Black Agenda Report - April 16, 2020
The End of Sanders, and Maybe the Beginning of a Mass Independent Left
Sander’s early Return of the Prodigal Son to the bosom of the Party allows him to escape the deep critique of capitalist medicine and political-economy that would be required of a “leftish” presidential candidate as this never-in-our-lifetimes crisis unfolds.
“A core of Sanders supporters will experience a eureka moment and exit the Democrats, in body and mind.”
The COVID-19 epidemic has exposed the privatized US healthcare structure’s woeful incapacity to cope with a general health emergency, as well as the failings of Europe’s austerity-shrunken public health care systems. Although Donald Trump’s actions, inactions and idiotic blatherings have added immeasurably to the death toll, a major medical and economic catastrophe was inevitable once the virus was loosed on a defenseless U.S. public. Trump didn’t create the conditions that made the United States so vulnerable to a killer virus. That’s one of the many crimes of capitalism, which at its late stage is methodically starving what’s left of the public sphere and privatizing every conceivable human enterprise for the ultimate benefit of the Lords of Capital – the ruling oligarchy.
Bernie Sanders claimed to be running against the oligarchy in his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination, but meekly surrendered to Joe Biden, the personification of the glad-handing corporate shill and champion of the status quo, once the momentum of the primaries had turned. Sanders said he would resume his duties as a full-time senator doing “the work that needs to be done to protect people in this most desperate hour.”
“A major medical and economic catastrophe was inevitable once the virus was loosed on a defenseless U.S. public.”
But the raw truth is, Sanders surrendered unconditionally to a Democratic Party that is, in the Age of Trump, the electoral representative of the bulk of a fractured U.S. ruling class – the oligarchy. Without warning, Sanders demobilized his legions, even while claiming to continue to lead “a grass-roots, multiracial, multigenerational movement which has always believed that real change never comes from the top on down, but always from the bottom on up.” Sanders thanked his generous followers, nearly two million of whom donated at least $167 million to his campaign. Unknown millions remain unspent, and much more could be raised from even a greatly diminished cohort of Sanders true-believers if the self-described socialist was sincere about leading a well-funded “movement” outside the corporate duopoly. But Sanders is going out as a fraud who will refuse to turn over either unspent campaign monies or precious voter lists to his “grassroots” supporters or anybody outside the Democratic Party.
It is widely believed in Sanders’ circles that his greatest fear is to become like Ralph Nader, the former Green Party presidential candidate who is still vilified for supposedly throwing the 2000 election to George Bush. But Nader was the least of Democrat Al Gore’s problems and has nothing to be ashamed of. From publication of his corporate-pummeling 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile, and the phenomenal growth of Nader-inspired Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGS) two decades later, Nader has been a potent critic of oligarchy who, at 86, still rages at the machine from the outside. But Sanders, who has always caucused with Democrats, cannot imagine life outside the corporate duopoly. Despite his austerity-busting agenda, Sanders remains an “inside man” – in the same sense as criminals of that description. This month he ended the charade and was welcomed back into the “family” – one of the two parties the Lords of Capital can rightly call “our thing” (la cosa nostra).
“Sanders cannot imagine life outside the corporateduopoly.
Sanders punked out early this time around, with language as contradictory and dishonest on-its-face as Trump-speak. **“**I will stay on the ballot in all remaining states and continue to gather delegates,” said Sanders in his surrender statement . “While Vice President Biden will be the nominee, we must continue working to assemble as many delegates as possible at the Democratic convention.” But of course, you cannot keep piling up significant votes and delegates while simultaneously conceding victory to a corporate flunky – thus making Sanders’s “suspended” campaign unfit for even “protest” votes.
For the second time in two presidential cycles, Sanders has lived up to Bruce Dixon’s depiction of him as a “sheepdog” for the Democrats. “Sheepdogs are herders,” wrote Dixon, the BAR co-founder who died last June, “and the sheepdog candidate is charged with herding activists and voters back into the Democratic fold who might otherwise drift leftward and outside of the Democratic Party, either staying home or trying to build something outside the two party box.” That’s Sanders to a T.
Sanders bowed out of the race the minute his momentum stalled, at the very same time that the greatest combined health and economic calamity in U.S. history was gripping the nation by the throat – a teaching moment if one ever existed, if health care and economic inequality were really Sanders’ top priority. He did acknowledge the ballooning crisis: “In terms of health care, this current, horrific crisis that we are now in has exposed for all to see how absurd our current employer-based health insurance system is. The current economic downturn we are experiencing has not only led to a massive loss of jobs but has also resulted in millions of Americans losing their health insurance.”
“For the second time in two presidential cycles, Sanders has lived up to Bruce Dixon’s depiction of him as a “sheepdog” for the Democrats.”
And then he quit the race, relinquishing the presidential primary bully-pulpit in favor of senatorial duties that could easily have been accomplished as a candidate, given that in-person campaign rallies and such aren’t allowed during the emergency. Bernie’s early Return of the Prodigal Son to the bosom of the Party allows him to escape the deep critique of capitalist medicine and political-economy that would be required of a “leftish” presidential candidate as this never-in-our-lifetimes crisis unfolds. In the presence of catastrophe, the logic of Sanders’ own rhetoric would have forced him to go beyond the limits of capitalist discourse – the only language Democrats allow – both in his analysis and campaign planks. Sanders chose to cut the process short, while he could still go home to the Party.
The bulk of older Democrats will wallow in the oblivion of Democratic Party politics, pretending that Trump brought on the crisis, and is indeed responsible for all the ills of capitalism, even though the Democratic National Committee insisted on sending the party faithful into primary voting spots that were infested with viral death . Older Blacks will betray their own leftish world views – as they do every primary election -- and stick with Biden as the only candidate that can beat Trump, although it was Sanders who actually fit that description. But crises do alter and crystalize people’s worldviews. A core of Sanders supporters, numbering possibly several millions, plus many others that did not consider themselves radicals until they saw how “the system” left them naked to COVID-19 and the accompanying economic immiseration, will experience a eureka moment and exit the Democrats, in body and mind. The only question is: will there be alternative, independent political vehicles for their anger and energies that are equipped to handle an influx not seen since the Sixties?
As BAR has maintained for the last two presidential seasons, the best outcome of the primaries would be a mass exit from the Democratic Party, the fraudulent left section of the oligarch-ruled duopoly. (The vast bulk of Republicans have chosen the right home for their racist ilk: The White Man’s Party.) Younger Blacks have not abandoned the historical Black consensus on social justice and peace, and some took part in renewed stirrings of “movement” politics during the “Black Lives Matter” struggles. They will have a lot to think about in the enforced relative isolation of CoronaTime – and may become the 21st century’s Black Left Generation.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted atGlen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com