner-city minority who is being targeted by the police and feels stigmatized in the job market. He must listen to the single mother who works at a breakneck pace in order to support herself and her children. He must listen to the college student with high hopes who is willing to work hard but is saddled with debt. He must listen to what ails these individuals, and countless others who find themselves on the wrong side of America’s economic dream, and come up with policy solutions that they find convincing.

That said, like most liberals, I couldn’t bring myself to vote for Johnson for one reason – namely, his stances on economic issues. Like most libertarians, Johnson believes that the government shouldn’t get involved in economic matters – even though, by remaining neutral, it gives advantage to the strong (big business, the wealthy in general) and disadvantages the weak (working class Americans everywhere). From a libertarian point-of-view, unnecessary taxes of any kind inherently limit human freedom. From a left-wing perspective, however, taxes that provide social welfare to the poor, create jobs, protect labor unions, and build infrastructure are necessary.


After all, freedom isn’t only political in nature, as Franklin D. Roosevelt famously pointed out in his Economic Bill of Rights:

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.


This isn’t to say that Johnson could never win my support, mind you. He has made it clear that he hopes to win over disaffected Bernie Sanders supporters like myself, and once he that demonstrates a vote for him won’t help elect Trump, I am open to considering that option. That said, he cannot win my support without acknowledging Roosevelt’s economic bill of rights because, until those rights are assured, all the talk of political freedom means nothing to Sanders supporters like myself.

How can Johnson do this? First, he needs to do something that neither Clinton nor Trump have excelled at – he needs to listen. Johnson must listen to the inner-city minority who is being targeted by the police and feels stigmatized in the job market. He must listen to the single mother who works at a breakneck pace in order to support herself and her children. He must listen to the college student with high hopes who is willing to work hard but is saddled with debt. He must listen to what ails these individuals, and countless others who find themselves on the wrong side of America’s economic dream, and come up with policy solutions that they find convincing.

[Johnson] cannot win my support without acknowledging Roosevelt’s economic bill of rights because, until those rights are assured, all the talk of political freedom means nothing to Sanders supporters like myself.

This brings me to the second part of what Johnson must do, and that is find a creative approach to governing. He cannot answer the questions posed by those who have been denied their economic bill of rights by prattling on about the free market and claiming that unfettered capitalism will solve their woes. If you’ll notice, the first thing that FDR pointed to after listing our economic rights was the importance of “security.” For Johnson to convince us that he cares about our economic interests, we must feel secure in the knowledge that his policies will provide jobs to those who are willing to work, and an income capable of supporting individuals or families at a decent standard of living. We need facts, not theories, and if Johnson can’t provide the former, he will come across as no more hopeful than Trump on economic matters – and my vote, along with those of many (though by no means all) Sanders supporters, will go to Clinton.

There isn’t much else to say right now. Johnson’s candidacy is young, and this election has barely started. As I’ve explained before, I don’t think Clinton is far enough removed from Sanders to justify electing Trump as an alternative, so Johnson will need to at least start placing a strong second for me to feel comfortable risking my vote on him. Should he do that, however, I will keep an open mind… assuming, of course, that he does likewise.


Sanders supporters pushed Clinton to the left—now they have to keep her there

Published: Quartz (June 7, 2016)

Heading into California primary today, Donald Trump is catching up toHillary Clinton in the general election polls. According to political analysis from statisticians like Nate Silver, the reluctance of some Bernie Sanders supporters to back an alternate Democratic candidate is part of the reason for Trump’s boost. Sanders’ backers tend to identify as progressive, according to Silver, but not necessarily as Democrats. “If Clinton wins over those voters, she’ll gain a few percentage points on Trump in national and swing state polls,” Silver explains. “If not, the general election could come down to the wire.”

If Democrats are going to sway disaffected Sanders fans, they will need to remind voters that the Democratic Party is not the enemy, even if it is “the establishment.” Clinton is very much a traditional Democratic presidential candidate. As a result, she is institutionally beholden to a set of policies that, while perhaps falling short of the democratic socialist ideal, still achieve much of what Sanders aspires to do.

A short history lesson is in order here. Although the Democratic Party has been around since 1828 (making in the oldest continuously active democratic political party in the world), it didn’t become a definitively left-wing organization until Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency in the 1930s. During his 12-year-long administration, Roosevelt’s New Deal provided economic relief to millions of poor Americans struggling during the Great Depression, as well as took measures to prevent any future crashes.

The New Deal programs laid the foundation for the constructive programs pursued by other progressive Democrats, particularly Lyndon Johnson, whose Great Society included the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s, the creation of Medicaid and Medicare, and the War on Poverty; and Barack Obama, who provided widespread relief after the economic crash of 2008 and passed comprehensive health care reform. Even less accomplished Democratic presidents managed to prevent major rollbacks on social welfare policy by compromising with their Republican adversaries, particularly Harry Truman (who worked with the infamous “Do Nothing” Congress) and Bill Clinton (who saved Medicare from a Republican-controlled Congress even after they forced a government shutdown.)

As the presumptive Democratic nominee, Clinton will be bound by historical precedent and party leadership to continue in this tradition if elected to the presidency.  Sanders supporters need to ask themselves what policies are most important to them. Certainly there is little question that she would have to spend much of her administration thwarting a Republican-held Congress. Beyond that, Sanders supporters need to ask themselves what policies are most important to them, and to what extent these policies overlap with Clinton’s stated goals.

In general, Clinton’s economic policies are watered-down versions of what Sanders is proposing. To reduce unemployment and income inequality, Clinton proposes spending $275 billion on job-creating infrastructure and raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour. Similarly, to make education more affordable, Clinton has prioritized making community college free and public four-year colleges debt free, as well as providing universal preschool to all four-year-olds. While once an avid proponent of free trade and deregulation, Clinton is now committed to opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership and increasing regulations on Wall Street.

The difference between the two candidates is perhaps best captured by their respective stances on health care reform. Sanders wants a socialized single-payer system, while Clinton supports tweaking and modifying the existing reforms passed by Obama under the Affordable Care Act. It’s reasonable for Sanders supporters to argue that their candidate’s proposals are better. It is patently unreasonable, however, to ignore the large overlap between the Sanders and Clinton agendas.

As others have already argued, Sanders supporters are actually in a position of power here. If Clinton wins a tight election without the support of Bernie fans, she may not feel particularly sympathetic or beholden to their concerns. If she wins as a direct result of their backing, however, it will certainly push her to focus on the economic policies the Sanders campaign has focused on for the past 12 months.

And of course, if Clinton actually loses in part because Sanders supporters stayed home, the next president will be Trump, whose economic plan is designed to benefit the rich through strategic tax reductions. There will not be a $15 minimum wage under a president Trump.

Some independent-leaning progressives may not like the influence wielded by the Democratic establishment. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t back the party’s candidate—with conditions.

If Clinton reneges on her progressive economic proposals, Sanders supporters should absolutely hold her accountable in 2020. Unless and until that happens, however, it’s important to remember that she represents a political party that has a long history of fighting for liberal causes—and just as importantly, against conservative ones. For better or worse, being a good progressive this year requires being a good Democrat, at least at the ballot box.

How Donald Trump would destroy America (and possibly the world)

Published: The Good Men Project (May 19, 2016)

America is in a “boy who cried wolf” situation right now. We’ve grown so accustomed to comparing our presidents with tyrants, or insisting that a candidate’s ascent to power will result in calamity, that even those of us who see an actual wolf in our midst aren’t being taken seriously. The people voting for Donald Trump are well aware of our concerns but – having grown jaded to polemical hyperbole – aren’t able to recognize that the threat is real this time.

Make no mistake about it, though: The danger posed by Trump is very, very real. One may disagree with the policies pursued by George W. Bush and Barack Obama, but the hysterical response to their presidencies was always grossly disproportionate. Bush was a neoconservative and Obama is a moderate liberal; Trump, on the other hand, is a man driven more by bold stabs in the dark than any consistent ideology. Assuming he follows through on his proposals, it is quite likely that some of them would cause terrible consequences not only for America, but the entire world.

To explain how this is so, though, we need to stop with the inappropriate comparisons to Hitler (which I debunked in this piece for MSNBC) and instead focus on the nitty gritty of what he has said he would try to do:

1. The economy.

Although Trump makes valid points about America’s anti-working class trade policies, his proposed solutions would be disastrous. As president, he would have the power to increase tariffs on Chinese and Mexican goods by as much as 45 percent. If he did this, those countries would almost certainly retaliate with comparable measures targeting America’s products. The resulting trade war would inevitably increase prices and reduce job growth, knocking the American economy back on its heels only a few years after the Obama administration led us to a precarious recovery. Even more troubling than what we know, though, is what we don’t know. The slightest adverse development can have unforeseen ripple effects in our globalized economy, and because America has been a staunchly pro-free trade nation since the 1930s, it is impossible to predict the full impact of an about-face as abrupt as the one Trump is proposing. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t modify our trade policies to be more amenable to the interests of our working class, but we need to do so responsibly.

2. Global warming.

Trump’s is a well-known denier of man-made global warming, a position that perfectly fits in with his other conspiratorial views (he believes the scientific consensus on global warming is a plot by the Chinese to control the world economy). As a result, when he vows to “renegotiate” the Paris deal in which more than 200 nations vowed to curb greenhouse gas emissions, it’s safe to assume that he would not care one whit about slowing our planet’s dangerous overheating. Unfortunately, the science isn’t going to accommodate Trump’s iconoclasm; as the earth continues to overheat, humanity will face mega-storms, droughts, famines, and the mass extinction of countless species. As Peace and World Security Studies Professor Michael T. Klare wrote last October, “Scientists have long worried that climate change will not continue to advance in a ‘linear’ fashion, with the planet getting a little bit hotter most years. Instead, they fear, humanity could someday experience ‘non-linear’ climate shifts (also known as ‘singularities’ or ‘tipping points’) after which there would be sudden and irreversible change of a catastrophic nature.” As Klare notes, there are early signs that this is already happening, and it stands to reason that if Trump torpedoes an international agreement to reduce carbon emissions, that could very well push us past the tipping point.

3. Nuclear war.

Ever since Harry Truman dropped the bomb on Japan in 1945, American presidents have been expected to appreciate the sober responsibilities that come with being a nuclear power. In the 1964 presidential election, when Republican candidate Barry Goldwater was accused of being fast-and-loose about how he’d use our nukes, the threat of nuclear apocalypse helped sink his campaign. More than half a century later, however, Trump has openly discussed using tactical nuclear weapons against the Islamic State, arguing that “I don’t think you’re going to be successful [with Muslim countries] unless they respect you.” Even foreign policy hawks should be concerned by this position, and not merely because Trump has advocated it in places beyond the Middle East (he once told Chris Matthews that he wouldn’t take using nukes in Europe “off the table”). By equating the use of nuclear force with earning respect, Trump reveals an ominous thought pattern – namely that (a) if America is threatened by foreign enemies, it’s because they don’t respect us and (b) we can demand their respect by threatening them with total annihilation. This is the exact mentality that the United States and Soviet Union scrupulously avoided succumbing to during the Cold War, since both superpowers understood that if nuclear nations were permitted to behave this way, the final result would be total destruction.

Regardless of how one feels about Hillary Clinton, there is no sound reason to believe that she poses an existential threat to our future. Trump, on the other hand, has proposed policies that could plausibly result in economic collapse, ecological devastation, and even worldwide nuclear war. Every American voting in the 2016 presidential election is going to have to make one of the most important choices of their lifetime. For once, it isn’t an exaggeration to say that failure here could bring about the end of the world as we know it.