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Sanders’ Choice

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Should Bernie Sanders abandon the Democratic Party, which he’s technically not a member of, and make a run of some kind either as an Independent or in amalgamation with Jill Stein and the Green Party?  It’s a fair question, one many of his supporters will be asking.

Understanding that one cannot enter the mind of another person, and that our speculations say more about our own motives and desires than that of the target person, such speculations are justified by our involvement as citizens. Our responsibility as a citizen.

There are some reasons why Sanders would not. What comes to mind first is that he said he wouldn’t. That he would support the eventual nominee, meaning Hillary Clinton. He’d be going back on his word. There are some businesses and professions where your word is your bond. When all that’s needed is a handshake. Politics is not one of these, and it’s much more like a business than a profession. This “going back” is no obstacle for any seasoned political storyteller.

We should also consider, but not say too much about, his personal economic situation and continuing career trajectory. He certainly does.

And then there is THE REASON why he wouldn’t and shouldn’t. He would siphon off votes from the Democratic Party, playing right into Republican hands. A spoiler.

Sanders has said he didn’t want to end up like Ralph Nader. So how has Nader ended up? It’s common to hear that Hillary possesses extraordinary qualifications for high office, to include her stints as first lady, senator, and state secretary. This differs little from saying, though, that politicians deserve to be politicians. If what counts as “qualifications” are the demonstrable benefits one has provided the American people, then Ralph Nader is, and was, the most qualified candidate in our history. And he’s still fighting the good fight.

Let’s go back to that time in Florida when Gore lost the state, and thus the presidency, to Bush. The margin of victory was 537 votes. Nader, the Green candidate, received 97,488 votes. To some this looks incriminating.

But there were other competing parties with a share of votes in excess of the margin. The Socialist Workers received 562. The Socialist Party received 622. And Workers World received 1,804. Would Gore be the default position for these votes?

Would the Nader vote would have gone to Gore? Why? This assumes that Gore was politically the closest thing to Nader when there’s clearly closer choices. It also insinuates that only major parties deserve our vote, in itself a deep underscoring of the illegitimacy of our democracy. Nader’s candidacy was a protest of plutocracy, corporatism, imperialism, and, to a lesser extent, a critique of capitalism itself. The three mentioned parties above were closer and so was a fourth choice. Abstaining. And a fifth choice. Writing someone in.

Concentrating on the Democratic Party because the subject is Sanders, the pickings seem pretty easy because of the disarray of the Republican Party. The nominee is either going to be Donald Trump, or Ted Cruz, or whoever they can patch up at the last minute. Right now it looks very much like Trump which means it looks very much like Clinton vs.Trump in the general election.

Given that Trump wears his narcissism like a badge, indulges in adolescent behavior without embarrassment, and is capable of sounding outright stupid, the Democratic strategy is to paint the prospect of a Trump presidency as a disaster. Ergo, anyone drawing votes away from Hillary is courting disaster.

Yet, an honest coin would tell us that, despite petty vote-pandering differences, there is little to choose from between the parties. For those who are thinking of the Bush neocon-backed illegal Iraqi invasion, it was Democratic collusion that made it possible. The party demonstrated how far political cowardice could go when the pressure mounted to be seen as flag-wavers. They could have laid down on the tracks. That would have been, “worth it”.

The history of our country suggests that political and judicial leadership cannot bring about a just state. It’s always been a dishonest coin, siding with the rich over the poor, powerful over weak, white over all other colors, punishing dissidents and whistleblowers, facilitating every war of choice.

It is the people themselves, acting independently of presidents, congress, and the courts that have forced change to come about through direct action, protests, strikes, and civil disobedience. The disaster for the citizen is to allow him/herself to rely upon either of these two parties or the courts for justice, including the Supreme Court.

With a fitting irony these two highly unlikeable candidates, Clinton and Trump, are in their own way the perfect products of a governing system no longer capable of meeting the needs of its people.

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James Rothenberg can be reached at:  jrothenberg@taconic.net

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