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Left to Bernie: Will Sanders Answer the Call?

john.halle's picture

The left, or what is left of it in the wake of its disastrous decision to throw in its lot with the Obama campaign and administration is finally waking up, it would seem.

Jeff Cohen formerly of Progressives for Obama, writes that Obama "is not CAVING to corporate interests." Rather, he is now capable of recognizing that "the evidence is clear that Obama is an often-willing servant of corporate interests -- not someone reluctantly doing their bidding, or serving their interests only because Republicans forced him to."

Writing in the Nation, John Nichols notes "disenchantment among Democrats who fear he is preparing to abandon the commitments made by . . . generations of Democratic leaders to not just preserve but expand Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security."

Both Nichols and Cohen enthusiastically cite Senator Bernie Sanders' remarks to Thom Hartman that a primary challenge is in order.

Unfortunately, this gets it wrong, revealing a familiar though still troubling myopia. It is not Obama the individual who needs to be targeted by the left, but rather the institutional forces which have made the catastrophe which is brand Obama and the Obama administration inevitable.

In particular, what needs to be seen as the primary obstacle is a Democratic Party which has now become a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street, and which has now for decades been entirely captive to the corporate agenda one which is all the more effective and sinister by virtue of its occasional responsiveness to this or that isolated progressive demand. Obama was, in fact, an entirely natural and predictable result of these malign institutional forces.

It follows then that what is needed is not a primary challenge, which only reinforces the status of the Democratic Party as the only possible vehicle for progressive energies.

Rather what is needed is a challenge in the general election from a progressive/labor/environmental party running a full slate of candidates at all levels and giving voice not only to the disenchantment on the left but also to a unified positive vision which progressives can stand behind.

And the man to head this ticket is Bernie Sanders.

It is something of a mystery Sanders why has consistently sought to downplay his party affiliation as an Independent Socialist. Most voters believe he belongs to the much abused Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.

If he chooses to return to his roots as third party insurgent devoted to overturning a corrupt, unaccountable, and fatally compromised Democratic Party machine, this could be the crowning glory of an inspiring political career.

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john.halle's picture
Submitted by john.halle on

It matters whether you run as a Democrat or a heading a third party committed to building it up from its foundations.

cwaltz's picture
Submitted by cwaltz on

a third option doesn't get corrupted over time either. Lord only knows I don't trust people like Bloomberg just because they're running as a third party option. That doesn't mean I don't think it's a worthwhile endevour to work on creating an institution that closely adheres to principles that those of us agree with like quality health care for all or ending unnecessary wars. It just means that I think voters need to actually vow to stay vigilant when it comes to candidates.
I mean, on it's face the Democrats had a decent platform. That doesn't mean they didn't ignore it when politically convenient. Just ask women.

No. I just am not sure at all that a third or fourth party resolves things long term(it may short term until the top figures out how to bring it under their control and trust me if they gain power they will try.)

That being said, I am encouraging anybody and everybody to write in a candidate. What I'd like to see this go round is the bought and paid for 2 parties shit a brick when they realize they've lost control of the electorate and a goodly portion of us aren't willing to play their rigged game any longer. I'd like to see the upper people controlling them sweat just a small amount of what they are doing to the elderly and poor.

votermom's picture
Submitted by votermom on

for one's career. The O machine will crush any challenger and shred them with dirty tricks.

But I can't help hoping that someone, whether it's Bernie or even Cindy Sheehan, does it anyway.

john.halle's picture
Submitted by john.halle on

He's not a Dem, remember. Neither is Cindy for that matter.

Anyway, they shouldn't. The should run to build the foundations of a left/labor/environmental third party.

votermom's picture
Submitted by votermom on

It's symptomatic of the cancer in the Dems that we can't even think of an actual Dem who could primary O.

john.halle's picture
Submitted by john.halle on

But that's actually great news-no more illusions, the mask is off. A great opportunity for real progress!

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

... insofar as it means some number of Democrats are rejecting the so-called centrism of Obama and, one hopes, his kindred spirits.

Would such a development be sufficient to cure what ails this country? No.

Is this where a lefty's advocacy should stop (or be focused at all)? No.

But the existence of such a movement would, or at least could, be a step in the right direction, methinks.

Most prog/liberal/left-identifying Americans have zero ability to say no to the Democrats. It's past time to start doing that.

Cold turkey would certainly be healthier, but most Dems don't even realize they've been voting against their interests and values, and as they say recognizing you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery.

john.halle's picture
Submitted by john.halle on

I vascillate between viewing these guys are de facto enemies and potential allies. I suppose we should get over what pricks they were during the Obamamania phase-provided that they are really and truly over it.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

includes coming to terms with how Obamamania works/worked and how political tribalism subverts commitment to values and policy.

Being opposed to this one conservative Democrat--while as I said, a well-boding development--won't mean all that much if people on the left don't do some fruitful analysis of political thought and behavior: both their own and their habitual opinion leaders'. Otherwise, they're a "Look, over there! Michele Bachmann!" away from their next bandwagon ride.

john.halle's picture
Submitted by john.halle on

which is why the Sanders candidacy is an interesting conundrum. He'll have to register as a Dem to take on O, but he probably won't. So if he runs, it will have to be third party. Will the thanksRalphians be out in force if this idea gets floated? I'd say probably. In fact, they're out there already.

Submitted by mwfolsom on

Glad you asked about the Greens though -

While I agree with some of what John has said and like Bernie a lot he can't be the "challenger". Bernie understands that the Democratic Party is corrupt to its very core and while he probably won't say it, the party is beyond repair. Now he could run as an Independent and I'd love that but don't think it will happen either.

The problem is this - the Dem elites have realized that progressives/liberals are doormats to be stepped on. They hope to win elections by paying lip service to us and using our labor and the $'s they get from Wall Street and large corporations to run their campaigns. They keep us in a fetal position by throwing us the odd bone (gay rights, environmental stuff & etc) and pay Wall Street off by doing their bidding (attack SS, Medicare, Medicaid, co-opt corporate regulation for their benefit & etc). This is the DLC, New Dem, Third Way game plan and it works for them. They run a fairly tight ship and have things so hot wired that our only choice in the last Pres election was between a Third Way Obama and a DLC Clinton.

I say we should walk and prove the point by voting Green or some other progressive choice. Once the elites have lost enough elections they will realize if we decide to walk by supporting a real candidate against them in a general election they will loose. That's when they will come to the table - until then you can't expect much from the Dem DC elites. In essence I believe we have to break the paradigm that exists today and sadly we have to do that while watching bad Democrats loose to even worse Republicans. However, this is just a bridge too far for many progressives and on sites like The Daily Kos it can't even be discussed. Sadly I know that until we really walk and the elites know we will walk nothing will change.

As and aside, for those that still argue that we should Primary a bad Dem think of what happened in Connecticut Lieberman vs. Lamont Primary back in 2006. The DC Dem establishment still supported Lieberman in the General Election against Lamont. For them being in the club is much more important than ideology.

Will we do this is the real question. Personally I doubt it. Selling out Social Security might be the spark that starts this - I'm not sure but all I know is that you can't change the Democratic Party from the inside. It's too owned for that.

By-the-way, as a dirty fact to prove my point and to show how unlikely it is that progressives/liberals will walk from the Dem Party - I was recently banned on the Daily Kos for proposing that folks consider voting Green (see: ). Think of that - you can get banned for suggesting what I said above. So for sites like The Daily Kos this isn't even a topic for discussion!

john.halle's picture
Submitted by john.halle on

Wow. Good to have in writing that the mere discussion of a third party candidacy is a capital offense. Zhdanov lives!

Here's a piece I wrote about censorship on so called "left" internet outlets.

I wish I had your info when I was working it up.

Something needs to be done about this.

Submitted by mwfolsom on

don't hesitate to ask -

By the way - when I login to the Daily Kos I still have the red message at the top of the page - the one I posted on my bog. If you want a higher res version let me know. I decided not to promise to censor myself so I still can't post to the Daily Kos -

In a twisted way its like being on a modern Democratic Party/Obama loyalist "enemies list". One of these days progressives are gonna wake up and realize it's the only honorable place to be!

Submitted by lambert on

Your friends report would be great.

(Or our Philly Green, also?)

cwaltz's picture
Submitted by cwaltz on

After reading an amusing post(or I should say repost) at FDL by someone named Tbogg I decided to comment on his post about my strategy. Well, someone in the comments pointed out that despite all Tbogg's pissing, moaning, and whining that in 2012 he'd vote for Obama. Sure enough Tbogg says he WILL be voting for the guy and he has the balls to call the idea of voting for a third choice or writing someone in living in "fantasyland."

Fantasyland? Uh that would be the idea that the Dems are going to change when you continue to vote for them over and over despite them ignoring you.

That doesn't mean all of them are this way but some of them still seem to have a superiority complex despite the fact that their way isn't and hasn't worked(more democrats and we still ended up with the minority party leading the debate on health care and tax cuts and the people on the left side of the aisle have still been left out of the debate.)

In the military I had to work with all kinds so I pretty much have given up on the overdue apology from most of them. Their egos won't allow it. Still I get sick of them acting like any idea that hasn't originated from them is purity and unrealistic. God save us all from "pragmatism." We'd still be living as British colony if these people had been in charge of the American revolution. After all we were greatly outnumbered and outgunnedand it wouldn't have been "pragmatic" to fight for our right to independance. Augh.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

He is an enemy of civil rights and a determined advocate of privatizaton, school deform and union busting. I think he would be worse than Obama.

john.halle's picture
Submitted by john.halle on

Does anyone know the answer to what I refer to as the mystery of why Sanders has always downplayed his third party affiliation and never made any attempt to develop it further.

I have heard that he cut a deal with the Democrats in VT whereby they don't challenge him for his seat in exchange for him not pushing for challenges to Dems in other races.

This is purely anecdotal and i'd like to know the real story from someone who knows it.

Submitted by Hugh on

Sanders is a serial caver and a joke. His shtik has always been to toss out a few progressive statements to win plaudits from them but then to do whatever the Democratic leadership wants. When all was said and done, he voted for Obamacare. He pushed the "audit the Fed" bill in the Senate but it was not the robust version of the original Ron Paul proposal but one that was decidedly narrower and more limited. His filibernie took place on a Friday when the Senate had no business and most members were headed out of town.

We really need to stop all of these "Warren for President", "Feingold for President", "Hillary for President", "Sanders for President", whoever at some particular time says or does something we like. If you look at their broader record, they are far from being solidly progressive, or in some cases progressive at all. There is not an officeholder current or past that is worthy of support or your vote. Not one.

Dailykos is a propaganda arm of the Democratic party, period. It's a Trojan horse site. It portrays itself as progressive but that is entirely at odds with its allegiance to the corporatism of the Democrats.

Re Tbogg, he is a humorist whom Jane signed up at FDL a long time ago. He is not a shallow ender but a hardcore Democratic tribalist. It's one of the ongoing contradictions of FDL that Jane is moving away somewhat from the Democrats at the same time that she still has so many of the Democratic stalwarts she surrounded herself with still there.

cwaltz's picture
Submitted by cwaltz on

She seems to be moving with the idea of being issues oriented which is a good thing. We definitely can use more people who aren't looking at this from a Team Red and Team Blue mentality. I'm still a little leery about donating though because I don't want to see myself donating to an organization that says it's for issues and then completely ignores a candidate's record on the issues when election time creeps around and forced to choose between bad and worse.

I did a little pressing for Sanders as a write in(a read your assessment so I get that you don't agree. That said being a Senator from a power standpoint is way different than being President. So not sure how that fits into your assessment. Anyway at this point I'd write my cat in over choosing between the two false choices the oligarchs have offered.) She seemed to be okay with me stumping for people to write in a third choice(I tend to think not voting or choosing between the lesser two evils is what the oligarchs want.)

I really think there needs to be a multi pronged approach to politics. We need interest groups that are willing to stand for issues and push while being not willing to give politicians a pass and we need infrastructure and people willing to work within "the system."

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

I guess I find it hard to be optimistic about "issues-oriented" advocacy from one of the key proponents of the "public option" Trojan pony, a campaign that cut the legs off of proponents of real healthcare reform.

MsExPat's picture
Submitted by MsExPat on

For this:

We really need to stop all of these "Warren for President", "Feingold for President", "Hillary for President", "Sanders for President", whoever at some particular time says or does something we like. If you look at their broader record, they are far from being solidly progressive, or in some cases progressive at all. There is not an officeholder current or past that is worthy of support or your vote. Not one.

Policy, not personality, is what we need to be focussing on. Throwing emotion-based "hope" into the basket of a candidate-hero only leads to more Obamas.

And as Hugh wisely points out, the existing pool of left-ish candidate heroes sucks.

john.halle's picture
Submitted by john.halle on

This seems maybe just a little too harsh. I think I would have voted for Eugene Debs-particularly when he was in prison. Wouldn't you have?

beowulf's picture
Submitted by beowulf on

I do hope Donald Trump runs as an independent next year ("If the economy continues to do badly, and if the Republicans pick somebody that I think is the wrong person and isn't going to win, I would seriously consider running as an independent.").

One, the guy has enough cash (to say nothing of his universal name recognition) that he doesn't have to raise funds on Wall Street or anywhere else. Second, this is what Democratic candidates USED to sound like:
When this country becomes profitable again, we can take care of our sick; we can take care of our needy,” he told Human Events. “We don’t have to cut Social Security; we don’t have to cut Medicare and Medicaid. We can take care of people that need to be taken care of. And I’ll be able to do that.”

Because the best thing for balancing the budget is to have a strong economy. And the economy can never come back if we are going to always have high unemployment.

Those last sentences simply rephrase what Jack Kennedy said in his 1962 Economic Club speech , "only full employment can balance the budget". Kennedy is consistently our most popular former president in opinion polls, So why does our incumbent Democratic president sound like Hoover while a Republican billionaire sounds like Kennedy?
If he ran as an independent, he could go back to his 1999 positions of Medicare for All and Tax the Rich. As for Jobs for All and End the Wars, I'm guardedly optimistic. :o)
Donald Trump tells Newsmax the United States should be spending taxpayers’ money rebuilding the country instead of wasting fortunes in other countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.