Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall noticed something interesting recently: he’s been getting a lot of pro-Bernie Sanders emails from the Democratic National Committee despite the organization’s neoliberal leanings and commitment to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Here’s an example of a DNC email, pretty much indistinguishable from an email one might get from Sanders’ actual campaign.
Although Marshall’s analysis is generally partisan, he briefly dips into a deeper critique here when he writes, “If you want to be arch about it there’s a bit of this that reminds me of how things operate in one-party states where there are usually a few official opposition candidates who are harmless and make nominal runs and everyone gets along and goes along…think there’s some element of that – Hillary does kind of need and want the Sanders candidacy.”
These email blasts become even more interesting when considered alongside the recent news that the DNC will sanction only six Democratic presidential debates this time around, hoping to avoid a repeat of 2008 when Obama and Clinton were able to publicly debate over 20 times. Slate’s Josh Voorhees explains that, “The fact that the official Democratic party schedule conveniently aligns with Clinton’s game plan isn’t a coincidence: The committee’s goal, after all, is to make sure its eventual nominee enters the general election in the best shape possible, and you won’t find many people who believe that candidate will be anyone other than Clinton. The party’s progressive wing may be craving a full-throated policy debate, but the Democratic establishment has little to gain from having one.”
The fact that the DNC wants the appearance of a robust debate, while doubling down on the Hillary coronation, seems obvious but where do Sanders’ motivations fit into all of this? After all, he decided to run as a Democrat and has promised he won’t challenge the Democratic establishment from outside its walls. Here’s the Sanders in an ABC News interview with George Stephanopoulos from May 3:
STEPHANOPOULOS: So if you lose in this nomination fight, will you support the Democratic nominee?
SANDERS: Yes. I have in the past.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not going to run as an independent?
SANDERS: No, absolutely not. I’ve been very clear about that.
Ironically, it seems that the DNC and left-critics of the Sanders campaign agree on a very important fact: they believe Sanders will attract a number of young voters and activists, then dutifully tell them to vote for Hillary when he drops out. The DNC sees that outcome as a win and leftists see it as a loss, but both perceive his dropout as inevitable. “Hillary Clinton certainly doesn’t regard Sanders as a threat,” writes Ashley Smith at Jacobin, “She knows that the national election business follows the golden rule: whoever has more gold, wins. Clinton is expected to amass a war chest of more than $1 billion, mostly from Wall Street and corporate America, to pay for advertising, an army of paid staff, and Astroturf support. This will overwhelm Sanders’s fundraising goal of $50 million and his underdeveloped volunteer infrastructure.”
The Black Agenda Report’s Bruce Dixon believes that those committed to such an inescapable outcome are assisting Sanders in playing the roll of the “sheepdog”: “The sheepdog’s job is to divert the energy and enthusiasm of activists a year, a year and a half out from a November election away from building an alternative to the Democratic party, and into his doomed effort. When the sheepdog inevitably folds in the late spring or early summer before a November election, there’s no time remaining to win ballot access for alternative parties or candidates, no time to raise money or organize any effective challenge to the two capitalist parties.”
In January Sanders declared, “No matter what I do, I will not be a spoiler.” It’s a declaration that many leftists, and many Democratic insiders, are taking quite seriously.
Michael Arria is the author of the new CounterPunch book, Medium Blue: The Politics of MSNBC.