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The So-Called Party of the People: From Nevada to South Carolina

President Obama: Meeting with Democratic Blue Dog Coalition. State Dining Room. Photograph Source: White House (Pete Souza) – Public Domain

My thesis on the Democratic Party’s corporate-imperialist establishment had been consistent for years: it would rather lose to the right-wing party, even to an increasingly apocalyptic and fascistic right, than to the progressive, moderately social-democratic and environmentalist left wing of its own party. That was the basic story of 2016 – a tragedy the bourgeois Democratic Party leadership is trying to re-enact in 2020.

“The Servants’ Entrance to the Republican Party”

The last week (I am writing on the morning of Thursday, February 27th) has provided yet more evidence for this thesis. On the Friday night (the 21st) before the Nevada presidential caucus over at “liberal” Red Baiters’ Stop Sanders Central Broadcast Headquarters MSNBC, talk show host Lawrence O’Donnell insinuated that there was something nefarious about Bernie Sanders bragging that neither the Republican establishment nor the Democratic establishment could stop him. O’Donnell was offended by the elementarily obvious notion that there is such a thing as a Democratic Party establishment. He piled on with the nefarious and evidence-free Dem-establishment notion that Sanders is linked somehow to Russian interference in U.S. politics.

At “liberal” CNN the next day (the 22nd), right-wing Democrat Michael Smerconish warmed viewers up for the coming Sanders victory in the Nevada Caucus by upholding the Democratic Party’s “superdelegates” – the nearly 15% of Democratic National Convention presidential candidate and platform selection delegates who represent the party’s conservative institutional establishment. Smerconish praised the unelected superdelegates for ensuring “candidate quality control” and “peer review” and representing “the wisdom of party elders to hold back the masses” from a “populist surge” that would nominate a “populist with no prospects” in the general election. His argument was that the explicitly anti-democratic superdelegate institutional is democratic. Two plus two equals five if Big Brother Smerconish says so.

What Smerconish probably knew but would not admit on air is that taking the nomination from Sanders via the superdelegates on the second ballot at the convention will guarantee Trump a second term. As Michael Hudson pointed out last Tuesday on Counterpunch:

“A second-ballot super-delegate scenario would…throw the nomination to the super-delegates held over from the Obama-Clinton neoliberals (75 of whom already are said to have pledged their support to Michael Bloomberg) … ‘Letting the process play out’. .is a euphemism for leaving the choice to the Tony-Blair style leadership that have made the Democrats the servants’ entrance to the Republican Party. Like the British Labour Party behind Blair and Gordon Brown, its role is to block any left-wing alternative to the Republican program on behalf of the One Percent” (emphasis added).

“Before It’s Too Late”

As it became clear from exit polls that Sanders was going to win big in Nevada, MSNBC went into full bourgeois panic mode. It brough on the right-wing cretin James Carville to claim that Sanders’ triumph was pleasing to, guess who? “Vladimir Putin.”

Right-wing MSNBC host Nicole Wallace was a White House Communications Director during the presidency of George W. Bush and in his 2004 re-election campaign and a senior advisor for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. Consistent with all that, she also lost her mind, asking Carville to call Tom Steyer and tell him to spend millions of dollars on stopping the socialist menace Sanders. Then came the ridiculous neo-McCarthyite Chris Matthews to analogize Sanders’ victory to the fall of France to the Nazi Third Reich in 1940. With Sanders as with Hitler, Matthews warned, it could be “too late” to stop the socialist menace. (Never mind that Sanders is a Jewish social democrat who the Nazis would have murdered, or that anti-socialism was the main reason for the West’s appeasement of German fascism).

The talking heads agreed that Mike Bloomberg needs to stop running positive ads about himself and start spending hundreds of millions of dollars on negative ads about the Marxist-Leninist menace Bernie Sanders. CNN posted an op-ed by Joe Lockhart, Bill Clinton’s press secretary, arguing that Mike Bloomberg needed to quit talking about Trump and take down Sanders immediately. As Terry Thomas wrote me, “Joe imagines that money does magic, and so if Mini-Mike just spends a pile of millions on trashing Sanders in any way possible, Sanders will disappear. The fate of creation depends on it. Of course, this is all framed by a useful mythology that Bernie can’t beat the Dumpster, when in fact the underlying issue is that he can. The pants-crapping has only started.”

Indeed. Speaking of the “fate of creation,” a recent rigorous environmental protection scorecard compiled by the Center for Biological Diversity’s Action Fund gave Bloomberg a score of 1 out of 10 Bernie’s score: 10 to 10. Mike’s score one in 10. Sanders went ten for 10.

The talking heads’ ruling class alarm is showing for all to see. (See this Seth Meyer segment for a brilliant summary and comic takedown of the “liberal” cable news [MSNBC-CNN] freak-out over “radical” Bernie’s Nevada victory: “Bernie Sanders’ Rise Prompts Media Meltdown, Establishment Panic: A Closer Look.” Very well done)

The panic has much of the “liberal” broadcast and print media calling for the “moderate” (corporate and neoliberal) Democrats to coalesce around a viable non-/stop-Sanders candidate “before it’s too late.” It reminds me of the bizarre Bernie Epton campaign in Chicago in the early spring of 1983, when a Republican suddenly became a serious mayoral candidate in the one-party corporate-Democratic city-state of Chicago. Why? Epton promised to stop the progressive Black future mayor Harold Washington “before it’s too late!”

Daddy Issues and Charges of “Ideological Purity”

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anything quite as nauseating as Pete Buttigieg’s victory NOT speech in Las Vegas. It was a monument to the ruling class ideological hegemony that his Gramscian academic father opposed. After getting his butt(igieg) caved-in by Bernie, Wall Street Pete warmed up for his coming Wall Street and/or Center for American Progress career by taking aim at the supposed Marxist menace Sanders in Las Vegas. Fittingly enough in a global casino capital, Buttigieg’s Daddy-dissing oration was a triumph of consultant-crafted neoliberal self-righteousness: “We can prioritize either ideological purity or inclusive victory. We can either call people names online or we can call them into our movement. We can either tighten a narrow and hardcore base or open the tent to a new and broad and big-hearted American coalition.” With no hint of self-mockery, Buttigieg claimed that Sanders “believes in an ideological revolution that leaves out most Democrats as well as most Americans” and repeated the preposterous claim that Medicare for All is about “taking away peoples’ choice in health care.”

DeBlasio had some amusing advice for ex-mayor Pete: “try not to be so smug when you just got your ass kicked.” Smugness aside, it is truly and deeply despicable to describe something as decent, necessary, positive, and humanistic as Single Payer health insurance (health care as a human right) as a reflection of a “destructive” and “radical” attachment to “ideological purity.” Alfred E. Wine Cave (AEWC) is lower than the lowest snails on Earth.

The neoliberal Democrat wolf-criers might want to dial it down a little. Bernie Sanders is not all that radical. Ask a left radical – someone like me. We know one when see one. As Raymond Delpapa wrote me while Sanders was sweeping Nevada: “What a sad state the Democrats have lowered themselves into. Relying on former Republicans to save them from a New Deal Democrat.” Sanders is where a decent progressive New Dealer would be today under the circumstances imposed by the savage inequalities and eco-exterminism of neoliberal era capitalism. Bernie is what my paternal grandfather and (to his anti-racist and antiwar left) my father wanted the Democratic Party to be (though I suppose my Cold Warrior grandfather might have been triggered by the “socialist” label, sadly).

“Warren and Sanders are not radicals, they are moderate social democrats by European standards … and the ideology of the US is changing,” Thomas Piketty writes. That’s true enough, though Sanders and Warren should not be so closely merged. Make no mistake: Elizabeth “Capitalist to my Bones” Warren would have turned on and turned in radicals during the McCarthy era. During the Nevada debate, she told neoliberal Big Brother Chuck Todd with a straight face that Sanders is “gambling on a narrow vision that doesn’t address the fears of millions of Americans…gambling on a revolution that won’t bring along a majority of this country.”

That was quite Buttigieg- and Bloomberg-like of her. The Las Vegas setting must have inspired the gambling references. How clever. Don’t think for a second that Warren is not prepared to sell out completely to enter the White House.

No American political actor, not even a died-in-the-wool neofascistic Trumpenvolk Amerikaner, deserves more contempt than “centrist” Democrats for whom the moderately social-democratish progressive reformer Sanders is “too radical.” People who think that Single Payer health insurance and green jobs programs are “radical” and unaffordable “threats” to the richest nation in history have no business lecturing anyone on their “progressive” and “liberal” values. They are our class enemies. And they are significantly responsible for the ongoing occupation of the White House by an individual that the world’s leading intellectual Noam Chomsky reasonably describes as “the most dangerous criminal in human history.” [1]

Gloves Off

It was oligarchically offensive that Bloomberg was allowed on the South Carolina “presidential debate” stage last Tuesday night (as he was in Nevada). As in Nevada, Moneybags Mike’s mega-billionaire ass wasn’t even on the ballot in the state primary. He has ascended to the stage because the Democratic National Committee (DNC) changed the rules as a condition of receiving his anti-Sanders largesse. (Curiously enough, Bloomberg may be ironically working for Sanders: he is a perfect foil for the Vermont senator’s denunciation of the reigning “billionaire class.)”

During the South Carolina “debate,” Buttigieg was permitted to rudely talk over Sanders as Bernie tried to explain that Medicare for All is not Stalinism (in response to Red baiting attacks from Buttigieg and others). Again, and again, AEWC interrupted, saying “let’s talk about this.”‘ It was disturbing to behold. The moderators did not moderate the radically disruptive moderate. They also let the audience members – made up of rich people who paid thousands of dollars to sit in the crowd – boo loudly when Sanders spoke and cheer loudly when Bloomberg and Biden spoke. The audience was rigged. As Krystall Ball explained:

“It was so blatantly over-the-top weird that journalists immediately started asking questions… [and learned that] the only way to get tickets was to shell out literally thousands of dollars to the party to become a ‘sponsor’ of the debate. Think about that: the so-called party of the people only lets people in the room that have the financial means or the connections to casually cough up several thousands of dollars. What a complete disgrace. Of course, with that knowledge of who was in the room, the anti-Bernie pro-billionaire response becomes completely predictable. It was a room full of rich people for whom Bernie is an existential threat to their personal class interests.”

That was very well said even if it exaggerates how much of a menace Sanders really is to the grand bourgeoisie.

The gloves were off in Charleston, basic rules of debate decorum suspended. It was vaguely reminiscent of what happened when the U.S. Olympic basketball team headed by the young pre-professional phenom Michael Jordan kept defeating NBA All Star teams assembled for exhibition games prior to the Olympics. The NBA got so worried about how bad Jordan kicking their asses was making the league look that they had the refs go easy on letting NBA stars foul Jordan. They even dropped the foul-out rule.

Not Radical

Sanders opened with a home run and finished with one too in South Carolina:

“[The main] misconception [about me] — and you’re hearing it here tonight, is that the ideas I’m talking about are radical. They’re not. In one form or another, they exist in countries all over the world. Health care is a human right. We have the necessity, the moral imperative, to address the existential threat of climate change. Other countries are doing that. We don’t need more people in jail, disproportionately African-American, than any other country on earth — not a radical idea….If we have the guts to stand up to powerful special interests who are doing phenomenally well; if we can bring working people together, black and white and Latino, we can create a nation where all people have a good standard of living.”

A Useful Translation

So good for Bernie. Sadly, the party he’s running through is a dismal ruling class institutional asset owned by oligarchs – American ones. Listening to Amy, Pete, Bloomberg, Biden and even Warren in Nevada and South Carolina, you’d think that Sanders was the living incarnation of Michael Bakunin and that the richest and most powerful country in history can’t afford to do something as simple, decent, and affordable (indeed cost-saving) as to make health care a human right.

I’ve wasted many hours watching Democratic presidential debates since 1991. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it where one of the candidates (Bloomberg this year) gets to be a leading sponsor of the debates by buying up political advertisements (not to mention audience members) before, during, and after the game show. How absurd (granted: like almost everything else in our oxymoronic “capitalist democracy”).

Let me offer an I hope useful translation for the “moderate” Democrats’ insistent claim that the “radical socialist” Sanders can’t defeat Trump in the 2020 general election:

We will help defeat even a moderately social-democratic progressive Democrat who could defeat Trump. We would rather give a second term to the most dangerous criminal in human history – the demented fascist oligarch and Ecocide agent Trump – then let a moderate social democratish neo-New Deal progressive have a first term in which he tried to pass desperately needed reforms favored by most of the population. We will do just fine as the nation descends further into an ugly white-nationalist authoritarianism from which it may never recover. We will continue proudly in our party’s neoliberal tradition of Inauthentic Opposition and Fake Resistance, privileging the satisfaction of our corporate and financial sponsors over democracy, social justice, environmental sanity and even over winning elections.”

(When I say “do just fine” I should add that ex-mayor Pete is set to cash in big-time on his service to capital. They are going to pay him very nicely.)

“I am hoping,” Victoria Wilson writes from Ohio, “that a tsunami coalition of young people, latinx and people of color can override this. I live in the Midwest where every day I see on social media from people living in the area that Sanders is too radical, his proposals are too expensive, and he will turn off moderates. That is just pure rubbish fed to them by the mainstream media, the supposed ‘liberal’ tv channels and talk with a lot of narrow-minded folk. I got attacked the other day from some supposed like-minded persons, my ‘friends’ about this.”

The DNC, CNN, and MSNBC will blame the tsunami on Russia.

The Inauthentic Opposition Party of Fake Resistance has disgraced itself yet further. It cannot be swept into the dustbin of history soon enough

They’d be Building to Statues for Anyone but Bernie by Now

Here’s one of the sharpest, most dead-on observations I’ve read in a long time – from William Rivers-Putt at Truthout:

“If Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar or Tom Steyer were pulling down numbers like Sanders, the party would be building statues in their honor outside Democratic National Committee headquarters. Yet with all the pieces Sanders has in place, all the momentum he enjoys, and all the polling leads he holds, it is ‘Bernie Can’t Win’ from the establishment wing almost across the board. The New York Times, MSNBC, The Washington Post, and other publications and outlets all echo a similar theme…. As the GOP has moved farther to the right… the Democrats have moved with them so as to mollify voters who would today find a Republican like Richard Nixon intolerably liberal. It is a recipe for failure, and the results have become obvious. Hillary Clinton’s weak showing was not some black swan outlier event, but a bright red warning light the Democratic establishment refuses to heed” (emphasis added).

Bullseye!

The Democratic Party establishment will gladly enable a second fascistic and ecocidal Trump term before it will get behind a progressive Democrat/Sanders nomination. The neoliberal Democratic masters will do everything they can, including sabotage of Sanders, to sustain the party’s status as a thoroughgoing ruling class institutional asset. They are the ones with ideological purity tests, and they are loudly and clearly announcing their preference for Trump over Sanders in 2020 as in 2016. Sorry if that sounds “negative.”

Join the Bloody Fray

A friend asks “What happens if they steal the nomination from Sanders? It’s a legitimate question, and one I’ve noticed coming up a lot on Bernie sites.” I will unequivocally call for full DemExit replete with mass civil disobedience and third-party voting or electoral boycotting. My call will be denounced by centrists and liberals as “ultra-leftist” sabotage on behalf of Trump but of course the people launching the charge will have just handed a second term to the demented fascistic oligarch by nominating an equally demented mega-billionaire like Moneybags Mike or a billionaire-captive tool like stale old Joe or fresh young Pete. Milwaukee, for starters, will need to become a literal battleground. It’s not too soon to start preparing for major street actions. And by the way, that will be good preparation for November: anybody who has been paying attention should know that Trump will not hand the White House over to a “socialist” just because the “socialist” won the Electoral College. Hell, Trump might have to be forced out physically after a Biden, Bloomberg, or Buttigieg victory.

The deal was made in Chicago.

On a dark and stormy day.

So they headed to Milwaukee

To join the bloody fray.

For days and nights they battled

The corpDems to their knees

The fought for Single Payer

And to take down the bourgeoisie

Endnote

1. “It seemed clear from the outset,” Chomsky recently said, “that the impeachment effort could not be serious and would end up being another gift by the Democrats to Trump, much as the Mueller affair was. Any doubts about its farcical nature were put to rest by its opening spectacle: Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts struggling to keep a straight face while swearing in senators who solemnly pledged that they would be unmoved by partisan concerns, and at once proceeded — as everyone know they would — to behave and vote along strictly party lines. Could there be a clearer exhibition of pure farce? Are the crimes discussed a basis for impeachment? Seems so to me. Has Trump committed vastly more serious crimes? That is hardly debatable. What might be debatable is whether he is indeed the most dangerous criminal in human history (which happens to be my personal view). Hitler had been perhaps the leading candidate for this honor. His goal was to rid the German-run world of Jews, Roma, homosexuals and other “deviants,” along with tens of millions of Slav ‘Untermenschen.’ But Hitler was not dedicated with fervor to destroying the prospects of organized human life on Earth in the not-distant future (along with millions of other species).” The criminal’s ongoing epic transgressions are receiving shockingly little discussion in the Democratic presidential debates, curiously enough.

 

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Paul Street’s latest book is They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Paradigm, 2014)

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