Tuesday, May 05, 2015


It's nice that Bernie Sanders is going to be on TV a lot (or at least some) talking about things like rectifying income inequality, reigning in Wall Street abuses, and increasing Social Security benefits.

At the same time, his participation in the Democratic primary guarantees these issues will be left behind once the Democratic primary is over. That's not the entire point of the exercise but it is part of it.
However much he disagrees with (Hillary), Sanders will agitate for trade unionists and social movement activists to vote for the lesser of two evils. The result is that he will help corral people on the Left from taking any steps toward building a genuine alternative to the two-party status quo.

Thus, Sanders will follow the well-trodden path of other liberals like Kucinich. In the 2004 Democratic primaries, Kucinich excoriated Kerry and other candidates for voting for George W. Bush’s wars, implementing neoliberal trade agreements like NAFTA, and supporting the racist death penalty.

But Kucinich was very conscious of keeping the Left and liberals from building a third party. At one point during the campaign, he said: “The Democratic Party created third parties by running to the middle. What I’m trying to do is to go back to the big tent so that everyone who felt alienated could come back through my candidacy.”

Kucinich thus became the bait on the hook for the Democrats to catch their liberal base. After he lost the primaries, he called on his supporters to support the very candidate he had roundly criticized.

Sanders’s campaign will serve the same function. He is already serving that function by luring people on the Left, like the Occupy activists who launched People for Bernie, into a Democratic Party campaign when they might have concentrated their energies on politics outside the party.
The Kucinich comparison is apt. But Kucinich is something of a flake, whereas Bernie Sanders is not. (Well... not in exactly the same way anyhow.) The other day I told the tweeters that Sanders' run reminded me more of Jesse Jackson 1988. The know-nothings in the tweeter tube, naturally found this preposterous.  It is not.
His campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination will be, at best, a re-run of Jesse Jackson’s primary runs in 1984 and 1988. Jackson’s campaigns galvanized an entire section of the Left, channeled it toward the Democratic Party, and directed its remnants to vote for a succession of corporate candidates like Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis.
The purpose is to keep the left engaged throughout the nominating process so that they'll at least feel like they've got something like skin in the game during the general election. Meanwhile Hillary can be sympathetic but "reasonable" and doesn't have to do as much flip-flopping once the general election begins. It's a tried and true strategy designed to sell the establishment candidate.

So enjoy Bernie while you can. It's nice to know we'll have something pleasing to listen to for a while.  Just remember, though, that's all we're going to get out of this.

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