It is still early in the U.S. presidential nomination races.
It is not too early, however, to harbor a pretty strong suspicion that on November 8, the election will provide a choice between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.
Of course, surprises could emerge that could lead voters to create a different pairing for November 8. Democrat Bernie Sanders, a secular Jewish radical socialist, could face Marco Rubio, now emerging as the Republican establishment candidate.
Given those competing scenarios, what will American voters do?
One answer may be found in the observation, often attributed to Winston Churchill: “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else”.
What will be the right thing to do on November 8? As the kid in the back seat keeps asking, “are we there yet?” Absolutely not. The journey ahead is filled with turns and dips before each individual voter finally decides, driven by heart and/or head, preferably both.
Will voters make a disastrous decision? Or will they choose a leader who, at least. has the potential to pull the nation out of its current political mire?
Nine months out, we must Go Set a Watchman (rest in peace, Harper Lee) to guide individual voters. And always in politics, a wise “watchman” will caution: Be alert for surprises.
That alertness demands nothing less than urging voters to look outside the box–or the narrative frame–into which the public is jammed by the mainstream media (MSM).
In an essay on the 1966 film, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, critic Roger Ebert writes about that narrative frame. He begins:
A vast empty Western landscape. The camera pans across it. Then the shot slides onto a sunburned, desperate face. The long shot has become a closeup without a cut, revealing that the landscape was not empty but occupied by a desperado very close to us.
In those opening frames, Ebert continues, Italian Director Sergio Leone established a rule he follows throughout the film.
The rule is that the ability to see is limited by the sides of the frame. At important moments in the film, what the camera cannot see, the characters cannot see, and that gives Leone the freedom to surprise us with entrances that cannot be explained by the practical geography of his shots.
With appreciation to Ebert and Leone we must ask, what surprises lurk in the presidential race over the next nine months?
One recent example has largely escaped MSM attention: A scathing putdown of Bernie Sanders by Steven Salaita, an academic who earned pro-Palestinian street cred in his lengthy encounter with pro-Israeli forces.
The Chicago Tribune reported in November, 2015, on the final settlement the University of Illinois reached with Salaita after his contract was terminated.
The University of Illinois’ decision last year to revoke a job offer to controversial professor Steven Salaita will cost more than $2 million, including an $875,000 settlement that trustees approved Thursday.
Salaita, who lost a tenured faculty position after posting a string of anti-Israel comments on social media, will get $600,000 in the deal in exchange for dropping two lawsuits against the university and agreeing he will never work at U. of I. Salaita’s attorneys will get $275,000.
The settlement — to be paid out within 30 days — is on top of the $1.3 million in legal fees the university has spent during the past 14 months on Salaita-related issues, including a federal suit brought by Salaita that alleged breach of contract and violation of his free speech rights. Trustees voted 9-1 to approve the agreement, in which the university admits no wrongdoing.
Salaita currently holds the Edward W. Said Chair of American Studies at the American University of Beirut.
In his essay for Salon, Salaita wrote,” I won’t vote for Bernie Sanders: His feeble position on Israel is a serious progressive problem.”
It is a huge surprise to find a strong pro-Palestinian academic who reject Sanders with such vehemence. Sanders’ opponent, Hillary Clinton, has exhibited a far stronger pro-Israel stance than Sanders in their respective careers.
Sanders’ autobiography, An Outsider in the White House, was first published in 1997 as An Outsider in the House when he was a House member. It was reissued, with revisions in 2015, with “White” added to the title.
In both versions Sanders focuses on his passion to confront “wealth and income inequality” in the U.S.
In an afterword to the 2015 edition, John Nichols writes:
Wrangling with the White House and Republican neoconservatives, Sanders was a forceful critic of proposals to send U.S. troops back into the Middle East. At a point in 2013, when Republicans such as Senator John McCain were pushing for intervention in Syria, and when the White House was sending ominous signals, most Democrats in the House and Senate kept quiet. But Sanders kept recalling the rush to war in Iraq, and its consequences. . .
Sanders’ book is focused solely on his issue of wealth and income inequality. His only reference to his Jewish background comes in brief references to his parents, both Jewish.
The essay by Salaita attacking Sanders, begins with praise for Sanders’ focus on economic imbalance:
Bernie Sanders has run a smart and spirited campaign. Even if he eventually loses the Democratic primary, his rise from virtually nowhere to threaten Hillary Clinton from the left offers much-needed optimism in a time of dismal inequality. His invective against Wall Street is accurate and often courageous. He is the rare candidate who doesn’t traffic in patriotic or religious platitudes.
But I won’t be voting for him.
At no point in his essay does Salaita indicate if his rejection of Sanders covers both the race for the nomination and the general election. He simply blasts Sanders:
Sanders has long supported Israeli colonization, including the worst elements of its military occupation. . . Is it fair to call Sanders an adamant Zionist? Is he a Zionist at all? Does it even matter? How bad is he, really, in the spectrum of U.S. politics, where kowtowing to Israel has long been a prerequisite for the presidency?
. . . Here’s what we know: He’s not a raging ideologue. He doesn’t extol Israel. He hasn’t kissed Netanyahu’s ring. He recently declined to call himself a Zionist. Last year, though, he yelled at pro-Palestine activists and his platform on Israel-Palestine sounds agreeable but reproduces a failed status quo.
In this largely unsubstantiated tirade against Sanders, Salaita makes no reference to Hillary Clinton’s staunch support of Israel. Nor does he appear to understand that members of the House and Senate do not stay elected long without some modicum of deference to Israel.
In our political presidential process, when the ballots are cast, the choices have been narrowed down, winnowed by earlier primaries and caucuses. Some winnowing also comes from unexpected surprises along the respective campaign trails.
It is up to the voter to watch for those surprises as they spring from outside the MSM frame of reference. Do not watch for the perfect. Watch, rather, for the potential and the possible.
Thanks, Jim. I totally agree that Professor Salaita may be missing the point by attacking Bernie Sanders. In my humble opinion, Sanders is the least of the candidates who is likely to become a blind supporter of Israeli occupation.
At this time in history, all – and I mean ALL – US Presidential candidates succumb to Big Money, except for Sanders. Sanders’ focus on the outright rejection of Big Money is our only hope to prevent the collapse of American democracy and to bring back “America Firsters”, instead of “Israel Firsters”.
For me, this is the most serious political issue we have in our country and that’s why I will still vote for Sanders.
I have to declare that as an outsider, but nevertheless a keen observer, to American politics, it doesn’t really matter who occupies the Oval Office. Far more important is to rid the country of the sinister forces that dictate the agenda to whoever sits there. One such person, JFK, tried and paid with his life.
I find elections in all western countries a distraction that keeps the eyes of unsuspecting electorate from the real issue, namely the existence of an invisible ‘higher authority’ that seems to dictate policies, including some obscenely strange, and the elected enforce without any hesitation, e.g. the abominable same sex marriage legislation which came out of the blue. This same ‘higher authority’ also controls the media which have played, and continue to play, a pivotal role in brainwashing the public and making them believe that everything being done is for their enlightenment, liberation and modernity! Simpletons fall for that.
Thank you for an excellent article. I loved Winston Churchil quotation: “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else”.
But the sad reality is that in the process of trying everything else they do so much damage, and hurt so many people and support the wrong leaders and devastate so many countries in the name of freedom and democracy. Will they ever learn? And will a country considered to be a superpower will ever elect a president worthy of its status and as you so well articulate “has the potential to pull the nation out of its political mire?
This is a good time for Americans to realize that the present dominant two party system is a failure. I can agree that Bernie’s weakness is his failure to define the ISRAEL/Palestine/AMERICA issue. Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party, clearly defines her position. She,too, is Jewish. I will never vote for Hillary. I am weary of the lesser evil. As Dr. Paul Craig Roberts states, “In the US the transformation of journalism into propagandists was completed with the concentration of a diverse independent mediation 6 mega-corporation no longer run by journalist.” The truth has to be found on alternative sites and the Internet. Personally I no longer waste time viewing ABC! NBC! CBS! CNN! FOX! MSNBC!
The presidency will be determined by the MSM.
Right now the choice of the MSM is Clinton and Trump.
No matter WHO is elected, the cold molasses won’t allow a lot of change. For example, Obama can’t even get a hearing for a Supreme Court nominee…but of course, Obama has little momentum for anything.
We are stuck in a quagmire. Who can get us out? Two sides (Sanders and Trump) have that one goal in mind and heart. Can either one do it? I suspect Churchill was right. 😦
But I’m still voting for Bernie!!