‘Tis the season once again. You should know it well by now: a “progressive” Democrat running in the primaries for president of the United States. We’ve seen it all before, from Jesse Jackson to Dennis Kucinich, left-leaning voters have time-and-again been asked to support candidates that are working to transform the corrupt and war-hungry Democratic Party from within. And each and every time this strategy has failed — not only to elect a progressive Democrat into the White House, but to alter the party that offer themselves up as a lighter shade of neo-con.
This time around that “progressive” Democrat is self-proclaimed “socialist” Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Even though it’s early in the primary push, Bernie is hitting the trail, spreading a message of hope for working class people that he’s there to fight for their cause. He wants to create new jobs, challenge Wall Street crooks and take on the corporate control of our political quagmire. These are fine positions to take, but what Bernie isn’t about to tell you is that in order to radically alter the system in favor of workers, the Democrats must be abandoned altogether — for it’s their neoliberal policies, from Bill Clinton on down, that exacerbated the sell-out of the American workforce.
Sure, Bernie will talk tough when it comes to these failed policies. He’ll criticize fast tracked free-trade agreements and corporate plutocracy, but his hardy embrace of the Democrats continues to undermine his own criticisms. It’s as if Bernie got a job at a coal mining outfit in hopes of stopping the melting of ice caps in the Arctic. His bid for the White House is simply a dead end and a waste of scarce resources. Progressives would be better off working to reinvigorate the antiwar movement and Occupy than spending time and money on Bernie’s hollow campaign.
Even so, while Bernie may come across as sincere about class politics, make no mistake, he’s is a militarist that isn’t about to challenge U.S. supremacy. He supported the ugly war on Kosovo, the invasion of Afghanistan, funding for the endless Iraq disaster as well as the losing and misguided War on Terror. He voted in favor of Clinton’s 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which expanded the federal death penalty and acted as the precursor to the PATRIOT Act.
As for Israel, Bernie has been a hawkish advocate that would never halt the $3 billion the U.S. government sends to the country every year. Last summer he backed Israel’s murderous bombing of Gaza. He’s even had some nasty words about Palestine’s right to resist. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that several former members of Bernie’s staff have also been employed by AIPAC, including Israel apologists David Sirota and Joel Barkin. His is a disgusting record. Want to change in the U.S.’s meddling in the Middle East? Bernie isn’t your guy.
If the Senator’s support for ongoing war and the occupation of Palestine don’t make you squeamish, then you may as well stop reading. I doubt you’ll grasp the importance of challenging empire by refusing to cast a vote for a party that pumps fuel into the war machine’s tank. Such an effort requires a willingness to step out on the Democrats, especially at the national level, where they have waged war on workers at home and employed a blood-thirsty foreign policy abroad.
The Bernie Sanders campaign, while a slight breath of fresh air in the national debate on class issues, is a complete loser in terms of impact. There’s no sign he’ll break from the Democrats and challenge both parties down the road. Bernie doesn’t oppose U.S. power, nor does his campaign do a single thing to build independent politics in the country, perhaps the last chance to salvage any democracy we may have left. In the end, Bernie Sanders will play the lesser-evil card and plea for us all to hold our noses and vote for Hillary Clinton, who guarantees a future of more war and economic inequality.
That’s why Bernie’s is not a bandwagon I’ll be jumping on anytime soon.
JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. He is author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush (Common Courage Press, 2005), and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland and Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, both published by AK Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter@brickburner.