by Joshua Frank
A few weeks back I wrote a piece that was pretty rough on Bernie Sanders. I admit it. I pulled him through the mud by his loafers and smeared his good name. I had the audacity to point out his rubber-stamping of various wars, his silent support for Israel’s assault on Palestine, and his crude vote during Bill Clinton’s presidency that peeled away the rights granted by habeas corpus. I even called his campaign a dead end. I mean, I was rough on the old comrade.
A slew of emails soon flooded my inbox from Bernie-fanatics. They chastised me for claiming Bernie wasn’t worth the effort (“How dare you, you fucking ass-wipe!”). They openly proclaimed their admiration for Sanders (“It’s like Noam Chomsky is running for the White House!”) and begged me to abandon my criticisms and jump on the latest freight train to change (“You’ll be forced to come around, he’s going to cream Clinton in the primaries, you watch!”). Fact is, I’m not sorry in the least that I wrote the truth about his misdirected campaign. In fact, the Bernie-bots are exactly the reason Democrats don’t give a shit about progressive politics. Let me explain.
The Bernie run, even though many like to view it as such, is not a movement builder. If we’re being generous, we could say Bernie is raising serious issues about class politics and the eroding status of working Americans. Right on Bernie. We could also say his stump speeches deprecating Wall Street’s dominance of our political system are justified. Certainly, Bernie’s got a good thing going there. We could even go so far as to note that Bernie’s blazing rhetoric isn’t the type of message Hillary Clinton wants to hear. But that’s pretty much where Bernie’s campaign ends, as he’s promised he would never challenge Hillary if she manages to win the primaries, and her well-oiled machine is well on its way with a hefty 40% lead (and that’s with polls including Joe Biden in the race, without Biden, her poll numbers are even higher.)
In an ABC News interview with George Stephanopoulos on May 3, Bernie had this to say:
STEPHANOPOULOS: So if you lose in this nomination fight, will you support the Democratic nominee?
SANDERS: Yes. I have in the past.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not going to run as an independent?
SANDERS: No, absolutely not. I’ve been very clear about that.
That’s some straight-forward talk, if you ask me. Bernie is exactly what the Hillary campaign wants and needs. The more progressive voters Bernie can bring into the Democratic fold, the less likely a left-leaning independent candidate will have an impact on the elections.
Let’s put it in perspective: if Hillary calls for continuing the War on Terror, more free-trade agreements, more IMF loans, more bank bailouts, more attacks on Social Security – Bernie will support her candidacy anyway. In fact, he’ll likely ask you to do the same. What would you expect? Bernie even told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press that “…Bill Clinton did a very good job,” for crying out loud. That’s exactly why the Democratic National Committee is sending out emails that look like Sanders campaign ads. Bernie is the DNC’s dupe, and by association, so are his unwitting supporters.
See, the Bernie campaign isn’t really about spearheading a social movement that will challenge the neoliberal agenda of the Democratic Party. Bernie refuses to take on Hillary Clinton’s corporate allegiance when it matters most – in the general election. In fact, Bernie, who has pledged not to run attack ads, will not even address her neoliberalism in the primaries. Any direct challenges need to be built outside the party, but that’s not what his campaign is all about. Instead, Bernie is helping to elect a Democrat to the White House in 2016, no matter the cost it will have on working people.
This is where the wheels on the Bernie bandwagon fall off. Despite the issues I may have with his wishy-washy foreign policy record (and they are ample), those qualms are beside the point. Sanders must break from the Democrats, pure and simple. They can’t be fixed. He must run as an independent candidate and hold Hillary accountable until the bitter end. He must work to break through the Commission on Presidential Debates and force his way onto the stage, knowing full well unless he does so, neither major party candidate will even talk about real income inequality or the corporate takeover of our democratic process. He needs to embrace the spoiler moniker, fallout be damned.
Alas, Bernie isn’t going to do any of this no matter how bad you want him to. He’s promised as much on national television. He won’t be there with his legions of supporters, tackling the barriers the two corrupt parties have set up in order to deny independent candidates access to voters. He won’t call on Hillary Clinton and her Republican opponent to drop their support for the Wall Street crooks that are fleecing America. He won’t put pressure on them at all, because his platform and ideas won’t even be in the conversation.
That’s the reality of the Bernie Sanders campaign and all those who believe he’s in it to win it. He’s not going to make the rich panic. Not for a second.