Dear Berners: Dementia Joe is How Much “Your” Party HATES You

“You Have Owners”

“Mr. [Bernie] Sanders,” the New York Times reported last Tuesday, “has built a following of voters who want and expect more from their [Democratic] party, from their government, and from their country.”

That’s true enough, with some key qualifications: it’s not “their party” any more than it’s “their government” or “their country.” Like the U.S. government and the nation, itself, the Democratic Party is owned by the capitalist class. Expecting anything decent from it is a fools’ game and always has been. It’s like George Carlin used to say:

“Forget the politicians. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land, they own and control the corporations; they’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the State houses, the City Halls; they’ve got the judges in their back pockets, and they own all the big media companies so they control just about all the news and information you get to hear.”

Feel the Hate

For many years I have been trying to tell “progressives” who cling to the quixotic notion of advancing social democracy, peace, and environmental sanity through the Democratic Party that the party’s corporate establishment hates them and would rather lose to the ever more fascistic Republican Party than to the moderately social-democratic wing of their own party.

The evidence of this hatred (not too strong a word) is plentiful. Think of Barack Obama’s future White House chief-of- staff and future racist Chicago “Mayor 1%” Rahm Emanuel working as a foulmouthed right-wing Congressional leader to purge antiwar candidates from the party’s 2006 House of Representatives candidate roster.

The sociopath Emanuel would go on to regularly threaten and abuse progressives who meekly tried to push the militantly neoliberal, Citigroup-captive Obama administration towards small measures of social and environmental decency. His corporatist blood brother Obama made sure to purge advocates of Single Payer health insurance – irrelevantly supported by most of the U.S. populace – from the national health care reform debate in 2009.

There was nothing new or surprising about all that. The second half of the Jimmy Carter administration was dedicated to corporate-friendly de-regulation that helped usher in the tragic two-term Reagan presidency after Carter kicked progressives to the curb. The Bill Clinton presidency was a monument to smug pro-corporate “free market” politics and policy, with the party’s progressive wing treated with contemptuous disdain. “

“David, tell me something interesting.” That was then First Lady Hillary Clinton’s dismissive response – as head of the White House’s health reform initiative – to Harvard medical professor David Himmelstein in 1993. Himmelstein was head of Physicians for a National Health Program.  He had just told her about the remarkable possibilities of a comprehensive, single-payer “Canadian style” health plan, supported by more than two-thirds of the U.S. public.  Beyond backing by a citizen super-majority, Himmelstein noted, single-payer would provide comprehensive coverage to the nation’s 40 million uninsured while retaining free choice in doctor selection and being certified by the Congressional Budget Office as “the most cost-effective plan on offer.”

The Democrats’ “contempt for their left flank,” Clark Iverson recently reminded me, “was laid bare in the 1968 [Chicago] police riot at the [Democratic National] convention, and it has basically remained in place ever since.”


An Unforgivable Sin: Complicating a Coronation (2016)

Four years ago, the moderately social-democratic progressive Democrat Bernie Sanders broke the rules by turning his 2016 presidential candidacy into something more than just a nice foil to make Hillary Clinton’s nomination seem like less of a pre-arranged corporate-Democratic nomination. It was an unforgivable sin. The Democratic establishment responded with venomous scorn. They called the senator from Vermont all kinds of nasty names and made sure to rig the primaries against “radical” Bernie, who nonetheless dutifully campaigned for the dismal, dollar-drenched, demobilizing, and doomed Hillary in the general election.

So what if Sanders was far better positioned to defeat the supremely dangerous fascist-style Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump? The Democrats are first and foremost about serving corporate sponsors, not winning elections, much less social justice or environmental sanity, and those sponsors did not and do not want even a mildly social-democratic candidate at the top of the Democratic ticket.

Democratic Red Baiters

The 2020 primary campaign has taken the elitist class hatred that reigns atop the Democratic Party and its many affiliated media outlets to a new level. I have been following the “liberal” elite’s unmitigated and corporate-funded loathing and ignoring of Bernie Sanders for much of the last year. It’s not a pretty story. The ruling class contempt has come replete with noxious red-baiting and flat-out slander combined with absurdly false claims that the richest country in world history “can’t afford” to make health care a human right or to move off the fossil fuel addiction that is collapsing human civilization.

“You Know the Thing”

All of this is as expected, as is the standard claim that the progressive candidate (Sanders) is “unelectable” even though he was the most electable potential Democratic nominee. This is standard operating procedure. What’s different this time is the extent to which the corporate Democratic media-politics machine is willing to make its determination to lose to the Republicans rather than to the progressive wing of its own party grotesquely obvious by advancing a candidate who is clearly losing his marbles.

I’d like to say that Biden is unelectable because he’s a corporatist and imperialist whose record and platform stand well to the right of majority-progressive public opinion on numerous key issues (health care, Social Security, climate change, the minimum wage, bankruptcy protection, financial regulation, the Pentagon budget, war, and more). All of that and more helps damage Biden as a presidential candidate, but the deepest nail in Biden’s electability coffin may be his obvious cognitive decline.

It’s clear as day. He confused his wife with his sister on stage last week. He sometimes doesn’t know what day it is or what state he’s in. He says he’s running for “the Senate.” He has impulse-control issues that are a classic sign of dementia. He called a Warren supporter in Iowa fat (“Look, fat”) and “too old to vote.” He called a young woman at one of his events “a lying, dog-faced pony-soldier.” He tells ridiculous and garbled stories about a parking lot confrontation with a Black tough named “Corn Pop.” He says he “learned about roaches” when he was a lifeguard and “likes it when kids sit on my lap.” He tells poor Black families to “put the television, I mean the record player on” so kids can hear “the words.” He can’t remember a key phrase (“all men are created equal”) from the Declaration of Independence and so tells a crowd you know the thing” — yes, you know the thing.

Deleting Dementia: A “Classic Orwellian” Moment

I could go on but won’t because doing so would be too depressing and start to feel like able-ism and elder-abuse. Glen Greenwald is correct:

“it is visible to the naked eye that the 77-year-old six-term Senator and two-term Vice President is in serious cognitive decline…That is a grave matter not just because the establishment wing of the Democratic Party wants to put him in charge of the world’s most dangerous nuclear arsenal, a large chunk of the planet’s health, and the welfare of hundreds of millions of people, but also because it directly pertains to whether he can sustain the rigors and spotlight of a General Election against the incumbent President. And multiple incidents over the past couple weeks — from Biden’s forgetting the words of the most iconic and memorized passage of the Declaration of Independence to confusing his wife for his sister to spouting sentences that make no sense — have only intensified those worries”(emphasis added).

Truly horrifying is the Democratic Party media and politics establishment’s Orwellian determination to squelch public discussion of Biden’s pitiful mental state – a problem of which the establishment is fully cognizant. It was Democrats who first raised the problem of Biden’s unmistakable cerebral bankruptcy, but, Greenwald notes:

“as the Democratic establishment has united with creepy speed and obedience behind Biden in order to stop the Sanders candidacy, those who now raise these concerns instantly come under a withering assault of insults and attacks from Democratic Party operatives along with their crucial media allies: thinly disguised pro-Biden reporters who continue to insist on wearing the unconvincing and fraudulent costume of neutrality. They are invoking the classic Orwellian formulation from the novel 1984: ‘The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command’” (emphasis added).

(Anyone who doubts that Biden is “going through some things” in his cognitive life should look at this clip of Biden being interviewed on Sanders and Hillary in 2016: he sounds remarkably lucid and intelligent smart compared to how he is now[1]. He’s just not the same guy in this interview anymore. Could Jill Biden say something, before it’s too late?)

This, “progressive Democrats,” is how much “your” (no, their) party’s establishment HATES you. It is determined to serve up a right-wing dementia victim as a toy mouse food item for the feral fascist feline Tabby Trump this summer and fall instead of mounting a serious challenge headed by the mentally agile progressive-populist Bernie Sanders.

Could it be any clearer that the Democratic Party privileges its clientage to capital over winning elections and defeating eco-cidal racism-sexism-nativism-fascism?

No Killer Instinct

Maybe someone should have started a petition to Bernie saying something like this: “Dear Senator Sanders, if you don’t bring up Joe Biden’s clear and obvious dementia in your next debate and in your campaign from now on, we demand the return of our contributions to your campaign. Your continuing silence on this matter will be proof that you have no serious intention of winning the nomination.”

Not that Sanders would have done the right thing. He doesn’t seem to have the killer instinct required to prevail.  He’s too polite and intimidated by the Democratic establishment.

You can bet “Honey Badger” Trump won’t hold back on Biden’s dementia.  He’s already locked in on “Sleepy Joe’s” palpable mental deterioration, which the Democratic establishment now insists on tossing down Orwell’s memory hole even as Biden’s memory card fades further in plain, nationally televised sight.

One thing you can’t say about Trump, who Noam Chomsky rightly describes as “the most dangerous criminal in human history,” is that he lacks the killer instinct required in high-stakes politics and heavyweight boxing.

Social Imperialism

With Demented Joe’s clear victory (his defeat of Sanders in Bernie’s Michigan “firewall” yesterday seals the deal – it’s over) in the nomination battle, Sanders can be expected in due time to honor his unfortunate advance “sheepdog” promise to support the eventual Democratic nominee, no matter who it is. What a sad that promises to be: stumping for the ridiculous and offensive right-wing corporate imperialist and dementia victim, his “friend” Joe Biden. It will be another great stain on his “socialist” legacy, along with his support for Hillary Clinton in 2016 (also promised in advance), his backing of an F-35 base in Vermont, his embrace of Bill Clinton’s war on Serbia, his vote for the 2001 Authorization of Unilateral Military Force Against Terrorists (the AUMF, which gave George W. Bush a green light to launch wars wherever he wished), his backing of Barack Obama’s Libyan fiasco, his support for an increased U.S role in the Syrian Civil War, and his two 1998 votes in support of U.S.-led regime change in Iraq.

Lenin had a phrase for European “socialists” like Karl Kautsky, who combined advocacy of left movements and reforms at home with support for imperial policies abroad: “social imperialists.” Lenin described such leftists as “socialist in words, imperialist in deeds.”

An Orwellian Masterpiece

“The media,” a left friend writes from Michigan, “did everything they could to paint Sanders as anti-American and radical and hide Biden’s awful record.”

“Why is it,” a mainstream, pro-establishment Michigan Democrat (MPEMD) responds, “that Bernie can’t just admit he lost without blaming it on a grand conspiracy? More voters voted for Biden because more voters wanted to.”

The MPEMD is off base. Bernie hasn’t acknowledged defeat yet and is too polite and respectful to blame his losses on a big plot. Call it a “grand conspiracy” of whatever you like, this is just an accurate description of historical reality: “the media …did everything they could to paint Sanders as anti-American and radical and hide Biden’s awful record.” That happened. It is precisely what occurred at “liberal” MSNBC (MSDNC) and CNN (and other outlets). MSDNC is reporting on history it helped make — “an Orwellian masterpiece” in the words of my friend Terry Thomas.

And now, as Greenwald argues, that same “liberal” media is hiding Biden’s dementia even though the media operatives and managers are fully aware of the former Vice President’s mental debilitation.

This isn’t about “conspiracies.” It’s about social and institutional power and George Carlin’s point: “we have owners.”


Voters who have been induced by their and the media’s owners to “want” Biden have “chosen” a candidate who is going to be a sacrificial seal in the jaws of the Great Orange Shark next November — unless a COVID-19 recession makes it possible for Biden to slip into an assisted care unit in the White House. Then perhaps a 25th Amendment removal, clearing the way for an Amy Klobuchar (AK-47) administration in October of 2021?

Biden Would Veto Medicare for All, So Reciprocate the Hate

Meanwhile, this was just sent to me: “Biden Indicates He’d Veto ‘Medicare-for-All.”

Just because it’s from FOX News doesn’t mean it’s not true. It’s accurate: Bernie’s (literally) demented “friend” Joe Biden would veto a measure to make health care a human right in the U.S. Think about that. Let that sink in. Biden is the very definition of a class enemy, comrades.

The corporate Democrats are Public Enemy #1 in my opinion. The Trumpenvolk would never ride without these sorry, sold out agents of capital posing as “democrats.”

“Progressive” Democrats, please have the mental and moral capacity to get and act on the simple and undeniable fact that “your” party’s establishment hates you. Hate them back. It’s okay: you need to turn your Bernie buttons in for Yellow Vests and gas masks.

Last Dance with Electoral Jane

“If voting changed anything,” Emma Goldman once said, “they would make it illegal.”

Caucusing for Sanders was my last half-hearted dance around that coffin of class consciousness known as the American ballot box.

Voting might change things in a decent way, one day, but not under the existing and overlapping U.S. party, elections, and media systems.

“Last dance with Mary Jane[2], one more time to kill the pain. I feel summer creeping in and I’m tired of this town again.”


1. The content of this interview is interesting and ironic: “Vice President Joe Biden offered effusive praise for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders Monday, lauding Hillary Clinton’s chief rival for doing a ‘heck of a job’ on the campaign trail and praising Sanders for offering an authentic voice on income inequality. And while Biden said Democrats had a slate of ‘great candidates’ running for president, he suggested Clinton was a newcomer to issues like the growing gap between rich and poor.

‘Bernie is speaking to a yearning that is deep and real. And he has credibility on it,’ Biden said during an interview with CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger. ‘It’s relatively new for Hillary to talk about that,’ Biden continued, acknowledging that Clinton has ‘come forward with some really thoughtful approaches to deal with the issue’ of income inequality.

‘Hillary’s focus has been other things up to now, and that’s been Bernie’s — no one questions Bernie’s authenticity on those issues,’ he said…Biden expressed little shock that Sanders was drawing ample support among Democrats, claiming that Sanders’ self-identification as a socialist mattered little to his party’s voters.

‘If Bernie Sanders never said he was a democratic socialist, based on what he’s saying people wouldn’t be calling him a democratic socialist,’ he said, claiming Clinton entered the race with an ‘awful high bar for her to meet…I never thought she was a prohibitive favorite,’ he said. ‘I don’t think she ever thought she was a prohibitive favorite. So I think it’s, you know, everything’s sort of coming down to Earth.’”

2. See the Vimeo video of that signature Tom Petty song – the creepy one where he tries to revive a corpse played by Kim Basinger. It’s an apt visual and musical metaphor for those of us on the left who got sucked into the money-drenched mortuary that is American capitalist “electoral democracy”again.

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).