Bernie Sanders: Enjoy the Charade


I’ll hand it to Bernie Sanders. Last June when I wrote a vitriolic warning regarding Bernie Sanders, I did not expect him to close the gap with his nemesis(?) Hillary in the manner that he is. Not that he was merely a flash in the pan who would fully sputter out, but perhaps a candidate who would hang around just enough to place second in a two-candidate race – apologies to Martin O’Malley and the gentleman from Rhode Island whose name nobody learned.

The #feeltheburn hashtag has mushroomed online and even the Clinton juggernaut is beginning to get jittery and rather tetchy regarding its current status within the primary race. Now it is more important than ever to revisit Bernie Sanders and ask who it is that is being held up as the savior of the country, the counterweight to the lite or not-so-lite fascism of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and the neoliberal corporate-marinated Clinton Dynasty.

For those who know my leanings, and for those who can assume what will follow based on this article’s title, feel free to stop reading as you choose. It’s unlikely I will change anyone to shift their vote from Sanders to sitting home and sipping tea while watching this quadrennial exercise in “civic responsibility” play out among those so inclined to register what team they support at the ballot station.

We need to start with the reality. Bernie Sanders is not independent. It has been many years since Bernie Sanders was actually an independent politician in more than name only. It is correct that he has caucused with the Democrats and had not officially joined the morass of the Democratic Party tent until his recent plunge into the primary. Like his claim to be a socialist (which, as a socialist, I can say he is not), the claim that is made of independence falls short as well. Bernie Sanders has long ago staked his claims with the Democratic Party and his entry into the primary race should not be seen as an outsider crashing the party but rather the natural progression from a radical outsider in Vermont’s left-populist Liberal Union Party to little more than a semi-affiliated appendage of the Democratic Party.

When Bernie Sanders transitioned will be a question for historians to determine but it happened and there is no turning back now.

For Sanders supporters, of which there are many at this point, he is, however, the outsider who will bring decency back to the Democrats – a bastion of opposition to Hillary Clinton. For how can we hope and change the world if we would support Hillary Clinton? According to Bernie Sanders back in September (at the least), he would not consider an independent run for the presidency and will support whoever the eventual Democratic nominee is – which would be himself, or, obviously, Hillary Clinton.

This is a rather aborted “political revolution” that Sanders calls for if the very forces he delivers campaign jeremiads against – the “billionaire class” and “Wall Street” and “the banks” – are the very ones who have bought and paid for the candidate that Sanders will support in the event of his primary loss. What revolution is based on the foundation of “Defeat the enemy but support them when they defeat us”? Bernie Sanders fashionably uses the terms “revolution” and “socialist” before practically smashing any relevance these terms have ever held. For Sanders is not a socialist nor pushing “political revolution”. As BlackAgenda Report has continuously noted, he is merely “sheepdogging” left-progressive votes for the Democratic Party. He is not an independent nor beyond the accepted limits of a neoliberal Democratic Party, employing language that registers at “John Edwards” on the progressive-populism scale.

But, some will say, Bernie Sanders is pure and is independent. His ties to the Democratic Party is merely for the purpose of being able to push his populism on a larger scale. While I agree that this is not an utterly baseless claim, one must again be called to the fact that he has repeatedly voted exactly as Democrats have and will support Hillary, who he likes in the event of an eventual primary loss.  It is hard to claim with a straight face or a modicum of intellectual honesty, that Sanders is truly independent of the Democratic Party. For what independent politician declares his support for a Wall Street-funded oligarch which Bernie Sanders’ fans admit that she is.

Is there not a degree of feeling cheated on amongst Sanders’ fans when their candidate – who they campaign for online and spend evenings attending rallies for – will support the person that they themselves fulminate against in support of Sanders? Or perhaps is his eventual support for Hillary simply pragmatism? If mere pragmatism, then how is Sanders independent and something other than yet another politician willing to sell out their supporters? And if this is true…does this not blow apart the whole reason to vote for him in the first place? Or is a slightly less unprincipled politician sufficient for the electorate?

Enjoy the charade.

Andrew Kahn is Editor of the Voice of America Blog.