Hillary has the votes
Hillary Clinton won most of the votes in the Democratic primaries and caucuses, giving her the majority of pledged delegates and, barring something very unusual, the nomination. Her winning edge was most of all provided by strong support from African-American voters and those over 45 years old.
Bernie Sanders came close and has every right to stay in the race into the Philadelphia convention. Between now and November Clinton will have to win the support of those who voted for Sanders if she is to have much chance of beating Donald Trump, but conversely Bernie Democrats and his independent supporters would be foolish to sit out the general election or to split off into protest votes. It would be a literally deadly error to allow Mr. Trump and his would-be lynch mob to get their hands on the levers of power.
The movement that rallied behind Sanders will continue. As you read these words it lives on in Tim Canova’s campaign to drive Debbie Wasserman Schultz out of Congress and out of public life in Florida’s August primary. The demographics of this year’s primary season, with overwhelming majorities of under-40 voters going for Sanders, suggest better days to come for that political force. But that movement must also be mature and sophisticated enough to adjust to the ups and downs of multiple political cycles and to deal with the realities of options that are presented at any given time if it is to thrive.
The Sanders phenomenon, seen in its proper context, did not start with him or his campaign — it was evident in the Occupy movement, in the ongoing search for alternatives to corporate news, in a generation unwilling to accept a future of never-ending war and debt. It’s not going away, and although too many comparisons to the bigoted irrationalism of the Tea Party faction of Republicans would be ridiculous, in one sense it’s a mirror image: what has arisen this past year on the campaign trail is likely to shatter comfortable Democratic Party insider arrangements just like the ultra-right has shattered the old Republican establishment.
Due mainly to its prevailing “first past the post” election system the United States has two parties that embrace factions that in most other countries would be four or five parties. What Hillary and Bernie ought to do right now is akin to what happens in parliamentary democracies with more than a couple of relevant parties: they need to sit down for a US version of coalition talks, knowing full well that all of their differences will never go away. In such talks Sanders would be the junior partner in any alliance and promises of cabinet posts and hack jobs in a new administration would not suffice. There need to be some compromises on policy and some understandings about which lines would end the alliance once overstepped.
Perhaps the first order of business in any unity talks should be a commitment to new voting rights legislation, not just to restore that part of the old law that has been gutted by a Republican Supreme Court but to prevent another set of abuses like we have seen this primary season. There should be no discrimination or vote suppression based on age or a person’s status as a student. People should go to prison for tampering with voters’ registrations. Those jurisdictions that played these “We reduced the number of polling places to save money” or “We ran out of ballots in the campus area so many of those voters got provisional ballots that are not counted” games should be under permanent federal election supervision, as was once the case — and should be again — with jurisdictions that have a history of preventing racial minorities from voting.
An immediate big problem for Democrats is that in order to fit the Clinton low-turnout primary strategy Debbie Wasserman Schultz in many ways demobilized the Democratic Party for several years. She cut off discussion and debate among Democrats, prevented voter registration drives and reduced the party’s visible presence to insulting and ineffective email spam to raise money. It’s an abbreviated catch-up game to make up for lost time.
Where should Democrats go looking for votes in this too short of a voter registration and turnout effort? First of all, among everyone whom Donald Trump has gone out of his way to insult.
Should we have an explosives expert as security minister?
It ought to be a no-brainer to have somebody with vast police experience as Minister of Public Security. The problem is, Panama had a 21-year dictatorship and before that a Guardia Nacional that frequently stepped in, either overtly or behind the scenes, to tip the balance in decisions that should have belonged to the voters alone. In the wake of the 1989 invasion there was a national consensus in favor of putting the police agencies descended from the old Guardia under at least three levels of civilian control.
The problem is that we have never gotten around to writing a new constitution to replace the dictatorship’s 1972 political charter and the patches upon patches have been insufficient. Times changed, external pressures to join the US “War on Drugs” and take sides in Colombia’s civil conflict altered our post-invasion determination to demilitarize and the breakdown of our political party system has most of the political caste terrified of a constitutional convention that can’t be controlled by their usual political games.
We need a new constitution in which cops don’t dominate the political institutions, politicians don’t run the sports federations and a man or woman who has risen through the uniformed ranks can be treated as a trusted and honored public servant and expert in his or her field. We hope that he doesn’t feel the need to blow anything up, but we wish former National Police Commissioner Alexis Bethancourt Yau every success at his new post as Minister of Public Security, which he will occupy during the too-long interim before the Panamanian people decide what the qualifications for and functions of that job ought to be.
Bear in mind…
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