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Solomon writes: "Well-informed public discussion is a major hazard for Democratic Party elites now eager to prevent Bernie Sanders from winning the 2020 presidential nomination."

Rep. Beto O'Rourke. (photo: Getty)
Rep. Beto O'Rourke. (photo: Getty)

How Corporate Democrats Aim to Stifle Criticism

By Norman Solomon, Reader Supported News

26 December 18


ell-informed public discussion is a major hazard for Democratic Party elites now eager to prevent Bernie Sanders from winning the 2020 presidential nomination. A clear focus on key issues can bring to light the big political differences between Sanders and the party’s corporate-friendly candidates. One way to muddy the waters is to condemn people for pointing out facts that make those candidates look bad.

National polling shows that the U.S. public strongly favors bold policy proposals that Sanders has been championing for a long time. On issues ranging from climate change to Medicare for All to tuition-free public college to Wall Street power, the party’s base has been moving leftward, largely propelled by an upsurge of engagement from progressive young people. This momentum is a threat to the forces accustomed to dominating the Democratic Party.

In recent weeks, Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke has become a lightning rod in a gathering political storm – largely because of the vast hype about him from mass media and Democratic power brokers. At such times, when spin goes into overdrive, we need incisive factual information. Investigative journalist David Sirota provided it in a deeply researched December 20 article, which The Guardian published under the headline “Beto O’Rourke Frequently Voted for Republican Legislation, Analysis Reveals.”

Originating from the nonprofit Capital & Main news organization, the piece reported that “even as O’Rourke represented one of the most solidly Democratic congressional districts in the United States, he has frequently voted against the majority of House Democrats in support of Republican bills and Trump administration priorities.”

Progressives have good reasons to like some of O’Rourke’s positions. But Sirota’s reporting drilled down into his voting record, reviewing “the 167 votes O’Rourke has cast in the House in opposition to the majority of his own party during his six-year tenure in Congress. Many of those votes were not progressive dissents alongside other left-leaning lawmakers, but instead votes to help pass Republican-sponsored legislation.”

The meticulous and in-depth reporting by Sirota was a public service, but some angry reactions were classic instances of blaming the messenger for the unfavorable news. At times vitriolic, the denunciations of Sirota came from people who apparently would have preferred that Congressman O’Rourke’s actual voting record remain shrouded in a hagiographic haze.

But it’s better to learn revealing political facts sooner rather than later. Thanks to Sirota’s coverage, for instance, we now know “O’Rourke has voted for GOP bills that his fellow Democratic lawmakers said reinforced Republicans’ anti-tax ideology, chipped away at the Affordable Care Act (ACA), weakened Wall Street regulations, boosted the fossil fuel industry and bolstered Donald Trump’s immigration policy.”

The backlash to Sirota’s news article was in keeping with a tweet two weeks earlier from Neera Tanden, the president of the influential and lavishly funded Center for American Progress, who has long been a major ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton. On December 6, Tanden went over-the-top in response to a tweet from Sirota simply mentioning the fact that O’Rourke “is the #2 recipient of oil/gas industry campaign cash in the entire Congress.”

Tanden lashed out via Twitter, writing: “Oh look. A supporter of Bernie Sanders attacking a Democrat. This is seriously dangerous. We know Trump is in the White House and attacking Dems is doing Trump’s bidding. I hope Senator Sanders repudiates these attacks in 2019.”

Such calculated nonsense indicates just how panicky some powerful corporate Democrats are about Bernie’s likely presidential campaign – and just how anxious they are to protect corporate-oriented candidates from public scrutiny. The quest is to smother meaningful discussions of vital issues that should be center stage during the presidential campaign.

Corporate Democrats are gearing up to equate principled, fact-based critiques of their favored candidates with – in Tanden’s words – “seriously dangerous” attacks that are “doing Trump’s bidding.” Such demagogic rhetoric should be thrown in the political trashcan where it belongs.

This is not only about Beto O’Rourke – it’s about the parade of Democratic contenders lined up to run for president. Should the candidates that mass media and party elites put forward as “progressive” be quickly embraced or carefully scrutinized? The question must be asked and answered.

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Norman Solomon is co-founder and national coordinator of He is the author of a dozen books including War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

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+82 # Moxa 2018-12-26 14:20
The anti-Bernie campaign has resumed. It is very insidious. The critical talking points are rampant and I hear people who actually agree with Bernie's policies repeating the criticisms as truths: he's too old (too old for what?), his policies cost too much. Usually, what people tell me is why OTHER people will not vote for Bernie (he's a socialist, e.g.) and therefore why we shouldn't even consider him.

I am certain this is because of the propaganda of the corporate media. People who utilize no other sources of information are quite prone to brainwashing. It's like the invasion of the body snatchers.

I think Bernie can overcome this. I HOPE so. It is not just that he's the only one who can definitely beat Trump. He's the only one who actually represents real and needed change in this country.

But do people know this? I guess we'll find out.
+9 # bobaka 2018-12-26 19:14
Thank you for the clarity your article presents. The 1% owns and controls the political parties and uses their very superficial differences as if they were great.So, defeating these conspirators has never been done. The ruling class thinks they evolved from the Egyptian pharoahs so what is a commoner supposed to do? Socialism is the science of equality--the science of bringing about human equality. Bernie is a partial socialist and better than some while not stating the horrible need to change the common person's economic fate as more and more people sleep on the streets. I am allergic to a suit and tie: they are the uniform of fascists, royalty wannabees.War will reach the U.S. shore as all the professional beasts will sacrifice us commoners to further the war objectives of the new world order. When Bernie gives a speech about fiat banking and austerity and fascism, I'll think something positive is developing.
+21 # Jim Rocket 2018-12-26 23:17
America used to have free college tuition. The conspirators were defeated...or at least held at the past and we've all let these victories slide. I believe Chomsky made a comment that most of Bernie's policies would fit right in with the Eisenhower Administration. The radical right has been spending billions for 40 years to make us all think what we actually had is impossible. They've done such a good job that people think there's no hope but the last elections showed that there is quite a bit of hope.
0 # economagic 2018-12-28 08:50
"America used to have free college tuition."

Please cite a source for that claim. I'm not doubting it, but it's news to me. I have some knowledge of the history of education in America and would like to know more.
+1 # Jim Rocket 2018-12-30 17:39
Perhaps not a hundred percent free but state colleges in the sixties and seventies could be paid for easily by working a summer job. The same was true in Canada. My first Year's tuition in Alberta in 1974 was $444. No problem covering that with a summer job. The increases have very little to do with inflation.
+31 # PABLO DIABLO 2018-12-26 19:17
Bernie is our best hope. Vote Progressive. Get rid of the Electoral College and Citizens United. Run Bernie, RUN.
-9 # mblockhart 2018-12-26 19:45
It can't be that simple. There isn't Bernie and his fans over here and the rest of Democrats are corporate stooges. The truth is that there are millions who appreciate Bernie and agree with most or all of his positions, but don't see him as the best President (for several very good reasons). And what Sarota's work lacked was any analysis that might have looked into the reasons Beto voted for the bills as he did. Were they must-pass legislation with good in them? Were they negotiated deals? The problem with progressive purists like Solomon and Sarota is they don't seem to understand the negotiations involved in getting government to do anything. It's no defense of Beto to look into those reasons. Why are they afraid of objective analysis?
+7 # Texas Aggie 2018-12-26 22:03
You'll notice that most of Beto's votes that were in favor of the republicans were opposed by most Democrats, so they weren't must pass or negotiated deals.

I voted for Beto because he's several orders of magnitude better than Raphael is, but he is definitely not a progressive.
+8 # JCM 2018-12-27 08:06
I think you have a point, although, the idea that the republicans have any legislation worth voting on is a hard bump to get over. I took a look at Vote Smart
to see if I could make out what his votes with republicans were but the list is very large and would take more time than I can offer. From this list you can see the times he voted with the republicans while the majority of Dems voted against it. Then you would have to analyze what the bill did. While your point is well taken it is still very uncomfortable to see how many times he voted with the republicans when so many Dems did not.
+1 # JCM 2018-12-27 09:39

for more analysis of O'Rourke's votes.
-12 # ddd-rrr 2018-12-27 10:06
YES, "# mblockhart", thanks for this comment!

"Absolutists" always seem to miss the reality that ALL of life is compromises!
It is a finding of the "best balances" between the ideal and the possible,
the effective and the ineffective, the "good" and the "bad"
that is the most productive and efficient,
awkward as this approach
may appear to be.

Insistence on complete "purity and perfection"
is the quickest route to a failure to achieve much of anything of value.
+10 # LionMousePudding 2018-12-28 13:20
However when there IS a better option, calling for compromise is a straw man argument.
+7 # HDSMTS 2018-12-27 10:35
[quote Why are they afraid of objective analysis?

Because they see their role as providing facts and letting citizens undertake their own analysis, which is how journalism used to work. That said, did you actually read the Guardian article? It provides all the necessary context and relevant links for readers to validate whether his votes were about getting things done in DC (that is, demonstrations of bipartisanship and compromise) or evidence of something less than commitment to Progressive policies and goals.
+5 # NAVYVET 2018-12-28 23:31
Guardian has been my Home Page for almost 3 years, and I LOVE IT! It's not that I always agree with their editorials, but that tney have a fresh, "foreign" slant, and that the writers seldom hesitate to take sides--usually progressive and regularly provocative. I also can check out news around the world, and trust the professional quality of the journalism. There are still a few old-fashioned, reasonably trustworthy US news providers like Knight-Ridder, but they haven't the resources to dig, dig, and dig some more to get at the truth. Did you know Guardian was the first to post a continual series of photos and summaries of people in the US killed by cops? (LONG before any USian news paid attention!) As a supporter of Black Lives Matter, that's why I chose it for my Home Page.

You too can have Guardian for a Home Page. It sure beats the wishy-washiness of the usual CNN, MSN, etc. lazyboy infotainment, or the pro-wingnut slant in this tabloid yellow journalism age of Murdoch and his equally wealthy mass media Imitators.
+13 # engelbach 2018-12-27 16:53
If you have revealing information that disputes what Sarota has written, by all means make it known.

Meanwhile, your use of the term "progressive purists" tells me that you are no progressive.

The damage done to the United States by the Republican Party is far and enough reason to be suspicious of any Democrat who votes with them, on anything.
+9 # LionMousePudding 2018-12-28 13:18
Sirota published facts.

He deserves reprobation because he didn't post more facts?

No. If there were GOOD reasons for the votes, non-Berners would have countered with those good reasons.

But I have seen none do so. The only reactions I have seen are:

1. How dare anyone criticize Beto?
2. Let the elites choose our candidate. Primaries are unwarranted.
3. Aww, forgive Beto.
+17 # Forbes 2018-12-26 20:05
Beto is 1/2 Republican per his votes. #NeverBeto is gaining ground and soon he will start loosing supporters.
+15 # Texas Aggie 2018-12-26 22:06
He'll be losing supporters for national positions once people learn about him and deservedly, but here in TX he's still a lot better than the scum running on the republican ticket.
+14 # Farafalla 2018-12-26 21:46
Hey folks, Sirota’s original article and this one are major examples on why we need independent progressive journalism. You probably spent too much money on the holiday cheer as it were, but sending 10USD to RSN means we can keep reading these important articles. I was all excited about Beto until I started reading more. Now I know that he has voted against most of the things I am for. Thank you RSN for your well curated selections I get to read and resend every few hours. No ads, no corporate donors, no pop up shit, In a world of corporate news thistles, RSN is an orchid.
-5 # economagic 2018-12-26 22:15
Sanders is not as progressive as he looks when comparing him to the corporate Dems. He may be the best we've got, but his foreign and military budgeting policy stances are not really progressive at all, and his watered-down version of universal health care is absurd--better no bill and try for the real thing later.

On the other hand (sorry, I'm an economist), I would take O'Rourke in Congress for a nod toward REAL bipartisanship if there were a solid progressive majority in whichever chamber.
+6 # LionMousePudding 2018-12-28 13:23
"Sanders is not perfect because he is not far left enough.

On the other hand I would vote for Beto, who is 50 x worse than Bernie... "

The elephant in the room is, why not vote for Bernie?
+1 # economagic 2018-12-28 20:50
I did NOT say I would not vote for Bernie--CERTAIN LY not that I would vote for Beto in preference to him--or that he is "not far left enough." He IS a bit timid, forced to walk a knife edge between his progressive base on the one hand and on the other hand the corporate Dems and some of his constituents who support the F-35 on the assumption that it will be good for the Vermont economy especially around Burlington.

I DID say that I would vote for Beto, on the tacit assumption that he was the Democratic nominee for a Congressional seat from Texas and that I lived in Texas, which I don't, IF his votes favoring Republican policies would be overwhelmed by a progressive majority in that house.
+10 # Kaia 2018-12-26 22:53
Better than Cruz is not saying much, but it's well, better than Cruz.
+13 # lfeuille 2018-12-26 23:58
Corporate Dems depend on secrecy to keep people in line. When someone dares to break it they go ballistic and blame the messenger. This is very reminiscent of the reaction to the Wikileaks disclosures about Hillary.

Thanks to Sirota a Norman Solomon for setting the record straight on Beto. I hope it makes a difference this time.
+1 # economagic 2018-12-28 09:12
Thanks to you and Farafalla for spelling Sirota's name correctly. It appears at least four times in the article, leading me to wonder how thoroughly some posters read it.

It is not "purist" to expect a Democratic legislator NOT to routinely support and vote for Republican proposals deeply at odds with progressive policy. Neither Solomon nor Sirota is anything like a "purist."
+9 # Razzoo2 2018-12-27 00:53
I much appreciate Sirota's investigation of the voting record. I would like to hear Beto interviewed about it.
-2 # Robbee 2018-12-27 10:24
the truth will set beto free!
+14 # davehaze 2018-12-27 11:27

"The problem with Progressive purists..." really? This idea that anyone who is not satisfied with Schumer and Pelosi, who want more out of the democratic party than russiagate complaints against Trump, who feel that the Democratic party should represent the people of the United States instead of corporations and the rich are so-called "purists" is a disingenuous propagandist sledgehammer that progressives hear time and time again. It's message is "keep your mouth shut," if you're not criticizing Trump and any criticism of the democratic party is "helping Trump" or is, "out of the mouth of trump or" you sound just like Trump."

It is difficult for progressives to change the mind of Trump-bros and Democratic party establishment cheerleaders but we think we have a shot at voters who are interested in Medicare for all, a livable wage, bringing home our troops from Syria Afghanistan Iraq Sudan Libya etc etc, which the Democratic party does not want spoken about, let alone implemented.
-2 # rxfxworld 2018-12-27 14:46
I'm seeing more than the usual number of trolls here who function to cast doubt and provoke division. Example: Economagic: "Sanders.... his watered-down version of universal health care is absurd-" What's watered down or absurd about Medicare for all, done with succeeding deciles i.e. 55's 45' etc. Are you Russian Economagic?
+4 # economagic 2018-12-28 14:13
Hardly! Have you read ANY of my other comments on RSN over the past five years or more?

I have no problem with a phased introduction; in fact I think it will likely be necessary. One of the shortcomings of HR 676 is that it tries to reverse the battleship that is the USian non-health, non-care, non-system (Walter Kronkite said that some years ago, but I said it earlier) in less than its own length. Yes, what we want is ultimately to SINK that battleship. The metaphor refers to the actual planning and work that such a vast project entails, not to mention the fact that IF it gets done it will be done in tandem with the beginnings of an entirely new economy. Capitalism by its nature can never be green, or even chartreuse.

I have not read Sanders' latest proposal alongside HR 676 (which still needs quite a bit of tuning), but articles on RSN and elsewhere lately have stated clearly that the bill that Jayapal is crafting in collaboration with Sanders is neither Medicare nor significantly improved.

Aside from the phased introduction, half-measures that leave the private health INSURANCE industry intact make it more difficult to ever get the other half. The US is 30-80 years behind most of the developed world and half of the Third World in terms of Health care and costs, and only a few countries with some kind of universal system allow parallel for-profit systems. For the real story search on "Margaret Flowers" or read her articles at poularresistanc
+11 # LionMousePudding 2018-12-28 11:13
I have been on Twitter watching and taking part in the threads attacking Sirota and attacking Bernie supporters for caring about facts about Bernie. I have identified a profound lack of understanding that the policies of the eventual President are even relevant. I answer each question pointing out it is POLICY, and we need a candidate who is 100% FOR 100% RENEWABLES and who is 100% EVERYDAY PEOPLE BENEFITING FROM ECONOMIC POLICY.

What I get is how it is nasty to attack Beto, how we should "forgive" the votes against the planet and the people, how we need to "rally" and "come together" which means "shut the f up and let us have what we want."

How does one have a primary without pointing out policy differences? But these are the people who were furious that there even WAS a primary last time.

It isn't just Republicans who hate democracy. It is everyone but the one political section that wants to HELP people: Progressives.

"Well of course you want democracy if it helps you win!" They would say.

Because the ONLY reason to win an election is for your group to have won.

The citizens of the country either don't mattee, or don't know what's good for them, poor dimwitted non elites.
+1 # economagic 2018-12-28 14:22
Ohhhhhmm, you did a nasty, calling out the people with "a profound lack of understanding" on their worship of a name with little or no knowledge of what the name stands for! Sanders may still be our best bet in 2020, and he is certainly much better than Cruz, O'Rourke, or Pelosi, who is indeed highly skilled at getting money and getting bills passed, but also at suppressing dissent from her version of the Party Line. But he is not God, and is highly vulnerable to serious criticism for his embrace of the F-35 and its basing at the public airport in Burlington. There was an article yesterday claiming that the Pentagon has acknowledged that together with the F-16, the F-35 is capable of causing hearing loss to a significant number of persons in the Burlington area.
+6 # McGeorge Govern 2018-12-28 16:23
Fine article. Discussion is indeed being stifled among Dems. Any objection to the canonization of Mueller, McCain, Mattis and Bush Sr. is now met with cries of 'Russian agent-troll.' A pullout of US Mid-East forces is a good idea. Even if Trump is ordering it. The troops never should have been there to begin with. I would like to think that a Pres. Sanders would have done the same thing.
-2 # chapdrum 2018-12-29 17:43
Would the story change if the headline read "Democrats Aim To Stifle Criticism?"
+1 # Wise woman 2018-12-30 10:23
Econo,I know I'm late in the game here, but NYC and state had free college tuition back in the 50's. You can check that out for your info.

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