Four leaders from top progressive groups discuss how Sanders could turn a phenomenal campaign into a lasting legacy.
Jun. 11, 2016 6:00 AM
On the eve of the presidential primary in Washington, DC—the final vote of the campaign—Bernie Sanders stood before a massive crowd of placard-waving supporters and reflected on a run that defied all expectations. "What the punditry thought was that this campaign would not go very far," he said. "Well, here we are in mid-June and we are still standing."
Sanders has pledged to take his nomination fight all the way to the floor of the Democratic National Convention, pushing platform and rules changes that would empower progressives. But if he wants to create a lasting legacy in the months and years to come, he must figure out how to parlay the momentum of his campaign into an enduring progressive movement.
Others have tried this before. After winning 11 states in the 1988 Democratic presidential primary, Jesse Jackson channeled his campaign's progressive energy into the Rainbow Push Coalition, an activist group dedicated to racial justice. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean lost an insurgent presidential bid in 2004 but used his formidable email list to create Democracy for America, a group dedicated to electing progressives. But such efforts have fallen far short of political revolution.
So what should Sanders do next? Mother Jones asked four leaders from the country's top progressive political groups: Neil Sroka of Democracy for America, Ben Wikler of MoveOn.org, Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and Dan Cantor of the Working Families Party. Here's how they mapped the road ahead for Sanders:
Neil Sroka: After you are unsuccessful, one of the most important things is to prove that you can be successful. After the 2004 election was over, the very next thing Democracy for America did was launch a campaign to make Howard Dean the chair of the Democratic National Committee. That was a quick win, a show of power within the Democratic Party, and it fundamentally changed things in some really important ways. For Sanders, there are some obvious wins that can be made at the Democratic National Convention to show some real power. In terms of rules changes, he should be calling for the elimination of closed primaries going forward and also the elimination of superdelegates, or curtailing them so they only vote if the presumptive nominee is incapacitated or indicted.
"Clinton has won the Democratic nomination by making serious promises to the left. Sanders' job is to push to make sure that those promises are kept, and if they are not, raising holy hell that they haven't been."
Mother Jones: And that would benefit progressives?
Sroka: Yes. At the end of the day, this is about people having a greater say in these nominating contests, instead of them being decided by party insiders.
Ben Wikler: The criteria for organizers is: How can you fight such that your movement will be stronger whether you win or lose at the end? And where you win enough times that you are demonstrably growing in power? I think changing the Democratic Party platform [at the convention] is a great place to start. It should include expanding Social Security, a $15 minimum wage, and breaking up too-big-to-fail banks on Wall Street—among other Sanders priorities.
MJ: But people say that nobody pays attention to party platforms.
Sroka: Typically the platform is ignored, but if millions of people make the platform fight important, it is hard to ignore. And it would be a crucial document for making the nominee accountable after they are elected. A decision to make it valuable will make it valuable.
MJ: How much weight should Sanders put on getting Clinton to pick a really progressive vice president?
Dan Cantor: Everything is negotiable. I don’t know that I would make that a fault line.
MJ: But this person could be the next president.
Cantor: Maybe he really is strong enough to fight for somebody who is unexpectedly terrific. But I wouldn't put all of my eggs in the V.P. basket. I think it's also about elevating issues that people will be excited to work on in their cities and states going into the future.
MJ: Should Sanders be worried that asking for too much will divide the Democratic Party?
Adam Green: There's really two ways to look at Democratic Party unity. One approach would be functionally telling Sanders supporters to get in line to defeat Donald Trump. Saying, "Nothing else matters." The other approach is to genuinely unite millions of Clinton and Sanders supporters around big, bold, progressive ideas that both candidates campaigned on in the primary. Ideas like debt-free college, expanded Social Security benefits, breaking up too-big-to-fail banks. So it's actually essential for Hillary Clinton as she aims to bring Sanders supporters into the fold, but also as she fends off Donald Trump's fake economic populism on issues like Social Security and trade, for her to go big on these progressive issues.
MJ: Assuming it's enough to get Sanders supporters to vote for her in the fall.
Wikler: Bernie or bust actually reduces the leverage for Bernie to claim victory. It's not only important for [Sanders supporters] to show up [to vote for Clinton], it's important for them to show up as a movement, so it is clear where these victories are coming from in November. That they are coming not from persuaded Republican swing voters but rather from a fired-up progressive movement that is carrying forward regardless of what happens in the primary.
Sroka: There's a view that all Clinton needs to do is reach out to Republicans who hate Donald Trump, and they can get their winning majority from that. Well, I have real doubts about that, but if that is your path to victory, then it is a recipe for disaster when you are in the White House because the Republicans in Congress have proven to be incredibly intransigent to even the middling progressive agenda that President Obama has put forward…Clinton has won the Democratic nomination by making serious promises to the left. Sanders' job is to push to make sure that those promises are kept, and if they are not, raising holy hell that they haven't been.
"Closing up shop would be the biggest mistake. Having an email list that falls off the back of a truck and gets scooped up by a million and one political vultures would be the second-biggest mistake."
MJ: How could Sanders do that?
Wikler: There is a question as to whether these rallies are going to stop in the fall. I think they should continue. They are a tremendous display of energy but also a source of energy, because people come out of them ready to fight.
When Sanders was challenged about how he would pass his visionary ideas after he became president, he talked about if lawmakers look out the window and they see a million people marching, it changes their calculus. Well, here's an opportunity to continue working to organize these million people even if he is not the one in office.
MJ: So pick a legislative fight, do a barnstorming tour, and get people in the streets. That's the model?
Wikler: Yeah, exactly. One after another.
MJ: That idea kind of reminds me of the approach of Jesse Jackson, another guy who ran an insurgent presidential campaign. He jets into different places and lends his star power to things. Sometimes it has an impact, sometimes it doesn't.
Wikler: Yeah, it's a lot about choosing your battles. Elizabeth Warren is, I think, a great demonstration of the kind of movement-oriented model-wielding power from within the Senate. Over and over, she's rallied tons of people to battles that they don't normally get involved in. I think Sanders is going to have the world's biggest stage to be able to do that.
Sroka: One of the most exciting things about Bernie Sanders right now is imagining him in the Democratically controlled Senate as chairman of the Budget Committee, with a grassroots army of 8 million plus people behind him. That's something that we've never seen before.
MJ: Done right, that could really change politics.
Wikler: We've just gone through this period of years where the players in the game were at least written about as being a Democratic administration, establishment Republicans, and then the rabble-rousing radicals of the tea party. And it was like a three-way negotiation between them. But we are going to enter an era where there's a physical, powerful, vibrant progressive movement that will, I think, be able to exercise power in the same way as the right-wing and the right does.
MJ: So basically a tea party for the left, but maybe one that's not as…
Wikler: Not as monolithic.
MJ: But the tea party owes its existence to people like the Koch brothers. These things don't just pop out of thin air.
Wikler: The most important thing will be building a bench of powerhouse progressives in elected office and in the next administration. Sanders has an enormous spotlight that he can shine on champions that are following the Sanders path of really building from the left. What he does next will really determine whether he is blazing a trail that others can follow into office, or whether he is an exception to the rule.
Green: We’ve already seen early evidence of Bernie Sanders leveraging his millions of grassroots supporters to help congressional and other down-ballot progressive candidates. Lucy Flores is on the ballot next week in Nevada, and Sanders' email for three candidates, of which one was her, raised her over $300,000. Which was a game changer. It led her to have the resources to compete. She has bought TV ads and direct mail about these progressive ideas like expanding Social Security benefits and debt-free college. It really is an extension of the big populist ideas that Bernie has been talking about all along, but played out on a local campaign trail.
Cantor: The bigger focus is the Senate, though. I am sure the Sanders people are already mapping this out. It is very important for the progressive movement that the Democrats take the Senate, partly so Bernie has a bigger megaphone. If Democrats are again in the majority, he will be a very important chair from one of the most important committees, and from that perch he can put forth concrete proposals. Republicans can try to obstruct, but the rest of us who mobilize in the field can overcome it. My view is that if we do this well, Republican senators will recognize that standing against free public higher education is something you do at your own peril because you are up for election in 2018.
MJ: But would a focus on winning the Senate risk diluting Sanders' brand? What would happen if he backed a Blue Dog Democrat?
"Because of the youthful age of his base, it means that for 40 years you will have a generation whose idea of politics was formed by the Bernie Sanders campaign."
Green: The way to keep the energy high among his lists is to continue to be perceived as an outside force that is pushing the Democratic Party to be even better on economic populism issues. And when he puts his seal of approval on a candidate, that means that they are a couple of steps ahead of the Democratic Party in terms of the ideas they are campaigning on.
MJ: Do you think he should start his own organization?
Sroka: We know that nothing inspires people like a presidential campaign. That would be a strong organization, one we would want to work with. He could also have a smaller organization and work closely with others who are already doing this work.
Wikler: Sanders and the group of organizers around him are probably thinking this through at this exact moment. An organization is great if you have a clear vision to be able to make it powerful. If you don't, an organization can kind of sap energy that could go elsewhere. Closing up shop would be the biggest mistake. Having an email list that falls off the back of a truck and gets scooped up by a million and one political vultures would be the second-biggest mistake.
MJ: Is there a risk that Sanders could start to be perceived like Howard Dean—a onetime insurgent who has been subsumed into the political establishment?
Sroka: If Sanders becomes a part of the political establishment, I would say we did a good job. Because the only way that will happen is if the establishment changes in major ways.
MJ: How optimistic are you about that actually happening?
Cantor: It is very important that people feel incredibly proud and happy about what they have accomplished. Because they need to do it again. And they need to do it again after that. It is not as if the right ever gives up. And this is what is exciting about Berne Sanders. Because of the youthful age of his base, it means that for 40 years you will have a generation whose idea of politics was formed by the Bernie Sanders campaign.
MJ: But they said that about George McGovern in 1972, and then in the 1980s we got Ronald Reagan.
Cantor: McGovern totally changed the culture: the role of women in society, the role of blacks in society, the role of gay people—all of this comes out of the template of the civil rights movement, the New Left. We won the culture war, but we didn’t win the economic and political war. Now we have a chance to do that.
The campaign's last dance (or is it?) in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Josh HarkinsonJun. 6, 2016 7:35 PM
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders and his wife Jane Sanders arrive at a campaign rally in San Francisco.
My parents' first date was a George McGovern political rally. And if that strikes you as strange, well, you probably are not a Bernie Sanders supporter.
In San Francisco this evening, thousands of young Berners are gathering on a grassy field next to the Golden Gate bridge for a political love fest featuring acts such as Fishbone, Fantastic Negrito, and the Dave Matthews Band—not to mention Hollywood celebrities, lefty intellectuals, and one wild-haired democratic socialist. Officially, it's the Sanders campaign's A Future To Believe In GOTV Concert. Unofficially, it could be an epic last hurrah, the sort of thing that gets mentioned to the kids decades later—like Woodstock!—to prove you actually did something in your 20s besides sit on your ass and smoke pot.
Not that there won't be joints and vape pens—maybe oil rigs. But you get the point: This isn't a regular political campaign, it's a "revolution," and revolutions come with their own culture. Like Feeling the Bern. Or wading through the Bernie Sanders Dank Meme Stash. Or wearing an adult-sized Bernie onesie. Or joining the Bernie Love Wave. There has not been a campaign like this in America, since, well, Matt Gonzales ran for mayor of San Francisco. And I mean that in the best possible way. A Bernie Sanders get-out-the-vote concert in this town is not something you want to miss.
And you don't have to, because we'll be live-tweeting the event and posting updates here for as long as our batteries last. So check back regularly to get your Bern on from the comfort of your living room sofa—which is probably filled with nasty flame retardants. (Now if Bernie were president...)
Heading to the Bernie Sanders rally in SF featuring Dave Matthews, Fishbone, Danny Glover, Cornell West, and @SenSanders. Should be epic!
California Green Party has lost 30% of its members since Bernie announced.
Josh HarkinsonJun. 4, 2016 3:27 PM
"The Sanders campaign is absolutely destroying us."
Those are the words of California Green Party spokesman Mike Feinstein, who, in response to an inquiry from Mother Jones on Friday, visited the website of the California Secretary of State. He discovered, to his consternation, that his party has lost 30 percent of its members in the months since Sanders launched his presidential campaign. "I am apoplectically mad right now," Feinstein says. "I am so disgusted with this."
"They intentionally went after our voters because they are low-lying fruit on the issues," he adds, citing mailers the Sanders campaign sent to Green Party members.
The steep drop in Green registration underscores how Sanders has energized California's far-left electorate.
The party's steep decline in registration—from nearly 110,000 voters in early 2015 to 78,000 now—represents a tiny fraction of California's 18 million registered voters. Yet it underscores how the Sanders campaign has made deep inroads into California's liberal electorate, tapping voters who may have never before considered voting for a Democrat.
California's other major leftist third party, the Peace and Freedom Party, has also seen a significant drop in registration since last year, losing about 7,000 voters, or 9 percent of its members.
"Most of the members of our Central Committee, and probably other registrants, like Bernie," says Debra Rieger, the Peace and Freedom Party's state chair. Two of the party's three presidential candidates are themselves socialists, and their policy positions aren't appreciably different from Sanders'. "We think it's great that Bernie has opened to door to talking about socialism, free education for everyone, open healthcare—all these things we've been advocating for years."
With Sanders and Hillary Clinton locked in a statistical dead heat in California, at least according to the polls, a Sanders victory here may hinge on his ability to mobilize even more of these ultra-left voters. But consolidating that fractious group is no easy task, even for a democratic socialist who regularly sounds the themes of the Occupy movement.
Consider that Occupy Oakland has not promoted any events featuring Bernie Sanders—not even his Monday visit to Oakland's Frank Ogawa Plaza, the site of the group's original occupation. Instead, last week, Occupy Oakland urged its 47,000 Twitter followers to attend a Friday afternoon Berkeley rally hosted by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.
"These folks don't hate the Democratic Party as much as they hate what it has become."
Stein attributes this support to her rejection of the Democratic Party and uncompromising stance on issues such as Palestinian rights. "Our campaign has liberty that Bernie Sanders does not because we are not on the leash of a corporate party sponsored by war profiteers and Wall Street banks," she told me. "Bernie has been restrained."
The Sanders campaign also faces a practical limitation: Democratic Party rules in California allow only registered Democrats, independents, and decline-to-state voters to participate in the party's primary. Greens and Peace and Freedom partiers who support Sanders would have had to re-register by May 23 to cast a ballot for him.
Stein bristles at the notion that her campaign could be a spoiler in the Clinton-Sanders race: "This is basically a propaganda campaign, a disinformation campaign," she says. "The reality is that the lesser of two evils is not a solution."
Sanders' supporters here have spent months responding to such arguments. Tom Gallagher, a former chairman of the Democratic Socialists of America, has represented the Sanders campaign in two debates with left-wing political parties in the Bay Area, with another planned for Saturday at a Berkeley pub. He wrote a book several years ago arguing that leftists should occupy the Democratic Party.
"To me, this is the most important campaign in 40 years," says Gallagher, a former Ralph Nader supporter who is now a Democratic Party delegate representing San Francisco. "If we want [socialism] in play in this country we've gotta be in the presidential election—that's when people think about big ideas."
"There is a real option now," says a Ralph Nader supporter turned Democratic delegate. "Argue over November later."
Many activists agree. The web page of Occupy San Francisco has promoted Sanders events, and Bay Area for Bernie has signed up several former Occupy people as volunteers. Among them is Sierra Madre, the moderator of its Facebook page, who was at the 2011 Occupy Oakland protest where police seriously wounded a protester with a teargas canister. "These folks don't hate the Democratic Party as much as they hate what it has become," Madre says. "They see that they have the chance to change it to make it more populist, more working class, and there are seizing that opportunity by voting for Bernie."
Sanders has said he will use his delegates to push for changes at the Democratic National Convention. Among other things, he wants it to move to fully open primaries in every state, which would enable members of third parties to cast ballots for Democrats without re-registering.
Gallagher argues that voting for Sanders in the primary isn't necessarily a vote for the two-party system. "There is a real option now," he says. "Argue over November later."
Reiger of the Peace and Freedom Party expects that her missing members will come back after the general election—and possibly bring along some new ones. "The Democrats will never allow [Sanders] to be president," she says, "but we will be very happy to welcome those people into our ranks."
A Patriot Movement supporter, approved by the Trump campaign, talks of violently overthrowing the federal government.
Josh HarkinsonJun. 2, 2016 6:00 AM
Last December, Donald Trump's presidential campaign approved David Riden to be a delegate candidate on the Tennessee ballot, and when the state held its primary in March, voters selected Riden to go to the Republican National Convention. When Riden represents Trump there in July, it will not be his first time as a delegate to a political gathering. Seven years ago in Illinois he attended the so-called "Continental Congress of 2009," where he and other delegates put forth "Articles of Freedom" that called for abolishing all federal firearms laws, replacing the Department of Homeland Security with citizen militias, and, if necessary, launching an insurrection against the federal government.
Riden explains that his views today go even further than those of the Continental Congress of 2009—his involvement in which he says he explicitly disclosed to the Trump campaign when he applied to be a delegate. Riden told Mother Jones in an interview that US leaders who violate the Constitution may have to be done away with: "The polite word is 'eliminated,'" he said. "The harsh word is 'killed.'"
Riden said he keeps in contact with a militia group based in Tennessee, though he is not a militia member himself. He said all three branches of the US government are "way off away from the Constitution right now." Americans may need to attack with assault weapons and bombs in the nation's capital and elsewhere, he said:
There's only one reason why the Founding Fathers put the Second Amendment…If the federal government were to follow the path of all other governments, at some point it will turn to tyranny against the people. And at that point, when it stops to uphold and abide by the Constitution—and we're talking about the Supreme Court, Congress, and the executive branch, all three are way off away from the Constitution right now—the people have the right to assemble, bear arms, go to Washington, DC, or wherever necessary, and go into military battle against the government and replace those in government with individuals that will uphold the Constitution. The Constitution should remain, but the people that are abusing it should be, the polite word is, eliminated. The harsh word is killed. And they're killed by American citizens with weapons. And if people have tanks, assault weapons, if they have bombs—they need to have the weaponry necessary to be able to overthrow the federal government.
Riden, a retired nuclear engineer, is one among an unknown number of Trump supporters with ties to the Patriot Movement, a loose-knit array of right-wing militias, nativists, and so-called "sovereign citizen" groups. These groups have swelled during the Barack Obama presidency. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, nearly 1,000 anti-government groups now operate in the United States, including as many as 276 armed militias, which have increased more than sixfold in number since Obama was elected in 2008.
Federal agents who raided a Trump delegate's gated compound in Maryland said they found a subterranean bunker stocked with grenades, tear gas, and illegal machine guns.
The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
A different Trump delegate wrote an article, obtained by Mother Jones, that was published in the 1990s by a group opposing the federal government. And that delegate's son—also a Trump delegate—was arrested recently on federal weapons charges.
Collins A. Bailey of Waldorf, Maryland, who was approved by Trump as a delegate from that state's 5th Congressional District, wrote an article in 1995 that appeared in the newsletter of a Patriot group called United Sovereigns of America. Back then the militia movement was mushrooming in the aftermath of violent government crackdowns at Ruby Ridge and Waco. Bailey wrote about the Christian beliefs of America's Founding Fathers: "These were men of conviction, men who had 'No King But King Jesus.'" Bailey lauded a speech by Patrick Henry about organizing militias against the British, though he made no references to contemporary militias. An accompanying article in the newsletter, however, urged readers to "stockpile food, water, guns and ammunition," and to "never surrender your weapons."
Bailey is well known in Maryland Republican politics, having run unsuccessfully for Congress in 2008 and 2010. His campaigns have sounded themes of constitutional fundamentalism popular with the Patriot Movement. "Things are out of control," he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 2008, around that year's GOP national convention. "We should be a nation of laws under the Constitution; we should have the rule of law, not the rule of man." Bailey used starker language on his personal MySpace page: "The Second Amendment does not address duck hunting," he wrote in 2008. "Our Founding Fathers…wisely made many provisions to guard against tyranny, including tyranny from our own government."
Reached briefly by phone and asked about the 1995 article, Bailey told Mother Jones: "No, we don't have any ties to any militia groups, and I don't remember ever submitting that to the organization you're talking about. And that's the only comment I can give you." Then he hung up. (Mother Jones was unable to reach the Oklahoma-based United Sovereigns of America that published the 1995 newsletter; it appears to no longer exist.)
By "we," Bailey was also referring to a question about his son, Caleb A. Bailey, whom the Trump campaign also approved to be a delegate from Maryland to the Republican National Convention. The Trump campaign announced on May 19 that the younger Bailey would be "replaced immediately," after Mother Jones and other media reported that he was indicted on federal weapons and child pornography charges. Unidentified federal investigators told local TV news station ABC 7 that when they raided Caleb Bailey's 75-acre gated compound in Waldorf they found a fortified subterranean room under his home stocked with grenades, tear gas, and illegal machine guns.
It is unclear what Bailey's intentions were for the stockpile, which federal prosecutors further described at a court hearing for him on May 26 as "a vast array of weapons found in an underground bunker." Among the charges brought against Bailey, prosecutors allege that he attempted to mail ammunition and explosives to an individual in Wisconsin whose identity remains unclear. According to the US Attorney's Office, "The contents of the package included 119 rounds of reloaded .50 caliber cartridges with M48A1 incendiary projectiles, and 200 rounds of 14.5mm M183A1 spotting projectiles which contain an explosive charge."
The Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives (ATF), which led the raid, declined to comment specifically about the weapons discovered under Bailey's home. Approached at the May 26 court hearing by Mother Jones and other media, Caleb Bailey's attorney declined to comment.
The Patriot Movement, after quieting during the Bush years, has returned with a vengeance since Obama became president, animated by conspiracy theories including Mexican plans to "reconquer" the American Southwest and the infiltration of the United States by Muslims. As Obama's reelection campaign ramped up in 2011, Trump became a ringleader for the conspiracy theory that Obama is not a native-born citizen of the United States. "I want to see the birth certificate," Trump said on NBC's Today show. "How come his family doesn't know which hospital he was born in?" Trump later suggested that Obama might be withholding his long-form birth certificate for fear of revealing that he was born a Muslim. The New York business mogul became so well known for leading this line of attack that Obama (a Christian, born in Hawaii) was moved to rebuke him in what proved a memorable moment at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner.
Riden said his wife, an alternate delegate for Trump, agrees Obama is dangerous: "Remember, he is one of them," she told him. "Meaning he is a Muslim, he is on the side of the terrorists."
Trump backed off the birther talk once Obama released his long-form birth certificate and Trump's own presidential campaign began—though when pressed about it by CNN's Anderson Cooper, Trump continued to float doubts about whether Obama was born in the United States. "I don't know," Trump said last July. "I really don't know. I don't know why he wouldn't release his records."
Birtherism has remained a focus for Riden, the Tennessee delegate for Trump. "I am 100 percent convinced that [Obama] was not born in Hawaii," he said.
Riden said he listed the Continental Congress of 2009 on the resume he submitted as part of his delegate application to the Trump campaign. He said he also included it among the subjects he wanted to discuss with the media during the Republican National Convention.
"There is no question that [Trump] is giving these groups more fuel," says Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project for the Southern Poverty Law Center. Patriot groups have thrilled to Trump's calls to deport undocumented immigrants and ban Muslim refugees. The leader of the anti-immigrant Minuteman Project, Jim Gilchrist, who recently endorsed Trump for president, hailed him last year for having "unified" the Patriot Movement's fractious groups: "He is the go-to guy."
Trump has also courted these constituents with subtler messaging. He criticized Obama for not swiftly evicting an armed group that occupied a federal office in early 2016 in rural Oregon. But Trump also tacitly legitimized the occupiers—led by the infamously anti-government Bundy family—telling the New York Times that if he were president, he would personally invite them to meet with him in Washington.
"This is dog-whistle politics," says Beirich. "He is directly energizing sections on the extremist right."
Riden said his wife, Perry Riden, who is an alternate Trump delegate from Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District, also thinks Obama is dangerous. "My wife looks at me and says, 'Remember, he is one of them.' Meaning he is a Muslim, he is on the side of the terrorists, he will…let Iran have nuclear weapons, which would destroy Israel and the United States, because his way of thinking is right in line with Iran, North Korea, and Russia."
After Mother Jones broke the story in early May that Trump had selected William Johnson, a white nationalist leader, as a delegate from California to the GOP convention, the Trump campaign blamed Johnson's inclusion on a "database error." That came not long after Trump refused in a CNN interview to denounce an endorsement from a former head of the Ku Klux Klan. He later blamed that on a "bad ear piece." Trump has also brushed off criticisms for perpetuating racist and anti-Semitic content spread by his followers on Twitter.
When it comes to Trump answering for his most controversial supporters, says Beirich, "He knows exactly what game he is playing."
An increased incidence of brain and heart tumors was seen in rats.
Josh HarkinsonMay 27, 2016 1:41 AM
It's the moment we've all been dreading. Initial findings from a massive federal study, released on Thursday, suggest that radio-frequency (RF) radiation, the type emitted by cellphones, can cause cancer.
The findings from a $25 million study, conducted over two and a half years by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), showed that male rats exposed to two types of RF radiation were significantly more likely than unexposed rats to develop a type of brain cancer called a glioma, and also had a higher chance of developing the rare, malignant form of tumor known as a schwannoma of the heart. The effect was not seen in females.
The radiation level the rats received was "not very different" from what humans are exposed to.
The radiation level the rats received was "not very different" from what humans are exposed to when they use cellphones, said Chris Portier, a former associate director of the NTP who commissioned the study.
As the intensity of the radiation increased, so did the incidence of cancer in the rats. (The highest radiation level was five to seven times as strong as what humans typically receive while using a phone.) Although ionizing radiation, which includes gamma rays and X-rays, is widely accepted as a carcinogen, the wireless industry has long noted that there is no known mechanism by which RF radiation causes cancer. The researchers wrote that the results "appear to support" the conclusion that RF radiation may indeed be carcinogenic.
The findings should be a wake-up call for the scientific establishment, according to Portier, who is now a contributing scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund. "I think this is a game changer," he said. "We seriously have to look at this issue again in considerable detail."
"The NTP does the best animal bioassays in the word," Portier added. "Their reputation is stellar. So if they are telling us this was positive in this study, that's a concern."
Past animal studies have been inconclusive. Most of those suggesting a connection between cellphone radiation and cancer had first exposed rodents to toxic chemicals to induce tumors, which were then shown to grow in response to radiation exposure. But the new study did nothing in advance to stimulate cancer in the animals.
The NTP first decided to investigate the carcinogenicity of cellphone radiation in 2001, partly in response to epidemiological studies showing a correlation between gliomas and cellphone use. Some of the studies even showed that the cancers were ipsilateral—meaning they tended to appear on the same side of the head where users held their phones. But other epidemiological studies haven't found links between cancer and cellphones.
The Food and Drug Administration, which is charged with regulating the health aspects of consumer products, says on its website that there is "no evidence linking cell phone use with the risk of brain tumors." It does acknowledge some risk associated with carrying cellphones too close to the body, but only due to the phones' heating effect.
Even "a very small increase in the incidence of disease" due to cellphone radiation "could have broad implications for public health."
The NTP findings cast doubt on that conclusion: The study was designed to control for heating effects by ensuring that the body temperature of the exposed rats increased by less than 1 degree Celsius. "Everyone expected this study to be negative," a senior government radiation official toldMicrowave News, which was shown partial results from the study earlier this week. "Assuming that the exposures were carried out in a way that heating effects can be ruled out, then those who say that such [carcinogenic] effects found are impossible are wrong."
The study was expensive in part because it required the construction of special exposure chambers that allowed thousands of mice and rats to receive standardized dozes of radiation. For about nine hours per day, for periods ranging from two months to the lifetime of the animal, the rodents were exposed to the RF radiation frequencies used by second generation (2G) phones—the standard at the time the study was initiated.
Only the test results for rats have been released so far. Female rats didn't experience significantly higher than normal cancer rates. However, among male rats that received the highest radiation exposures, 2 percent to 3 percent contracted gliomas and 6 percent to 7 percent percent developed schwannoma tumors in their hearts, depending on the type of radiation used. None of the male rats in the control groups developed those cancers.
Potentially confounding the results, the rats exposed to radiation on average lived longer than those that weren't. Some outside reviewers argued that the study's authors should have given more weight to that caveat. Reviewers were also puzzled that the unexposed control rats didn't exhibit the usual number of brain tumors. "I am unable to accept the authors' conclusions," wrote Michael Lauer, the deputy director of the National Institute of Health's office of extramural research.
In the United States, of about 25,000 malignant brain tumors diagnosed each year, 80 percent are gliomas. Malignant brain tumors are the most common cause of cancer deaths in adolescents and adults ages 15 to 39.
The authors of the NTP study did not say how their results might translate into cancer risk for humans. But "given the extremely large number of people who use wireless communication devices," they wrote, "even a very small increase in the incidence of disease resulting from exposure to RFR resulting from those devices could have broad implications for public health."
The wireless industry and many media outlets—particularly tech sites, which depend on the industry for advertising—have confidently proclaimed that the science on cellphone safety is settled. You "can't choose to 'believe' in facts because they are, well, facts," Charlie Sorrell wrote in Wired in 2011, after detailing the results of a Danish epidemiological study showing no link between cellphone use and cancer. "So there you go, people. Finally you can ditch that dorky Bluetooth headset. Your brain isn't being microwaved after all."
But Portier says there still isn't enough data to consider the case closed. "There are arguments in the literature now that we are at the beginning of an epidemic of cancers," he told me. "There are arguments against that. It is not clear who is right. I have looked through it. It's a mixed bag."
"We spend as a nation god-awful billions of dollars using our cellphones," he adds. "We are significantly exposed on a constant basis and yet we spend almost nothing on research in this area. We need an influx of research dollars if we want to understand what may be happening, and hopefully be able to prevent it while we still have the time."
This article was updated to reflect criticism of the study's conclusions by outside researchers.