Will Latinos Buy Into ‘Tío Bernie’s’ Socialism?

Bernie Sanders’s message has resonated with the Latino electorate, particularly young voters. In both Iowa and New Hampshire, he won big among Latinos, and he is projected to do the same in Nevada this Saturday. But whether that support will transfer to a general election if “Tío Bernie” (Uncle Bernie), as he is known, manages to clinch the nomination is the big question.

The Latino youth Mr. Sanders is rallying haven’t been reliable voters. Though he’s favored by Latinos nationally, as new Washington Post-ABC News and Univision polls show, reports of his success haven’t accounted for voters for whom socialism is something to fear.

Mr. Sanders, aware that such a label might hurt his chances, has deflected conversations about his socialism, claiming they’re just efforts to redbait him. In 1981, as the newly elected mayor of Burlington, Vt., he said he had learned to stay away from calling himself a socialist, because he didn’t want to spend “half my life explaining that I did not believe in the Soviet Union or in concentration camps.” He embraced other terms instead, including radical, independent and democratic socialist.

While he may harbor unease about the label, his actions have said otherwise. In the summer of 1985, the mayor traveled to Nicaragua’s capital, Managua, for a commemoration of the sixth anniversary of the Sandinista revolution. While there, he praised the Sandinistas for fighting for women’s rights and economic justice. In a 1986 speech at the University of Vermont, he claimed to be “very excited when Fidel Castro made the revolution in Cuba,” because it seemed “right and appropriate that poor people were rising up against rather ugly rich people.”

More recently, he criticized the United States-led coup against the Chilean socialist Salvador Allende, which installed the right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1973. He has also said that he supports the socialism of countries in Scandinavia, the ones that President Trump wishes more immigrants came from.

To Mr. Sanders’s supporters, past statements and associations aren’t things that need to be hidden from view. They’ve long been critical of U.S. military interventions in Latin America and admired efforts to redistribute wealth and property, and build universal, state-funded health care and educational programs. It’s what they would like to see happen in the United States. But the specter of socialism and communism in Latin America will haunt Mr. Sanders in a face-off with Mr. Trump.

Like other Republicans before him, Mr. Trump hasn’t distinguished among the various brands of socialism. He’s betting that Latino voters won’t see the nuances, either, and he may be right. Prominent Republicans like Ted Cruz and others I’ve talked to have in a single breath drawn a straight line from Mr. Castro to Nicolás Maduro to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. On the debate stage last night, Mr. Sanders bristled when Michael Bloomberg claimed his policy proposals amounted to “communism.” He dismissed the remark, calling it a “cheap shot.” But will voters appreciate the difference?

In his State of the Union speech this month, Mr. Trump welcomed the “true and legitimate” president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, and said his administration has supported the “hopes of Cubans, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans to restore democracy” in their countries. These were nothing if not appeals to Latinos in the battleground state of Florida.

Mr. Sanders may be able to fend off these attacks, as he and other Democrats have done in the past. As the potential Democratic nominee in a general election, he will have to persuade voters of Cuban, Venezuelan and Nicaraguan origin, who fled socialist regimes. For them, it will be inconceivable to support a candidate who has praised the likes of President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, Mr. Castro and Mr. Allende, and whose supporters have been called Sandernistas.

Last fall, the head of a South Florida chapter of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly asked me, “Can you believe it’s 2019 and we’re still talking about socialism?” To her, it was obvious that we’d decided as a country that Mr. Castro and others of that ilk were villains. And yet, here we are, with one of the major parties contemplating the nomination of a self-proclaimed socialist.

The gamble of the Sanders campaign has been that he can transform the electorate and rally enough first-time or nontraditional voters to defeat President Trump. Or that he can pull voters who supported Barack Obama, and then abandoned Hillary Clinton, back into the Democratic camp. But if he doesn’t address past praise for the Latin American left and what socialism means to him head-on, voters may be unwilling to back a candidate who has supported leaders who have uprooted their families and torn their countries apart.

To recruit these voters, Mr. Sanders will have to confront the issue directly, perhaps with a speech on socialism like the one Mr. Obama delivered in 2008 on race, which The Washington Post said “saved Obama’s candidacy” after fallout from the Jeremiah Wright controversy. Ideally, a contest between Mr. Sanders and Mr. Trump would lead to a more nuanced debate about United States-Latin American relations and their influence on Latino politics domestically.

In 1986, an article in The Guardian predicted that Mr. Sanders “will be around for the foreseeable future, reminding Vermont and anyone else willing to listen that there are more ways to run a democracy than Mr. Reagan’s.” Mr. Sanders will have to persuade Latinos that there are more ways to run a democracy. He will have to explain that what he admired about Latin American leaders was their efforts toward social, political and economic equality. That this is what he has stood for his whole career. Many Latinos may still be unwilling to listen, but perhaps enough will.



Trump’s First 3 Years Created 1.5 Million Fewer Jobs Than Obama’s Last 3

New Labor Department statistics show that despite Trump’s repeated boasts, job creation was a lot higher during Barack Obama’s final years.

As President Donald Trump takes the stage at his reelection rally here Monday and boasts of his economic record, there is one statistic he is likely to omit: He created 1.5 million fewer jobs in his first three years in office than predecessor Barack Obama did in his final three.

Newly revised figures from Trump’s own Department of Labor show that 6.6 million new jobs were created in the first 36 months of Trump’s tenure, compared with 8.1 million in the final 36 months of Obama’s ― a decline of 19% under Trump, according to a HuffPost analysis.

Economists say that the slowing of job creation is not surprising. There are fewer empty jobs and fewer unemployed people available to fill them as the economy gets closer to full employment.

“I’m not a big fan of jobs numbers as a metric of success,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, once the top economic adviser to the late Arizona Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. He added, though, that Trump’s “hyperbole” notwithstanding, “the performance of the labor market has been nothing short of stunning.”

David Rothschild, an economist with Microsoft Research, said Trump is presiding over a decent job market ― the same as his Democratic predecessor did. “The economy is basically humming along for the last three years, just as it was for the last year several years of the Obama administration,” Rothschild said.

Nevertheless, the statistics belie Trump’s frequent claims that he turned around Obama’s poor management of the economy.

The White House would not respond to the new statistics, but spokesman Judd Deere told HuffPost: “President Obama presided over one of the slowest recoveries in history while President Trump has smashed expectations with 5 million more jobs grown than forecasted by the (Congressional Budget Office), a record setting stock market, strong wage growth for blue collar workers, and historically low unemployment rates. Because of the strength of the Trump economy more and more Americans are coming off the sidelines to find work many of whom were left out of the so-called Obama recovery.”

During his State of the Union speech last week to Congress, Trump said: “If we hadn’t reversed the failed economic policies of the previous administration, the world would not now be witnessing this great economic success.”

Trump has repeatedly disparaged Obama’s stewardship of the economy while claiming he has done a far superior job.
Trump has repeatedly disparaged Obama’s stewardship of the economy while claiming he has done a far superior job.

The economy is just one of several areas where Trump repeatedly claims credit for conditions or policies implemented under his predecessors. He has bragged about reductions in air and water pollution that were the result of presidents going back decades. He has claimed credit for a reduction in lung cancer deaths based on a decades-long study that ended the year he took office. Perhaps most famously, he has repeatedly ― and falsely ― boasted about passing the “VA Choice Act,” which allows veterans to get medical care at private facilities if wait times are too long at Veteran Affairs clinics, even though it was signed into law by Obama.

But the economy is the one issue that could determine whether Trump succeeds or fails in his attempt to win a second term ― and his boasts about it are consistently misleading and, at times, simply false.

Trump repeatedly brags that unemployment among African Americans is at historic lows. While that was correct in August and September, the unemployment figure has risen since then, according to federal statistics. More broadly, the trend lines for both African Americans and Latinos show a steady decrease from the end of the 2008-09 recession, through the Obama presidency and to the present day, with no significant change in the slope of those graphs when Trump took office in January 2017.

“He’s largely riding trends he inherited,” said Jared Bernstein, once the chief economist to former Vice President Joe Biden.

Bernstein and other economists pointed out that the nation’s gross domestic product, after showing higher growth rates immediately after the passage of Republican-backed tax cuts in late 2017, have now dropped closer to 2% ― a figure that Trump and others called weak during the Obama years.

And that, Holtz-Eakin and Rothschild agreed, could be attributed to the trade war Trump picked with China starting in mid-2018, and from which the president has only recently started to back down.

“There are markets we’re probably not going to get back, and we’re going to have nothing to show for it,” Rothschild said. “The economy is moving along pretty well despite the best efforts of Donald Trump.”




Alexander Vindman, Army Officer Who Testified Against Trump, Escorted Out Of White House

Image result for Alexander Vindman

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a star witnesses in the inquiry that led to the impeachment of President Trump, was dismissed from his post on the National Security Council and escorted from the White House Friday, according to his lawyer.

“Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth,” David Pressman, Vindman’s lawyer said in a statement. “His honor, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful.”

The Ukrainian-born officer, who came to the U.S as a childhood and received a Purple Heart for combat wounds in Iraq, testified about listening to Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

"I was concerned by the call, what I heard was inappropriate, and I reported my concerns to Mr. Eisenberg," Vindman, who was the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, told House lawmakers about the call in which Trump asked Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

“It is improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and a political opponent,” Vindman testified. “It was also clear that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma, it would be interpreted as a partisan play.”

Trump and his supporters have criticized Vindman’s account of what the president terms his “perfect call” with Zelensky, which led to a whistleblower complaint, not by Vindman, that kicked off the impeachment inquiry.

Shortly before Vindman was escorted from the White House, Trump signaled to reporters that his ouster was imminent. “I’m not happy with him,” Trump said of Vindman.

Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Vindman’s twin brother, Yevgeney, who had served as an ethics lawyer for the NSC, was also dismissed from his position Friday, Bloomberg reported.

Vindman is expected to be reassigned to the Pentagon, where officials have pledged he will not face further retaliation.

“We protect all of our service members from retribution or anything like that,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Friday.

Vindman is not the only administration official who testified to the House inquiry to be reassigned. On Monday, Jennifer Williams, a State Department employee on Vice President Mike Pence’s staff, was granted a request to leave her rotation at the White House early. Williams, who testified alongside Vindman during the impeachment inquiry, described Trump’s call with Zelensky  “improper” and “unusual.” 

William Taylor, who served as the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and testified in the impeachment inquiry, left his position in early January.

Taylor testified about the “unusual” channel of diplomacy being carried out in Ukraine by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and further established the president’s direct involvement with pursuing a foreign investigation of Biden.

“Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine,” Taylor testified. “Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of [Joe] Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for.”

Gordon Sondland, the U.S. envoy to the European Union, also testified in the House inquiry. He is still in office.

In a Friday interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Taylor blasted critics of Vindman and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

"It of course bothers me any time I see someone like Masha Yovanovitch or Alex Vindman unfairly attacked," Taylor told Tapper.

Trump recalled Yovanovitch from her post in Kyiv in May after complaints from Giuliani and others outside of the administration.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Like Vindman, Yovanovitch was portrayed by the president’s supporters as a “Never Trumper.”

“There's a reason why she got fired,” Rep. Devin Nunes, D-Calif., said in an interview Thursday evening. “This is one of the things we could never really get out because we couldn't bring in witnesses, but you know, we had people that we were ready to bring in that said that she was anti-Trump, espousing anti-Trump administration views while she was ambassador to Ukraine. That’s her boss.”

In an op-ed published Thursday in the Washington Post, Yovanovitch, who is now senior State Department fellow at Georgetown University, took issue with the Trump administration’s handling of diplomacy.

“This administration, through acts of omission and commission, has undermined our democratic institutions, making the public question the truth and leaving public servants without the support and example of ethical behavior that they need to do their jobs and advance U.S. interests,” Yovanovitch wrote.




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