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Plan B Is Not Bernie

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I admit: It’s all speculation.

On April 4th, I wrote on Facebook: “My prediction: the next President of the United States will be someone who is not yet in the race. (e.g., Possible alternative Dem ticket: Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.) How crazy am I?”

This wasn’t just a wild guess. It was based on a few considered convictions.

The first major conviction is that Bernie Sanders was not going to be Democratic nominee.

To begin with, the Democratic Party, an institution dedicated to plutocratic class rule and imperialism, would not allow Bernie Sanders to be their nominee. The plutocracy will not permit Bernie Sanders to be the CEO of American and world capitalism, let alone the Commander-in-Chief of the American empire.

Furthermore, Bernie Sanders does not want to play either of those roles. He entered the race, as his advisors acknowledged to the New York Times, “to spread his political message about a rigged America rather than do whatever it took to win the nomination,“ and he has repeatedly pledged to support whomever the Democrats nominate.

Whatever unexpected and undeniable success his campaign has had, it’s a “political revolution” that will be limited to exerting pressure on the Democratic Party and its eventual nominee. One can complain that it’s been blocked by electoral hijinks or by the anti-democratic superdelegates, but those sores have been festering for a long time in the party Bernie chose to run in. At this point, if Hillary comes to the convention with one more pledged delegate and more popular votes than Bernie—which she will—she will win fair and democratically square—and any attempt by him to use superdelegates against her would contradict his own erstwhile complaints about them. At any rate, those supredelegates were put in place expressly to prevent anyone like him from becoming the nominee, and are not going to be persuaded, even by wonderful arguments based electoral logic, to forsake their duty. Which of these folks is going to switch to Bernie because polls show he’d do better against Trump in the general?

Clinton Superdelegates

Bernie’s not going to turn the superdelegates, and he knows it.  He has never been, and is still not, a threat to win the nomination, and the Democratic Party knows it. Stlll, Bernie has run harder, and been undeniably more successful than anyone expected.  He’s been a stubborn obstacle to Hillary’s expected coronation, and this has had some real effects. It has even forced Hillary to making positive noises about “Medicare-for-some.” More importantly, it has exposed her deep political weaknesses, stemming from her commitment to establishment politics as well as her unlikeability. Bernie has won a string of impressive victories, and is showing persistent strength among key demographics. He may prevent Hillary from going to the convention with enough pledged delegates to win without superdelegate votes, and that would be a significant political insult to Hillary. But she’ll get those votes and get over it.

The Sanders campaign will not stop Hillary, and knows it. It is now focused on getting some progressive platform concessions.  Because we can all remember the many times a President has said: “OMG, I can’t do that. It contradicts what’s in the platform.”

With Hillary as the nominee, supported by Bernie, the Democratic Party will once again have the heavily favored candidate of Wall Street, the neocons, and the media, and all will be right with the world. Of course, this will do some damage to the Democratic Party. It will alienate Bernie’s supporters, some fraction of whom will refuse to vote for Hillary. But not enough to deprive her of a November victory, or to prise a single cold finger of the ruling class’s hand from its grip on the Party and the country. It’s become clear that there’s a crisis of legitimacy for Hillary, and for the electoral duopoly as a whole, but the plutocracy will be content with having eight more years to prolong the problem.

But what if, for some other reason, Hillary can’t win? What’s the Democratic Party plan B?

Hint: It’s not Bernie.

There are a couple of wild cards in play that could knock Hillary out. One is her health.  I’ve thought for a few years that she was showing some weakness. This has certainly not been visible during the campaign, so it remains a purely speculative concern.

The other, however, is very real: Her email server.

Despite the attempt of liberal commenters (and Bernie Sanders) to insist “There’s nothing to see here. Move along,” it is inexcusable, and prima facie illegal, for a Secretary of State to keep state documents concerning sensitive diplomatic and national security matters on a private server in her bathroom. We now know this included information that was classified “Above Top Secret/SAP” (Special Access Programs). SAPs are the “crown jewels” of the intelligence community, Area 51-type secrets. Apparently, a Romanian guy who calls himself “Guccifer” hacked her server (“and it was pretty easy”), and the Russians hacked him. So the Russians now have about 20,000 of her emails, presumably containing all the American state secrets they were able to collect from HIllaryNet, which they are deciding whether and when to release. Clearly, from the U.S. government’s point of view, Hillary created a serious security problem, and from her campaign’s point of view, a looming threat.

Also relevant to those who profess interest in open and accountable governance, is the fact that her powder-room PC violated federal rules designed “to make and preserve records to be readily available when needed, such as for congressional inquiries or FOIA requests.” Pardon me for thinking, especially since her lawyers have already deleted 30,000 of them, that hiding documents from public scrutiny might have been precisely the point.

But it doesn’t make any difference what I think. It’s what the FBI thinks that matters. In that regard, we should take notice that the FBI has extradited Guccifer, and is now interrogating Hillary’s close aides. Yesterday Cheryl Mills, who was Clinton’s Chief of Staff as Secretary of State, walked out of an FBI interview, according to the Washington Post, “after being asked about emails.” And today (May 11th), I got a message from a friend of mine, who’s been a close supporter of Hillary for a long time, saying that the FBI interviews with her staff are not going well, and it’s “disturbing.”

Then I typed “Joe Biden” into Google, and got this:

Biden Search
Seeds of doubt?  Is it a coincidence that that the Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren pairing gets national press the day after Hillary’s Chief of Staff walks out of an FBI interrogation?

Don’t get me wrong. I, of course, think that Obama will do his best to steer the FBI investigation away from incriminating Hillary, who is too cherished an establishment fish to fry.

Unless, that is, the head of the FBI, James Comey, or a quorum of his senior agents, refuses to toe the line. Yesterday, Comey rejected Hillary’s attempt to downplay the FBI investigation as a “routine inquiry.” Comey is also the guy who, as Acting Attorney General in 2004, refused the order of his boss, John Ashcroft, to re-authorize a surveillance program Comey thought was illegal.

Or unless the Russians, who seem to have a soft spot for the Donald, release something fatally damaging. Would it not destroy her campaign if they just showed that they were able to get the documents from her server?

Or unless it becomes clear that Trump has, and will use, seriously damaging information from the FBI and/or SVR.

Or unless….

Turns out there are a number of possible scenarios in which the email card, played against Hillary’s other weak cards—her increasingly obvious unlikeability, her rejection by youth and white workers, her inability to force Bernie out on schedule at all—will force her to fold.

Whatever anybody says in public, it’s inconceivable that Hillary, and the DNC/Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, are not worrying—at least thinking—about this in some juice-filled room.  And for the latter, that means preparing—at least considering—a plan B.

Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?  Bernie Sanders, who has won all the elections and delegates and stuff, becomes, by acclamation, the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party.

Unless, that is, the plutocrats, corporations, bankers, lobbyists, militarists, Zionists, et. al., who actually run the Democratic Party, say: “Over our dead bodies!” (If only.) Which they will.  If Hillary is forced out, Bernie will then, for the first time, be a threat, and there will be a response unlike anything we’ve seen so far. I hope Bernie and his supporters understand that the Democratic Party and the powers behind it will do anything—at least as much as the Republicans did against Trump—to stop Bernie Sanders from getting the nomination.

What’s a tragically torn party to do? At this point, Bernie would probably be able to take the nomination if he insisted. He would have a ton of pledged delegates, and a good chance at cobbling together a majority from all the others now floating free. On the other hand, he is still unacceptable.

Bernie and the party will have reached the dog-who-caught-the-car moment I imagined in a previous post, except a lot further down the road, with Bernie wielding a lot more political capital. The party establishment will not be able to frontally attack, or summarily dismiss him, but they can still warn him that he faces the McGovern effect in the general election: listless party support, while the ruling class money and media suddenly realize their lesser evil—Donald Trump—isn’t so bad, after all.

If Bernie takes the nomination, it will tear the party apart, Indeed, for him to succeed any further, he will have to accept and embrace that civil war he has created in the party, and seize and thoroughly radicalize the entire party apparatus.

I still do not think Bernie wants to, or can, do that. I also recognize that he has fought harder and longer than I (or he, at the outset) thought, and shows no outward sign that he would shy from taking the nomination if he could get it. At this point, with the enthusiasm he has generated, if he were to accede to anyone else, he would risk destroying his own political credibility, while still tearing the party apart. And he and the party know this.

Unless, perhaps, the party could come up with a ticket that Bernie and a large portion of his followers could persuade themselves embodies his progressive political message. There is, of course, only one other person in the Democratic Party who could make that happen, whose progressive populist cred rivals that of Bernie Sanders—and that is Elizabeth Warren.

If the party establishment lost Hillary Clinton, and wanted to propose an alternative to Bernie Sanders, it would have to include Elizabeth Warren. She hits many of the same buttons as Bernie: the pernicious influence of money in politics, the scandal of student debt, he need to rein in big banks, etc. She would combine a strong dose of educated economic progressivism—highlighted in the present context by her viralized, devastating, critique of Hillary’s fealty to Wall Street on Bill Moyers—with the feminist identity-politics appeal that Hillary plays to. A woman who claims to have created “the intellectual foundation” for Occupy Wall Street! What more could Democratic progressives ask for?

Of course, with Warren carrying such credentials a public image—a “fevered Marxist,” according to Trump supporter, Jeffrey Lord—the party would have to soothe establishment anxiety by pairing her, as VP, with an establishment-friendly but likeable guy with a stabilizing hand: Biden-Warren, that’s the ticket! Joe Biden (Al Gore could be an alternate) is an uninspiring but reliable hand on the tiller, but he’s an Obama favorite and loyalist.  Position Warren as the passionate Joan of Arc who will help a united party slay the Donald, and as the inevitable, progressive face of the Democratic Party’s future, and you’ve got a package that starts to look saleable.

Still not enough, though. You would have to include a very nice prize before Bernie would buy that box of Cracker Jacks. Bernie has gone a long way, and his accrued political capital demands a real and immediate payoff. There would have to be a firm, public, irreversible promise of something significant—an undeniable concession such as single-payer healthcare for all or forgiveness of student loans, that would allow Bernie and his supporters to say they made a real difference. Now you’d have a package that they might buy.

They would, I’m afraid, be getting a snake in the box. Outside of the fevered minds of the most dull-witted conservatives, Elizabeth Warren is not only no “Marxist,” she is no Bernie Sanders. Try Hillary-Lite. Yes, she would push for some substantive reforms, but on an “intellectual foundation” oriented toward rationalizing capitalism. As more perspicacious conservatives like Christopher Caldwell see, she’s a “closet conservative.” Hillary Clinton broke with the Republicans in college; Elizabeth Warren was a Republican into her forties. Why? Because “It worried me whether or not the government played too activist a role.” Indeed, when asked whether she voted for arch-conservative Ronald Reagan, who shared the same worry, she refused to answer. So we know the answer.

Warren still thinks “There should be some Republicans and some Democrats,” with Republicans “providing some healthy opposition.” The consistent principle of her quest it to look for “people who best supported markets.” I’m not sure about Occupy Wall Street, but that’s Elizabeth Warren’s “intellectual foundation.” It’s in the Clintonite Democratic Party that she found a home for promoting that, and herself, politically.

Elizabeth Warren’s other important qualification is her full-on embrace of imperialism and Zionism.  As Dave Swanson says, She’s “perfectly fine with the wars but wants the bankers to help pay for them.”

Then again, this is consistent with a strain of “left” populism that’s OK with ignoring—until they become refugees—those millions of people in societies destroyed by American and its allies and proxies throughout the Middle East—a “progressivism” that doesn’t want to think too much about the ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria, or about the ongoing aggression and apartheid imposed on millions of Palestinians, or about “kill lists.” We don’t have to talk about all that nasty, complicated stuff, if shutting up gets us a $15 minimum wage. Progressive Except Imperialism. Not nasty old white-man Republican imperialism, of course; shiny new equal-opportunity, single-payer imperialism.

Wait: Progressive populist domestic policies, rationalizing without overturning capitalism, benign indifference at best to American exceptionalism…maybe a bit like Bernie, after all. Hillary-lite, Bernie-heavy.

Bottom line: Bernie would have achieved, in less than a year, some major reform that had eluded progressive forces for decades. As it did in response to every successful reform effort, the ruling class would have paid a price. It will be a price the plutocracy considered necessary for keeping its deadly grip on the American political process, thereby preserving its options for recovering any loss, and then some, down the road.

Whatever. Unlikely to happen. Just a “What if?”

It’s almost certain that Hillary Clinton will be the nominee of the Democratic Party and the next President of the United States. But if, perchance, she gets derailed by a deus ex machina like the FBI, you can bet that the Democratic Party will have a Plan B, and it won’t be Bernie Sanders. It will be an attempt to stop Bernie Sanders. Perhaps it is just a coincidence that a Joe Biden-Elizabeth Warren ticket gets mentioned in the national press the day after Hillary’s Chief of Staff walks out of an FBI interrogation. Or is someone floating a balloon?

Would Bernie ever bite?  Maybe not, but if the day comes, it’s some dish like this that the Democratic Party will try to serve.

Jim Kavanagh edits The Polemicist.

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