Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

The Big Lie: Hillary the Pragmatist vs. Bernie the Dreamer



The Sanders revolution is not going to be televised and it is not going to be reported in the rest of the mass media either. The revolution is against plutocracy and the plutocracy owns the mass media. Anyone still getting their information from the mass media is missing out on the history being made in an historical political year that rivals any of the past two generations.

Yet patriots should still be prepared to answer plutocratic propaganda that issues from the mass media to pollute the information environment. A month ago its propaganda was that Bernie Sanders was losing, when upon closer analysis of the facts he was clearly winning. This month’s propaganda is that Hillary Clinton is experienced and pragmatic whereas Bernie Sanders is an inexperienced dreamer who will sacrifice the achievable prosaic reform by reaching for impossibly poetic ideals.

It must be said very clearly that this is a complete and total lie, deploying “the big lie” technique of propagandists. It must be called out as such. The most consistent message from Sanders is what he said when he first started exploring a presidential bid and has continued to say down to the last debate when he clearly defined the central issue of the 2016 campaign: “Very little is going to be done to transform our economy and to create the kind of middle class we need unless we end a corrupt campaign finance system which is undermining American democracy.”

If Sanders does not overcome the plutocracy and restore American democracy he is quite clear that “very little” is going to get done by him as president. That is not the talk of an unrealistic dreamer, but of a very honest, clear-eyed, practical politician who knows exactly what the score is.

The difference between Sanders and Clinton is that Clinton assumes that under her presidency, as it has been under Obama‘s, the plutocracy will be in good hands. Therefore she promises that “very little” will get done by way of “pragmatic” reform based on “common ground” with Republicans. This is code for those reforms that the plutocracy authorizes at the point where the much vaunted partisan polarization suddenly gives way to bipartisan service to plutocracy.

When applied specifically for reform of the systemically corrupt system which is American politics, the incremental kind of reform that Clinton proposes is actually counterproductive. It makes the system even more corrupt. It takes systemic reform to overcome systemic corruption. Since systemic reform must start from the top, the precise approach to reform of political corruption by the presidential candidates, whether counterproductively incremental or effectively systemic, is key to the future of American democracy. We have had 40 years of diversionary and piecemeal reform proposals as the systemic corruption only grew worse.

Though plutocracy is by far the most important issue, Sanders is not running a one issue campaign. While totally leveling with the people about the limited possibilities for the policy reforms he advocates if the current systemic corruption is not outlawed, he is also informing people about the reforms that he will pursue if democracy is restored.

Sanders is very appropriately campaigning on these other policy issues because they could all be done relatively easily, indeed would already have been done, if the United States were a democracy. A democracy is where majorities get the policies they want that are not inconsistent with democracy itself. Policies like single-payer health care, free state college tuition, and virtually all other of Sanders’ “middle class” economic reforms have majority backing. In a democracy it is not an impractical dream to think that the majority would be able to enact the policies that they want.

Only in a plutocracy is policy that serves the majority a mere impractical dream. By framing his campaign around a platform of majoritarian policy reforms, Sanders is presenting a far clearer picture of what the country would look like under his presidency if he succeeds in his priority task of overthrowing the plutocracy. This provides a richer and truer explanation of the importance of this single decisive issue than if he had run a single issue campaign, as professor Larry Lessig advised.

The choice is then quite clear. Hillary Clinton and her mass media backers criticizing Sanders as an impractical idealist are clearly assuming that the plutocracy will continue on her watch, as it certainly would. In her plutocracy, as in Obama’s plutocracy, none of Sanders’ policies would be anything but an unattainable ideal, as he himself has consistently indicated. Sanders is focused on, and promises to achieve with the continued support of the people, the overthrow of “the billionaire class” plutocracy. Then adopting what are, in Clinton’s world, “impractical” reforms would actually become a matter of ordinary democratic politics.

The Democratic primary election presents a very easy choice that has nothing to do with pragmatism, dreaming, or more or less experience running the corrupt American system of politics. These are products of propagandists designed to change the subject. The real choice is between someone who is planning on the restoration of democracy and someone who is planning for the perpetuation of plutocracy.

Rob Hager is a public interest litigator who filed an amicus brief in the Montana sequel to Citizens United and has worked as an international consultant on anti-corruption policy and legislation.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 28, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Inside the Invisible Government; War, Propaganda, Clinton & Trump
Andrew Levine
The Hillary Era is Coming: Worry!
Gary Leupp
Seven World-Historical Achievements of the Iraq Invasion of 2003
Paul Street
Standing Rock Water-Protectors Waterboarded While the Cleveland Indians Romped
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel: 1984 Everlasting
Michael Brenner
American Foreign Policy in the Post-Trump Era
Luciana Bohne
Crossing the Acheron: Back to Vietnam
Robert Hunziker
The Political Era of Climate Refugees
Stephen Cooper
Alabama’s Last Execution was an Atrocity
Pete Dolack
Work Harder So Speculators Can Get More
Joyce Nelson
Canadians Launch Constitutional Challenge Against CETA
John Laforge
US Uranium Weapons Have Been Used in Syria
Paul Edwards
The Vision Thing ’16
Arshad Khan
Hillary, Trump and Sartre: How Existentialism Disrobes the Major Presidential Candidates
Peter Lee
It’s ON! Between Duterte and America
Joseph Grosso
Starchitects in the City: Vanity Fair and Gentrification
Patrick Carr
Economic Racial Disparity in North Carolina
David Swanson
Public vs. Media on War
Chris Gilbert
Demo Derby in Venezuela: The Left’s New Freewheeling Politics
Binoy Kampmark
Nobel Confusion: Ramos-Horta, Trump and World Disorder
Stephen Cooper
Alabama’s Last Execution Was an Atrocity
Binoy Kampmark
Nobel Confusion: Ramos-Horta, Trump and World Disorder
Russell Mokhiber
Lucifer’s Banker: Bradley Birkenfeld on Corporate Crime in America
Ron Jacobs
Death to the Fascist Insect! The SLA and the Cops
Cesar Chelala
Embargo on Cuba is an Embarrassment for the United States
Jack Smith
And the Winner Is….
Ken Knabb
Beyond Voting: the Limits of Electoral Politics
Matt Peppe
An Alternate Narrative on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump
James Rothenberg
Water Under the Bridge
Louis Yako
Remembering Rasul Gamzatov: The Poet of the People
Brian Cloughley
The US, NATO and the Pope
Louis Proyect
The Outsider-Insider: Isaac Babel’s Big Mistake
Martin Billheimer
Now and Then, Ancient Sorceries
October 27, 2016
Paul Street
An Identity-Politicized Election and World Series Lakefront Liberals Can Love
Matthew Stevenson
Sex and the Presidential City
Jim Kavanagh
Tom Hayden’s Haunting
CJ Hopkins
The Pathologization of Dissent
Mike Merryman-Lotze
The Inherent Violence of Israel’s Gaza Blockade
Robert Fisk
Is Yemen Too Much for the World to Take?
Shamus Cooke
Stopping Hillary’s Coming War on Syria
Jan Oberg
Security Politics and the Closing of the Open Society
Ramzy Baroud
The War on UNESCO: Al-Aqsa Mosque is Palestinian and East Jerusalem is Illegally Occupied
Colin Todhunter
Lower Yields and Agropoisons: What is the Point of GM Mustard in India?
Norman Pollack
The Election: Does It Matter Who Wins?
Nyla Ali Khan
The Political and Cultural Richness of Kashmiriyat