Agitate, Educate, and Organize ~OO~
As Barack Obama’s second presidential term limps toward the finish line, the promises of “hope” and “change” which his Wall Street sponsors and political marketeers dangled before voters lie in tatters. Bewailing widespread disillusionment in the American political system is a standard theme from talk-show pundits to academia. The press reports a weighty, “data-driven” Princeton University study finding that the “US is an oligarchy, not a democracy” – oh, what a surprise! – as it is “dominated by a rich and powerful elite.” Underlying much of the malaise is the fact that Obama has presided over a continuing economic depression along with the worsening of already spectacular levels of inequality. With Republican flat-earthers sparring over who is the most reactionary of all and war-hawk Hillary Clinton dominating the Democratic field, the electoral circus is back again.
The fact is that bourgeois “democracy” is and has always been the class dictatorship of the owners of wealth and property. It’s not just about the Koch brothers and Supreme Court decisions declaring corporations to be people. Long ago, Karl Marx “grasped [the] essence of capitalist democracy splendidly when … he said that the oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class shall represent and repress them,” as Russian Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin wrote in State and Revolution (1917). Sound familiar?
Entering stage “left” to throw his hat in the ring in this tawdry drama is the senator from Vermont who poses as a loveable progressive, “Bernie” Sanders. Billed as an Independent, Sanders has long been a cog in the Democrats’ Congressional machine, including participating in their caucus and committee work. In the 2008 and 2012 elections, he supported Obama, who in turn went to Vermont to campaign for Sanders in 2012. Announcing a bid for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, Sanders brought in as campaign manager long-time Democratic operative Ted Devine, who got his start in 1988 managing the vice-presidential campaign of Texas Democrat Lloyd Bentsen, notorious for threatening to use nuclear weapons during the Korean War (see the chilling film, Atomic Cafe).
Announcing his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in early May, Sanders grabbed some headlines with the statement: “We need a political revolution in this country involving millions of people who are prepared to stand up and say, enough is enough, and I want to help lead that effort.” And what kind of “revolution” does he have in mind? Why, voting for the current government party, the Democrats. For her part, Hillary Clinton tweeted: “I agree with Bernie. Focus must be on helping America’s middle class. GOP would hold them back. I welcome him to the race.”
Sanders stated categorically that he will, as always, endorse whomever the Democrats eventually choose as their candidate for commander-in-chief of U.S. imperialism. Asked by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, “But if you lose in this nomination fight, will you support the Democratic nominee?” Sanders replied, “Yes. I have in the past as well.” Stephanopoulos: “Not going to run as an independent?” Sanders: “Absolutely not. I’ve been very clear about that.” Like innumerable “progressive” campaign bids of the past – such as Jesse Jackson’s 1980s Rainbow Coalition, Howard Dean (2004) and Dennis Kucinich (2008), to name a few – the central political function of the Sanders campaign is to round up votes from disaffected voters, keep them in the Democratic fold, and deliver them to the eventual nominee.
It’s all a con game, and the first to fall for it is the opportunist left. Their appetites are whetted by the fact that “Bernie” Sanders, along with his man of the people image, sometimes styles himself a “democratic socialist.” In a country where the s-word is a no-no for politicians, this is a bit of a novelty. But it boils down to shopworn calls to “tax the rich,” a dash of trust-busting rhetoric like that arch-imperialist “progressive” Theodore Roosevelt, an occasional shout-out to the thoroughly capitalist “Scandinavian model,” and a heavy dose of “anti-totalitarian” China-bashing.
Meanwhile, Sanders, the Democratic Party “socialist” and reputed antiwar candidate, has repeatedly voted for U.S. imperialist wars. He poses as a defender of civil liberties but has voted for laws extending and legalizing U.S. domestic spying on the citizenry. And this “independent” toes the Democratic Party line whenever it counts. But that hasn’t stopped various self-styled socialists, would-be radicals, former Occupy Wall Street activists and assorted other reformist left groups from jostling each other as they try to climb on the Bernie bandwagon. Challenged on Sanders’ “socialist” moniker a while back, former Vermont governor and then chairman of the national Democratic Party Howard Dean said on “Meet the Press” (22 May 2005):
“Bernie can call himself anything he wants. He is basically a liberal Democrat, and he is a Democrat that – he runs as an Independent because he doesn’t like the structure and the money that gets involved…. The bottom line is that Bernie Sanders votes with the Democrats 98 percent of the time.”
The pretensions of Bernie Sanders to be a leftist, let alone a socialist, are a joke. His cheerleaders of the pseudo-left may present him as a friend of “working folks,” but the real record of the Vermont senator is no laughing matter. As a “critical” voice of support to U.S. imperialism, Sanders is an enemy of workers and the oppressed world-wide.
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