Bernie Soldiers On

Bernie Sanders’ brash campaign to win the Democratic Party’s nomination for president took a “Yu-u-u-u-ge” hit on Tuesday, not only losing big as expected in Florida and North Carolina, but also in Ohio, and narrowly losing too in Illinois and Missouri.

But the good news is that at a big rally in Phoenix, Arizona, held (but blacked out by the corporate media) on the night of the ballot counting in those elections in a state that will be holding its Democratic primary next Tuesday, Sanders announced that his now incredibly long-shot campaign for the nomination will continue.

Sanders, early in his campaign, had said that at the end of the day, if Hillary Clinton were to win the nomination, he would support her.

But the reality is that by not conceding at this point in the campaign, with two and a half months of primaries still to go, including in such big states as California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Sanders will continue (as he did in Phoenix) to shame and embarrass his opponent Clinton, calling out her reliance on millions of dollars in corrupt and corrupting campaign contributions from Wall Street banks and hedge funds, military contractors, pharmaceutical companies and oil companies.

Then too, while the corporate media are treating Sanders as if his effort is now quixotic, the other reality is that he can still win. Clinton has run through all the states that she had any real advantage in and Sanders has come painfully close to winning others, like Illinois and Missouri. Now the the focus of the primaries moves west, where Sanders should be at his strongest. He needs to win the rest of the races by 58%. That’s a high bar, but consider that he’s already done that in Kansas, Vermont, Minnesota and New Hampshire, and came close to that landslide figure in Nebraska, and that his campaign is still flush with cash, it’s doable. The Sanders goal is to win big going forward, and if Clinton starts losing badly in those contests, to then work at prying loose both Super and pledged delegates worried that Clinton will lose against Trump or whoever the Republicans end up nominating.

He will continue to denounce the job-killing trade agreements, from NAFTA to the latest one, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (sic) currently being pushed by President Obama, and promoted by Clinton while she was Secretary of State.

He will continue to call for a country that uses diplomacy, not war, as its default foreign policy approach.

And he will continue to denounce the corrupt and racist justice system and the militarized policing in the US that have together made this country the incarceration capital of the world, and a nation that is more of a domestic war zone than a civilized society.

In continuing his campaign in this manner, Sanders will be undermining Clinton, particularly among the key portions of the electorate that are normally the most supportive of Democratic candidates — progressives, young people, African Americans and Latinos, and working-class people of all colors.

I don’t know what Sanders will ultimately decide to do when the Democratic Convention is over and when, as appears all but inevitable, barring a surprise indictment, Hillary Clinton becomes the party’s presidential nominee. Maybe he’ll refuse to endorse her. I hope he decides to do that. But even if he were to endorse her, given all that he has said, and given the corrupt and dirty way she has campaigned against him with her lies and misrepresentations, I suspect the endorsement won’t be offered with any enthusiasm.

It’s a good sign that speaking on the night of his sweeping losses March 15, when he might have emulated Republican candidate Marco Rubio and dropped out of the race, Sanders once again condemned Clinton for the money she has taken from big business interests. As he said, to roars from the assembled crowd:

…She has a super PAC which among other special interests has received $15 million from Wall Street. She has received money from the drug companies and the fossil fuel industry. She has given speeches on Wall Street for $225,000 a pop. Now to my mind if you’re going to give a speech for $225,000 it must be a really great speech, and if it’s such a great speech, all of America should be able to read it!

It will be hard to go from that kind of harsh and truthful attack to an endorsement.

It remains to be seen how Sanders will decide to end his campaign, assuming he doesn’t through some miracle nab the nomination at July’s convention in Philadelphia. Clearly he has struck a chord with a huge segment of the electorate, either handily winning primaries in states from New Hampshire to Colorado, or coming painfully close as in Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri and Nevada. He would have won many more states and delegates, and would probably be on the way to an easy nomination, had the corporate media not deceived much of the voting public, first by ignoring his campaign altogether for months, and then, when that became impossible, by spreading the lie that Clinton was the inevitable candidate and the one who would more likely defeat whoever was the Republican candidate. Many of those decieved voters have told exit polls that they liked what Sanders was saying but wanted to vote for someone who would defeat Donald Trump or whoever else won the Republican primary.

Those who have listened to and supported Sanders‘ call for a politic system free of corporate sponsorship, a state-run health system that is available to all, free public colleges, real action on climate change, a foreign policy not based on war, and a criminal justice system that is not racist, and that focuses on rehabilitation, not on punishment number in the millions, are ready to be organized into a political force to be reckoned with. Sanders is in the position to help do that.

He alluded to this reality in his talk in Arizona when he said, again to loud cheers:

Everybody here understands one important historical fact, and that is change — real change — never takes place from the top on down. It always, it always takes place from the grassroots on up. Workers, a hundred plus years ago said they would not be treated like animals, and they struggled and went to jail and were beaten up in order to form unions and get collective bargaining. That’s how we fight for workers’ rights. For hundreds of years African Americans and their white allies struggled together to end racism and bigotry and segregation in America. Those changes did not take place from the top on down. It was blacks and whites standing together and saying we will not accept racism in the United States of America. People forget, but a hundred years ago, women in America did not have the right to vote, could not get the education they wanted, could not do the jobs they wanted. But what happened is that people looked around and said, hey, in America we will not accept women being treated as second-class citizens. It’s gonna change! If we were in this room seven years ago, and somebody had said you know what, I think gay marriage will be legal in every state in this country by 2015, nobody would have believed it. But it happened, and it happened because the gay community and their straight allies said that in America people have the right to love whoever they want. If we were in this room five years ago, and somebody jumped up and said you know Bernie, I think this $7.25 minimum wage is a starvation wage. We gotta raise it to $15 an hour!, the person next to him would have said you’re nuts! You’re wanting to double the minimum wage. That’s crazy! Can’t happen. Well you know what happened? Fast-food workers at McDonalds and Burger King went out on strike. They stood up and fought back? And then you know what happened? Seattle, $15 an hour. San Francisco, Los Angeles $15 an hour. Oregon, $15 an hour. And that $15-an-hour movement is sweeping the country. But here is my point, the most important point: Do not settle for the status quo when the status quo is broken!

Sanders clearly knows that it is this kind of political action in the streets that makes real “revolutionary” change, and it’s getting harder and harder for me to imagine him, after building up that level of energy and support, just walking away from it after the convention in July and shilling for the likely winner. Hillary Clinton, after all, stands for all the things he has been denouncing for the whole primary season.

As he also said in his Arizona speech, which ran for an hour, “What I do not want to see are billionaires spending unlimited sums of money buying elections and undermining the democracy which has made our country so great.” That of course is exactly what Hillary Clinton and her corporate backers have been doing for the past year or more, and it is what she will be doing, should she be the party’s nominee, in the general election following the convention.

Here’s hoping Sanders, should he lose the nomination, instead of backing corporate hack Hillary Clinton, chooses to stay out of it, and instead uses the millions of dollars he has raised and the credibility he has established over the last 10 months to help convert the mass support base he has assembled into a mass movement for change operating outside of the electoral system and the terminally corrupted Democratic Party.

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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