Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: California

Electorally, the Left is Already Behind Schedule

One of the tasks for the left is to reshape the Democratic Party into the kind of political party which can be used to chip away at material disparities of wealth and power. This means making it into a party which can actually pass policies like single payer, tuition free college, $15 minimum wage, stronger union rights, and so on. The thing is, many Democrats in congress don’t support these policies. Some of them admit they don’t support them, while others are pretending to support them but have no intention of following through should they get into power. This is the same position the right found itself in after Obama’s election–they wanted a Republican Party which would repeal Obamacare and take a stand on immigration. But the Republicans they had were either openly uninterested in doing those things or clearly lying about it. So under the banner of the Tea Party these right wingers began working to reshape the Republican Party through the primary mechanism. They made significant gains–the Tea Party helped create senators like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Jerry Moran, Bill Cassidy, Tim Scott, and Mike Lee. These people are much more right wing than their predecessors 20 or 30 years ago would have been. Over time, their efforts also helped make it possible for an anti-establishment anti-immigration nationalist to win the presidency. But despite all of this the Tea Party has come up short. It was unable to repeal Obamacare because of opposition from John McCain and Lisa Murkowski, two senators it had tried and failed to remove through primaries. It has, to this point, been unable to get its wall built. The Tea Party got a lot done, and it still wasn’t enough. When Trump leaves office, most of what he will have been able to pass will be legislation which George W. Bush could have passed 20 years ago with the Republicans of that period. I’m telling you all of this because, by the looks of it, the left is going to be markedly less successful in these primaries than the Tea Party was two years into the Obama administration, in 2010.

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The Left is Not a Church

I want to talk about the DSA. If you haven’t heard, the DSA is the Democratic Socialists of America. It’s a left-wing organization that’s been around since 1982, but it’s become politically more significant over the last couple years. Inspired by Bernie Sanders, DSA’s membership has expanded from 6,000 to about 35,000 over the last couple years. The DSA is committed to lots of nice things, like a Medicare-for-All Single Payer system. I heard a story about two DSA branches this week–the San Francisco DSA and the East Bay DSA. It’s a local story. A small story. But it tells us a lot about the condition of left-wing organizing today.

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Why Single Payer Works Better at the National Level than the State Level

There’s a single payer plan advancing in the state of California, and many people are excited about it. And for good reason–a single payer system can potentially extend coverage while cutting costs. I’ve written about the virtues of single payer many times before, but there is a political danger in attempting to do single payer at the state level. Ironically and tragically, the very economic forces which make single payer such a good federal policy create powerful dangers for state systems.

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Clemency for Drug Offenders?

US Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that the Obama administration plans to implement new rules that would reduce sentences for thousands of nonviolent drug offenders currently in federal prisons. This new policy, combined with the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, would allow the administration to commute the mandatory minimum sentences many prisoners received under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. The new approach may feature hundreds of presidential pardons. In the meantime, congress has been considering new legislation (the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2014, still pending) that would cut the remaining minimum sentences in half. This is good policy, but it does not go far enough. Here’s why.

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The Return of Rick Perry

Texas governor Rick Perry has decided not to run for another term as governor, and that has many on the right excited about a possible 2016 presidential campaign. Perry is thought to be a good primary candidate due to his social conservatism (he has recently called a special session of the Texas legislature in an attempt to once again pass the anti-abortion legislation filibustered so recently by Wendy Davis). He is still thought to make a good general election candidate due to his state’s comparative economic performance. Texas has  posted unusually low unemployment numbers relative to the rest of the country during his stint as governor. So today I’d like to consider the question of whether or not Rick Perry makes a suitable republican candidate for US president.

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