Sanders campaign reaches its climax

Sanders campaign reaches its climax

On Bernie Sanders' announcement of support for Hillary Clinton.

Bernie Sanders finally announced his support for Hillary Clinton as Democratic candidate for the US presidency. That was what he was supposed to do all along. Working through the Democratic party demands support for the candidate that wins the primaries.of that party, whoever it turns out to be.. That support – almost guaranteed beforehand – functions as a sign of loyalty and trustworthiness towards that party. It was also what he was expected to do by all but the most credulous. The whole Sanders operation was an effort to help restore something of the progressive mass base of the Democrats, in support for one of the two capitalist parties, and for the political system itself. In that sense, the Sanders phenomenon was business as usual, albeit in a somehat unusual fashion. The announcement shows both what is usual and what is unusual about Sanders and his fanhood.

It start outs as a hymn of praise to this supporters and all their work. He talked about the “movement – the political revolution – you and I have created over the last 15 months.” It is a bit much. He did not create any 'movement'. He tapped a mood that was left behind by earlier movements against corparate domination, by Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots, by the campaigns for a higher minimum wage and similar phenomena. Elsewhere, I described the Sanders campaign as “Occupy goes to the polling stations”(1). Therein lies its defeat, even before it got started, for the one good thing about that Occupy thing was exactly its non-electoral dynamics, built around forms of direct action and prefiguration, if often in a weak, distorted form. Bringing Occupy sympathizers to the polls is taking them away from their strength, and bringing them in to an arena where we lose beforehand, even if 'our candidate' is winning.

Sanders continues in this vein of hymns-singing. “We mobilized 13 million voters across the cpontry. We won 23 Democratic primary and caucus contests. We had litterally hundreds of thousands of volunteers across the country. We showed (…) that you can can run ac ompetitive national grassroots campaign without begging millionaires and billionaires for campaign contributions.” Yes, Mr. Sanders – or is it Comrade Sanders? - and now you are bringing that campaign into the fold of the billionaires candidate named Hillary Clinton. Well done!

The he mentiones the fact that his campaign had brought issues to the fore, “issues the establishment has pushed under the rug for too long”, especially the enormous gap between a very rich minority and the overwhelming majority of the population which is relatively, and in enormous number also absolutely, impoverished by neoliberal policies. He claims credit for bringing these issues to daylight but, again, this had been done already by Occupy and similar forces. It is not as if, before Sanders raised the issue, people were unaware about the metaphoric One and Ninety-Nine percent, the “billionaire class” against “ordinary Americans”.

He turned a mood into an electoral force, and yes, he did that succesfully. That was unusual, for earlier efforts to do a thing like this had much less success. Neither Jesse Jackson nor Dennis Kucinic – earlier examples of Democrats playing the role of progressives – came anywhere near the position that Sanders finds himself in this year. But electoral force is exactly not how the mood behind it can translate its desires into reality, however widespread this mood may be and however big the crowds and the numbers of voters Sanders has attracted

All the paragraphs he uses to sing his supporters' praise and boast about their and his results, function both as introduction and as sweetener for the bitter medicine he now administers. Let 's critically follow his text, sentence by sentance, for a while. Ready?

“In terms of the presidential election this November, there is no doubt that the election of Donald Trump as president would be a devastating blow to all we are fighting for.” Yes, and the election of Hillary Clinton would come down to the very same thing: a victory for neoliberal policies and preferences, a victory for big money, corruption, the "billionaire class”, the "one percent”. That is what many Sanders supporters were aware of. That is why Sanders became popular: because they saw Clinton and her Democratic party as an enemy. Now, he sings a different tune, as could be expected.

Back to the Trump danger. “His openly bigoted and pro-billionaire campaign could precipitate the same decades-long shift in American politics the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.” That turns things on their head. There was a rightward shift. But it did not originate in 1980, and its creator was not the Reagan victory. Already under Democratic president Carter, a shift away from Keynesianism towards what was then called monetarism was noticeable, as was a hardening in Cold War attitudes, with a new stress on arms modernization and expansion. Meanwhile, right wing forces – Christian fundamentalists, anti taxation networks , supporters of 'law and order', as a code word for racism – , had been busy from the late Sixties to take over the Republican party. 1980 was their breakthrough. But the idea that it all depended on Reagan winning is bad history and worse politics. As is the follow up: “That righward shift under Reagan infected not just politics as a whole, but led to the ascendancy of the corporate wing of the Democratic party – an era from which we arte still recovering.” As if the Democratic party was ever led by some kind of non-corporate wing before the age of Reagan! As if corporate forces – big business forces – were seriously less in control under Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson and Carter! As if progressive forces in the Democratic party ever were on top! The shift in the Democratic party was never between anti-corporate control towards corporate control. It was a shift from Keynesian corporate priorities and policies towards neoliberal corporate priorities and policies. Yes, union bosses and civil righs leaders became even more marginalized during the process than they always were. But the idea that they ever dominated the Democratic party belongs to the realm of fiction.

The whiole picture of the right wing as a product of the Reagan ascendancy is misleading. But Sanders needs this picture, as a scare tactic: we are under a similar Republican threat, now a similar horror movie about to start, with Trump in the Reagan role. He spells out the threat: “a complete Republican takeover of Washington – a takeover by a candidate who demonizes Latinos, Muslims, women, African Americans, veterans and others.” So we should fall behind a candidate who may not demonize all these groups in Trump-like fashion. She just uses them as voting fodder, to be ignored or spat upon whe she is safely in the White House, forever in debt to Sanders for his assistance.

Thus we get to the climax of the Sanders campaign. “Today, I endorse Hillary Clinton to be our next president.” And he continues: “I know that some of you will be disappointed” - as they might well be, because Clinton is opposed to almost everything that m any supporters think Sanders stands for. Which is why they supported him and not Clinton in the first place. ”But I believe that (…) our country, our values and our common vision for a transformed America, are best served by the defeat of Donald Trump and the election of Hillary Clinton.” First, “our country”, that abhorrent nationalist mythmaking device. The country – any country – is theirs, not ours, no matter which party runs the show, as long as capital is in charge and states hold us down. Identifying the country you live an as in any factual sense yours, is a trap. It should be our, everybody 's, country, not as a matter of ownership bus as a metter of “a common treasury for all” as Leon Rosselson sings it in his beautiful song “The World Turned Upside Down”. But this side of anticapitalist transformation, it never will be ours in that sense. Not under Trump, not under Clinton, not under Sanders, not under Jill Stein.

In as much as Sanders' supporters stand for a “common vison for a transformed America” it is a vision that clashes fundamentally with both Trump and Clinton, their parties and the business interests behind both of them. There is no sense in which Clinton is less beholden to big money than Trump. She is, literally, on well-rewarded speaking terms with theso-called one percent, as her highly paid talks to bankers and business organizatuions so clearly symbolize. She stands for evil, and not the lesser kind of evil. Why stand, even in the most limited and 'tactical' sense, for her?

Sanders then explains that things are not as bad as they seem. You see, we made some good deals inside the democratic party, we got a number of promises on policy. On a rise of the minimum wage, on big investments in helath, on “free tuition at public colleges and universities for working families.” He concludes: “The truth is our movement is responsible for the most progressive Democratic platform in the history of the country.” Maybe so. But platforms are words, grouped in sentences. They are not policies, not even policy-in-becoming. Nobody seriously expects presidents to keep their campaign promises. Remember Obama promising to close down Guantanamo? In his last year of his second term, he still did not manage to close the thing. Yes, Congress did not help. And yes, when you are busy droning Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen – personally checking the list of targeted individuals to be killed – , bombing Iraq and even sending new troops there , bombing Syria... maybe you have no spare time left for keeping promises. That was Obama. Clinton stands somewhat on the right of Obama, and no progressive party platform changes that reality. Sanders is selling hot air here, to pacify his supporters, and to motivate them to hold their noses and vote Clinton.

Pointing at the platform promises he says: “none of these initiatives will happen if we do not elect a Democrat in November. None!” So, vote Clinton, vote lots of Democrats into Congress, and keep that under some pressure by the Sanders movement. Only then, we will get that minimum wage, those health and education reforms and what not. It is not just blackmail. It is rubbish. Reforms like the ones in the Democratioc platform do not depend on votes. They depend on force, on serious pressure. Workers striking demonstrating, rioting, sabotaging, ferociously figting for what they demand, deserve and desire... that is what can put enough fear in the establishemnt tomove them towards concessions. The Vietnam war escalated under relatively liberal Democrats in the White House. It was brought to an end under Republicans Nixon and Ford. Not because elections moved towards peace, but because soldiers revolting up to the point of mutiny, combined with lots of people demonstrating up to the point of urban rebellion helped to make continuaing the war a losing option, literally. There is some kind of lesson hidden somewhere there.

Threatened with drastic loss of control in their companies and institutions and on the streets, the may come to see concessions – higher wages, affordable healthcare and education, welfare and social security, an end to police occupation of black communities and so on, as their version ofthe 'lesser evil'. In the meantime, the whole idea that electing Clinton against Trump is electing an truly lesser evil is a dangerous nonsense. And no, switching support from Sanders to Jill Stein and her Greens is not a serious way out.

Note:

Peter Storm, “De hoop achter Sanders, de angst achter Trump Buiten de Orde 2016/ 2, also on http://www.ravotr.nl/2016/07/07/de-hoop-achter-sanders-de-angst-achter-trump/ (in Dutch).

Peter Storm

Comments

jesuithitsquad
Jul 14 2016 06:58
Quote:
They depend on force, on serious pressure. Workers striking demonstrating, rioting, sabotaging, ferociously figting for what they demand, deserve and desire... that is what can put enough fear in the establishemnt tomove them towards concessions. The Vietnam war escalated under relatively liberal Democrats in the White House. It was brought to an end under Republicans Nixon and Ford. Not because elections moved towards peace, but because soldiers revolting up to the point of mutiny, combined with lots of people demonstrating up to the point of urban rebellion helped to make continuaing the war a losing option, literally. There is some kind of lesson hidden somewhere there

Really important note to drive home.

OliverTwister
Jul 14 2016 18:10
Quote:
The whole Sanders operation was an effort to help restore something of the progressive mass base of the Democrats, in support for one of the two capitalist parties, and for the political system itself.

This is the kind of lazy, conspiratorial analysis that makes leftism so tedious.

Who planned this "effort"? Why? When the democrats have spent thirty years doing their best to remove any sense of a progressive mass base, a project that the Clintons were particularly involved in, why put in effort to restore it?

Leftists have been saying all along that "Sanders was just trying to corral the movement into the democratic party, and into support of Hillary Clinton." They've been predicting since March that his moment of capitulation was just around the corner. There are two problems: 1, there is no "movement" - Occupy has been dead since 2013, if we're being generous, and 2, it seems pretty clear that Sanders was in fact playing to win on his social-democratic agenda, without making major concessions to the neo-liberal wing of the party.

He didn't pull any existing movement into the graveyard of the democratic party, if anything he breathed some life back into the moribund remains of Occupy. Or perhaps a better way to look at it is that some inspiration coalesced around him. His support for strikes and formation of unions is also pretty unique for a candidate.

The problem with this brand of leftism is that it's the same copy-paste analysis as always - the name and years are updated, but the content is the exact same. Yet there is something new in the air with the revival of actual social-democratic mass politics. If we think those are limited, fine - let's talk about how our model is better. But let's acknowledge what they actually are.

Sometimes I wonder if we were all in 1964 if people would just be saying that the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party was just "an effort to help restore something of the progressive mass base of the Democrats, in support for one of the two capitalist parties, and for the political system itself."

rooieravotr
Jul 14 2016 19:43
Quote:
Leftists have been saying all along that "Sanders was just trying to corral the movement into the democratic party, and into support of Hillary Clinton."

That may be so. But it is not what I am trying to say. I talk about

Quote:
[a mood that was left behind by earlier movements against corparate domination, by Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots, by the campaigns for a higher minimum wage and similar phenomena. /quote]. And I talk about "Occupy sympathizers". I know that movement is dead or comatose. But a mood remains, and Sanders tapped that mood and made a campaign out of it - which he now delivers neatly to his worthy opponent-turned-ally, Hillary Clinton.

Restoring a mass base ithrough tapping a mood is not the same thing as coralling a (non-existent) movement.

On your questions:

Quote:
[Who planned this "effort"? Why? When the democrats have spent thirty years doing their best to remove any sense of a progressive mass base, a project that the Clintons were particularly involved in, why put in effort to restore it?/quote]

The effort was planned by Sanders. He made it quite clear that one of his goals was saving the Democratic Party by re-ignating what he saw as its progressive core values. The man is GENUINELY worried that someone like Trum takes over the country, with the Democrats getting pushed under through lack of credible policies. So he wanted to provide credible policies, as he sees them,t hrough his own candidacy. There is no conspiracy involved, the guy has been quite open in these goals. The issue is not his sincerity. The man is not evil. That is not at all the point. There is no conspiracy involved here. What is involved here, is a form of policy that is built on illusion. But it is a genuinely held illusion.

As for Democratic candidates supporting strikes: Hillary Clinton went to the Verizon picket lines as well. Jesse Jackson , the progressive-Democrat-in-residence since 1984, does so all the time. It is simply good politics if you are looking for union votes and volunteers., especially in campaign season. I accept that Sanders probably is more serious support than the others. But his attitude is not unique.

As for "the democrats have spent thirty years doing their best to remove any sense of a psogressive mass base" - again and again there have been efforts to oppose that trend, usually safely within party channels. Sanders is the umpteenth effort, a bit different because it started out partly outside Democratic party limits. The rightward drift is thirty years old, but so are the efforts to reverse it. Why the efforts? To re-connect with people they see as voters or potential voters.

The Pigeon
Jul 18 2016 18:46

Its climax depends on how far he gets to burrow into the Clinton administration, if that's all that the campaign he headed is to become... but it'll be interesting to see where his supporters go from here

http://www.vice.com/read/former-bernie-sanders-fans-hate-him

Chilli Sauce
Jul 17 2016 17:00

Just to say that I thought this was a good article overall.

Regarding Oliver's critique, maybe the problem with the article is that it might imply level of consciousness of the recuperative role of the Sander's campaign that wasn't there. But Roo is right about the consequences: Sander's campaign diverted energy and anger that could have been much better expended building an independent movement based in the workplace and the street. Instead, that was channeled away into electoralism and dead-end social democratic demands.

OliverTwister
Jul 18 2016 18:17
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Just to say that I thought this was a good article overall.

Regarding Oliver's critique, maybe the problem with the article is that it might imply level of consciousness of the recuperative role of the Sander's campaign that wasn't there. But Roo is right about the consequences: Sander's campaign diverted energy and anger that could have been much better expended building an independent movement based in the workplace and the street. Instead, that was channeled away into electoralism and dead-end social democratic demands.

Where was that energy and anger before the Sanders campaign, though?

It's possible that there was a simmering anger which he tapped. But I don't think that energy was already existent in other movements. The only other thing happening recently has been BLM and I don't think he's pulled much of that energy, if any.

It's not like the working class has some constant, finite sum of energy and fighting spirit which is then diverted into one movement or another. Whatever other critiques there are to be made of the Sanders campaign, the idea that it captured or diverted some pre-existing militancy seems to be to ring very false. Whatever else can be said about it, it seems that it has generated it's own energy and enthusiasm. People came out of the woodwork because they saw a chance to win some meaningful gains (regardless of whether those gains could actually have been won just through nominating or electing him).

We won't get anywhere if we live in a fantasy where Sanders somehow poached the energy from "our movement". We should be asking, how do we energize millions of people in the same way, but for a fighting class movement?

The Pigeon
Jul 18 2016 19:16

There is a tendency of ours to view politicians as a predatory or parasitical species, without regard to the full complexity of them as a phenomenon- I mean you can say Sanders is nothing more than a social democratic quack, but you can also point to his position as a sort of weather vein, that oppositional parties are stirring beneath the floorboards- only that these forces need to be crystallized into other forms of politics, realizing Bernie Sanders is just a man in the current historical trajectory, neither villain nor hero

But then again, these forces have never not been present, and Sanders and his followers totally took hold of them.

Chilli Sauce
Jul 19 2016 04:39

Oliver, just to say, it's not either/or.

There's one problem that people find it difficult to get energized around direct action and on-the-ground organizing. But just because that's the case, it doesn't mean the energy that goes into those electoral movements isn't being squandered and used in ways that fundamentally undermine our ability to build a real, fighting, independent movement.

Quote:
We won't get anywhere if we live in a fantasy where Sanders somehow poached the energy from "our movement".

Just to clarify, I said the energy that went into the Sanders campaign "could have been much better expended building an independent movement". I honestly don't think I (or Roo really) suggested that Sanders has sapped energy away from some pre-existing movement - only that the energy and effort that went into his campaign was wasted and is fundamentally counter-productive.

So, like, this is a totally fair question:

Quote:
We should be asking, how do we energize millions of people in the same way, but for a fighting class movement?

I'm just not sure why it's counter-posed to my most recent post.

rooieravotr
Jul 19 2016 11:04

I accept that I could have phrased things clearer than I did. But this

Quote:
He did not create any 'movement'. He tapped a mood that was left behind by earlier movements against corparate domination, by Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots, by the campaigns for a higher minimum wage and similar phenomena.

. It is a mood he was tapping, and from which he built a campaign. I point to this, to criticize Sanders'preternstiontious claim that he and his followers, created a "movement", as if out of nothing. Nowhere did I say that he poached any-pre-existing movement. Neither am talking about him taking over and misdirecting Occupy-as-a-movement, for I know that there is no such movement around anymore. I am talking about him mobilizing Occupy supporters/ sympathizers. I maybe should have written: sympathizers of what formerly was Occupy.

edit: And I did not write this for nothing:

Quote:
He turned a mood into an electoral force, and yes, he did that succesfully.
OliverTwister
Jul 19 2016 13:29

Although it is obviously a much smaller scale, I think CLR James' insistence that Toussaint L'ouverture and Fidel Castro were created by the Haitian and Cuban revolutions, also has a parallel here. A year ago Sanders was a minor fringe politician that nobody had really heard of or cared about.

Whatever his phenomenon became, it was in large part propelled by many people outside of him, related to that mood that Rooie mentioned. If he tapped into "a mood", many people in that "mood" also tapped into him.

I thought the Vice article that The Pigeon linked was very interesting about what those people are thinking and feeling now.

Steven.
Jul 25 2016 16:25

Good article and follow-up comments from roo, thanks for writing!

Spikymike
Jul 29 2016 14:39

Might not be up Oliver's street but this piece written a bit earlier does make some sound points from an 'Internationalist communist' position in addition to those from rooieravotr and worth a read here:
www.leftcom.org/en/articles/2016-07-29/sanders-electoral-campaign-in-us

OliverTwister
Jul 29 2016 15:37

Yeah, pretty turgid:

Quote:
Sanders’ campaign might end up propelling the proletariat towards independent activity, but the test for this is if it leads the proletariat towards shattering their illusions in Sanders and fighting for their interests against bourgeois democracy.

All those who believe that “Bernie” should be supported because, even though he isn’t any closer to being a socialist than Rush Limbaugh, he might push the working class to the “left” politically, are making a very large mistake.

I don't know if anyone thought that Bernie was pushing the working class to the left. If they did, it would be pretty bad Marxism to imagine that people are pushed by individuals. I'll refer back to CLR James' observation that it was the Haitian revolution that created Toussaint L'ouverture, not the other way around.

It's the same kind of bad Marxism that leads to this kind of analysis where Bernie is part of the capitalist conspiracy to derail the working class from coming to consciousness.

The point isn't that Sanders might have "pushed" the working class to the left. Eugene Debs never "pushed" the working class to the left. For that matter Trump isn't "pushing" the working class to the right.

The point is that there is a working class which senses in some level that this system is not working for them, and are ready on some level to confront it. Parts of it felt that higher wages, universal healthcare, and the abolition of student debt were points to begin from, and they saw the Sanders campaign as a way to achieve these things. What's notable is that the people that formed that movement either had, or developed in the process, some sense that the existing political system is something to be struggled against, rather than worked through. Many of them are upset about Bernie's capitulation and are trying to figure out what is next.

(Other parts of the working class felt or feel that nativism, irrationalism, and outright racism are the best solutions to the crisis - and now they are seemingly the only alternatives on offer.)

ETA: Sanders was booed by his delegates and supporters when he tried to reign them in into supporting Hillary. Any analysis that doesn't take that into account is too simplistic.

OliverTwister
Jul 29 2016 15:55

I also do have to wonder what this analysis would have made of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party who attempted to unseat the Dixiecrats at the 1964 Convention.

Was SNCC just an attempt by the ruling class to put one over on the working class? Or were things a bit more complicated?

To be sure those delegates in 1964 learned a lot about democracy. Ironically it was John Lewis, the same one who trumpeted for Hillary this year, who wrote:

Quote:
As far as I'm concerned, this was the turning point of the civil rights movement. I'm absolutely convinced of that. Until then, despite every setback and disappointment and obstacle we had faced over the years, the belief still prevailed that the system would work, the system would listen, the system would respond. Now, for the first time, we had made our way to the very center of the system. We had played by the rules, done everything we were supposed to do, had played the game exactly as required, had arrived at the doorstep and found the door slammed in our face.

I think a lot of the Bernie delegates have just been handed a similar lesson.

Chilli Sauce
Jul 30 2016 04:00
Quote:
I think a lot of the Bernie delegates have just been handed a similar lesson.

So, I hope you're right here - but I don't know if that's being optimistic or not.

Although I read the OP was an attempt to make (or at least clarify) that exact type of argument to Bernie supporters.

Spikymike
Jul 30 2016 10:40

The Leftcom text is perhaps open to the 'conspiracy of the ruling class' interpretation but there is a distinction to be made between the intention of particular political leaders and their supporters and the social function that such organisations and campaigns actually perform in supporting the system at a more fundamental level. The text makes an important critique of the whole 'democratic' ethos of such movements which should be an important part of any political shift by disillusioned Bernie supporters for anything positive to emerge from this episode.

OliverTwister
Aug 1 2016 18:58

Yeah but it's also important to figure out what actual working class people are thinking and feeling and interpreting of the world around them.

Aside from all of it's other problems (Stalinism, etc), the KKE is noticeable in Greece for basically having the attitude that nothing is going on and the workers will eventually come around to it. Let's not end up there.

Some Bernie delegates, and broader activists in the "Bernie movement" will fall in line, or will cast a "depressed vote" for Clinton. Some will go for Jill Stein. Others are already discussing more radical politics. Some might chew on this experience for awhile but those seeds are there, I think.

jesuithitsquad
Sep 22 2016 16:33

Heard this on NPR yesterday, and wasn't sure where to post it. I chose here because we spoke above about this very thing. The story is about HRC's difficulties connecting with millennials, but contained this tidbit which caught my attention.

Quote:
I spoke with John Della Volpe at Harvard's Institute of Politics about this. He's done some polling that shows less than half of young people support capitalism.

JOHN DELLA VOLPE: They don't believe the way in which capitalism is practiced today is fair, and provides the opportunities for all Americans that it should.


http://www.npr.org/2016/09/21/494914697/hillary-clinton-struggles-to-attract-obama-coalition-of-young-voters