Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders: Sheepdogging for Hillary and the Democrats in 2016

By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Vermont senator and ostensible socialist Bernie Sanders is playing the sheepdog candidate for Hillary Clinton this year. Bernie's job is to warm up the crowd for Hillary, herding activist energies and the disaffected left back into the Democratic fold one more time. Bernie aims to tie up activist energies and resources till the summer of 2016 when the only remaining choice will be the usual lesser of two evils.

Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders: Sheepdogging for Hillary and the Democrats in 2016

By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

The sheepdog is a card the Democratic party plays every presidential primary season when there's no White House Democrat running for re-election.”

Spoiler alert: we have seen the Bernie Sanders show before, and we know exactly how it ends. Bernie has zero likelihood of winning the Democratic nomination for president over Hillary Clinton. Bernie will lose, Hillary will win. When Bernie folds his tent in the summer of 2016, the money, the hopes and prayers, the year of activist zeal that folks put behind Bernie Sanders' either vanishes into thin air, or directly benefits the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Don't believe us? Then believe Bernie himself interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on ABC News “This Week” May 3.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So if you lose in this nomination fight, will you support the Democratic nominee?

SANDERS: Yes. I have in the past.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Not going to run as an independent?

SANDERS: No, absolutely not. I've been very clear about that.

Bernie Sanders is this election's Democratic sheepdog. The sheepdog is a card the Democratic party plays every presidential primary season when there's no White House Democrat running for re-election. The sheepdog is a presidential candidate running ostensibly to the left of the establishment Democrat to whom the billionaires will award the nomination. Sheepdogs are herders, and the sheepdog candidate is charged with herding activists and voters back into the Democratic fold who might otherwise drift leftward and outside of the Democratic party, either staying home or trying to build something outside the two party box.

1984 and 88 the sheepdog candidate was Jesse Jackson. In 92 it was California governor Jerry Brown. In 2000 and 2004 the designated sheepdog was Al Sharpton, and in 2008 it was Dennis Kucinich. This year it's Vermont senator Bernie Sanders. The function of the sheepdog candidate is to give left activists and voters a reason, however illusory, to believe there's a place of influence for them inside the Democratic party, if and only if the eventual Democratic nominee can win in November.

Despite casting millions of voters for the likes of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and other sheepdogs, those leftish Democrat voters are always disregarded when Democrats actually win. Bill Clinton gave us NAFTA, a vicious “welfare reform,” no peace dividend or push for DC statehood, lowered unemployment but mostly in part time and low-wage jobs, and mass incarceration of black and brown people. President Obama doubled down on bailouts of banksters and GM, and immunized them from prosecution but failed to address the most catastrophic fall in black household wealth in history. We got health care for some instead of Medicare for All, the Patriot Act renewed instead of repealed, a race to privatize public education, drone wars and still more mass incarceration of black and brown people. And if President Obama gets his way, we may soon have a global job-destroying wage-lowering NAFTA on steroids, with the TTP and TTIP.

The sheepdog's job is to divert the energy and enthusiasm of activists a year, a year and a half out from a November election away from building an alternative to the Democratic party, and into his doomed effort. When the sheepdog inevitably folds in the late spring or early summer before a November election, there's no time remaining to win ballot access for alternative parties or candidates, no time to raise money or organize any effective challenge to the two capitalist parties.

At that point, with all the alternatives foreclosed, the narrative shifts to the familiar “lesser of two evils.” Every sheepdog candidate surrenders the shreds of his credibility to the Democratic nominee in time for the November election. This is how the Bernie Sanders show ends, as the left-leaning warm-up act for Hillary Clinton.

Intent on avoiding the two-party “lesser evil” trap this year, about two hundred activists gathered in Chicago last weekend to consider the future of electoral organizing outside the Democratic and Republican parties. Many of the participants were Greens, including former presidential and vice presidential candidates Jill Stein and Rosa Clemente, the former Green mayor of Richmond California, and many others. There were also representatives from Seattle, where Socialist Alternative's Kshama Sawant won election to Seattle's city council, as well as Angela Walker, a black socialist who received 67,000 votes for Milwaukee County sheriff in 2014, and many others, including some who took part in the recent Chicago mayoral election.

There was trans-partisan interest in a 50-state ballot access drive to put the Green Party's Jill Stein on the presidential ballot for 2016 presidential race. Currently the law keeps Greens and others off the ballot in more than half the states. Precise details vary according to state law, but if a third party candidate after obtaining one-time ballot access receives about 2% of total votes, a new ballot line is created, granting ballot access to any potential candidate from school board to sheriff to US congress who wants to run as something other than a Republican or Democrat. That, many participants agreed, would be a significant puncture in the legal thicket that now protects Democrats against competition on the ballot from their left. But a nationwide trans-partisan ballot access campaign to create a national alternative to the two capitalist parties is something left activists must begin serious work a good 18 months before a November election, essentially right now.

Whether or not a national ballot access campaign is undertaken by Greens and others, a Bernie Sanders candidacy is an invitation to do again what's been done in 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, 2004 and 2008. Bernie's candidacy is a blast toward the past, an invitation to herd and be herded like sheep back into the Democratic fold, to fundraise and canvass and recruit and mobilize for Bernie, as he warms up the crowd for Hillary. Bernie is a sheepdog.

The question is, are we sheep?

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a state committee member of the GA Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)


Just think

of the piles of cash that Sanders will accrue.  Seems to me a law was passed that allows candidates to keep the booty no matter what...

It is all about the money, fools!


I had to read this twice to make sure I understood the meaning of trans-partisan, but I think its meaning here is in regard to a 50-state ballot access drive to put the Green Party's Jill Stein on the presidential ballot for 2016 presidential race.  

This makes good sense because the Greens are the only party who now have access in a majority of states and therefore the only party with a chance to succeed in a 50-state ballot drive.

Not surprisingly, the lead

Not surprisingly, the lead story on the website of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism Bernie Sanders’s Presidential Bid Represents a Long Tradition of American Socialism.  

The Committees of Correspondence appear to have their roots in the 1962 Port Huron Statement written by the founders of Students for a Democratic Society, which hailed "a new Spirit of Democratic Party reforrm."   Now, fifty-four years later, the Democratic Party is committed to war and the institutionalized corruption that ensures corporate rule, but the believers persist.  

I'm not among them, so thanks to Bruce Dixon for opening this discussion in the BAR.


putting the sheep dog out to pasture

One thing that will help put a dent in Sanders' effectiveness will be his support of Israel (and the continuing militarization of US policy of hegemony) during their genocidal putsch against Gaza in 2014. This is one issue where at least some white liberals part with him, and black communities and Palestinians have shown strong signs of mutual support over the crisis. As in 2012, if I vote for anyone it will be Jill Stein.


Is ANY Electoral Option Even Open?

Right on to Brother Dixon’s comments about the trickery employed by the Democratic Party to channel dissent down a dead-end street and the meaning of the Sander’s candidacy in this context.  But the broader question is whether ANY electoral means exists to effectively challenge corporate rule. 

As the article mentions, ballot access depends on state rules which vary from state to state.  Details like how many signatures must be collected, how much time is allowed for the collection, what fees must be paid, and the “2% rule” (cited above) -  all these things are a matter of state laws enacted by state legislatures, carried out by local election commissioners, and challenged (at great expense for Grassroots challengers) in local courts.  All of these election-regulating bodies are beholden to the same corporate interests that financed them into power in the first place.

It would be naïve to believe that whatever the state standards are today will be the same tomorrow if a potential is developed to achieve today’s standard.  Maintaining the illusion of democracy in the electoral process means not shutting the door entirely, just raising the qualification bar another notch each time the previous notch is about to be reached, but keeping it always out of reach.  Same logic applies to the 3rd party shut-out of debates.

As you can see, I am skeptical about ANY electoral strategy not leading to a dead-end and think that our time and effort might better be used to build up the foundation that will lead to removal of the corporate class by more revolutionary means.  It is incumbent on those advocating a 3rd party direction to demonstrate (if they can) how in our environment of government/corporate control, a 3rd party movement could overwhelm that control and oust the corporate class from power.

Bernie as the Dims 'Trojan Horse' Candidate

First of all so-called 'independent' 'socialist' Bernie Sanders [FYI: the current French Pres is a so-called 'socialist'- yet both his domestic but especially foreign policies are basically the same as Napoleon Complex Sarkozy's who's in tandem w Killary, OBomber & UK-PM Cameron bombed Libya into CHAOS] has always been a defacto Dim- whose track record both on domestic but especially foreign policy is significantly less progressive than even official Dim Dennis Kucinich's [aka DK] was. IMO Bernie looks more so-called 'progressive' than he really is because Billary / Killary is the DLC Dims {h}ERR-ess apparent, & anyone would seem more 'progressive' than she, unless they're a hard-core FOX Noise Repug!   

Ralph Nader recently talked about Bernie's announced candidacy as a Dim on DN!. IMO one of the most important things Nader said was that Bernie along w other so-called 'progressive' Dim senators [IE: Liz Warren], NEVER return his phone-calls... Humm.... but of-course 'liberal' Dim talking-heads scape-goated & blamed Nader for the Bush-Cheneyites HI-Jacking the 2000 election, even though Gore did more to 'lose' [except he really he didn't] that 2000 election than Nader's run actually did [FYI: Gore lost both his own home state of TN along w Slck-Willy's state of AR]. Seems Bernie doesn't want to get {mis}Labeled, ala Nader, as a so-called 'spoiler' who let those crazy Repugs back into the Oval Office- Thus he's running as a Dim instead of on the Socialist Party, Green Party or some other independent party platform. Plus he figures if he runs as a Dim he'll get lame-stream TV air-time on the Dim's POTUS primary debates [but DK did the same yet they manage to marginalize him & minimize his TV exposure]. And just like DK, w Bernie running as a Dim, he'll be obligated to ultimately back Billary/Killary, just as Bro Bruce Dixon says.    


What was Jessie's run in 1984 & 88 really all about? He effectively kept Blacks [& even Browns] locked-up on the Dims 'plantation'. Lame-stream Dims had NO real intent of making Jessie their candidate for POTUS, but his run ignited Black & even Brown & progressive voters [prefacing Obama's 2008 run]. But had Jessie been the Dims PTUS candidate in 1984 &/or 88, he certainly could do much worse than Mondale [1984] & Dukakis [1988] did [both were completely TROUNCED]- in fact IMO Jessie likely may have done better than either Mondale but especially Dukakis. But Jessie's 'Rainbow' insured Blacks et-al would be loyal to the Dims for the rise of the so-called 'new' DLC Corp ['triangulating'] Dims Slick Willy & Mr 'Green-Jeans' Gore... So expect Obama, Bernie, & all the 'liberal' Dim talking-heads to ultimately urge Blacks, Browns, women & 'progessives' to back Slick Willy's wife Billary/Killary Clinton.   

Trojan Horse Shit

Acceptable candidates enjoy the support of the three pillars of the ruling class:  the priesthood; the military and intelligence apparatus; the rich and the corporations they control.  No acceptable candidate will speak against American Exceptionalism, the gods, or CocaCola.

True reformers from Che to Martin Luther King, from Ralph Nadar to Cynthia McKinney—why the hell did she choose that idiot Rosa Clemente as a running mate?—encounter the enmity of all three groups.  Even King was denounced by the mainstream priesthood when he criticized the barbaric imperial war in Vietnam or supported unions.

The solution?  Alas, I have none.  If there were a Che led movement in the Berkshires or Poconos, I’d pick up an AK 47 and join.  

Not likely to happen.  

No way I vote for Hillary or Bernie.  I’d work for and raise money for Glen Ford, Willian Blum, or Chris Hedges, but they are too smart to run for President.  Blum has predicted that if he were elected, he’d be assassinated on the third day.  I’d give him two days at best.

After reading this, I sat

After reading this, I sat down and listed the four options for change held by those left of center: 

1) Radicalize the Democratic Party.  I'm with Bruce on this:  not possible, a waste of energy.  

2)  Don't vote.  Voting will just validate an oppressive system.  This is usually my response to Congressional or presidential elections with no Third Party candidate in the race, though I will usually vote for local Democrats if there's no Green in the race. 

3)  Build a Green or other Third Party alternative.  I'm with Bruce Dixon in favoring this choice, but this is a movement and/or party building proposal.  Many of those of us who engage must be willing to do so knowing that we will not see a Third Party president in our lifetimes.  

4)  "  . . . build up the foundation that will lead to removal of the corporate class by more revolutionary means," as advocated by commenter JWW above.   JWW will have to elaborate on what he means by "more revolutionary means" for me to respond to that.  It's laughable to think that any kind of armed movement could challenge the USA's enormous apparatus of force, but perhaps, JWW, you're talking about something else.


How about Cynthia?

An excellent article. My only concern is with the seeming support of Jill Stein as a Green Party candidate. Stein is a Zionist and would be no better than Sanders on that point. See this article written by a Green: Another excellent piece by Roseanne Barr, another Green Party presidential candidate in 2012:


Both writers mention Cynthia McKinney, the 2008 Green Party presidential candidate, as a much more worthwhile candidate. How about her in 2016?

Stein is no zionist, & the article you cite doesn't say that

I think you should read the article you cite more carefully.  It doesn't say Stein is a zionist, it says her position could be better.  In fact, calling her a zionist is just plain calumny, it's wrong. 

Jill Stein is NOT a zionist.  Bernie Sanders on the other hand is emphatically a supporter of the state of Israel and of the US military in general.

Cynthia McKinney is not interested, and Roseanne Barr, is an emphatic supporter of the state of Israel nowadays.  Catch up, Minnmouth....

Stein is a zionist

I don't believe I said the article stated Stein is a zionist. I DID.

Merriam Webster definition of zionism: "an international movement originally for the establishment of a Jewish national or religious community in Palestine and later for the support of modern Israel"

Stein certainly meets that defnition. Not a strongly as Sanders, but…

As for Roseanne Barr, I was not aware she had changed her tune. Thank you for setting me straight on that point.

If the Greens want to

If the Greens want to maintain any credibility they need to cut ties with Roseanne Barr.  It was beyond whack that they even considered her as a presidential candidate a few years ago.  These Hollywood liberals are as bad for real progress as Bernie Sanders.


While laughing hysterically, Hillary said: "we came, we saw, he died". After watching what this particular jubilation on camera was actually about, my heart sank!

You know, I voted for Barack Obama twice. My young kids went bezerk over his candidacy and his eventual elections. They even bought his two books!

The manner in which Gaddafi, (regardless of how horrible a person he may have been), was killed made me feel like an enabler to his death! I was unable to share Hillary's joys because I did not vote for such a brutal event.

I also remember how excited millions Africans, particularly the youths,  felt when Obama was elected. They went BANANAS! Africa is now a mess under Obama's watch, with  neighbors  turning against neighbors while the exploitation of resources is running unimpeded!

If Bernie Sanders and the Democratic Party elites think the voters are merely a herd of sheep that can merely be kraaled into a voting booth, SHAME ON THEM! These elites care more about building their own personal wealth and how to go about getting votes from the voters they do not give a damn about!

For once, the elites are

For once, the elites are right:  the majority of voters are a herd of sheep easily corralled into a voting booth.  See the sheep who clippity clopped into the booth not once but TWICE to vote for Dronebama - including those who knew there were other candidates to vote for on the ballot or as a write-in.  As long as 95% of the sheeple get their brains washed by the pressitute media and by their own naviete'/misplaced ethnic and gender loyalites, the elites don't have a damn thing to worry about come election day.

Only time will tell

I am going somewhat against the grain on BAR on this story of which I am not a stranger to but I am glad to see some exposure in on BAR for Sanders whether negative or positive. The truth comes in many forms and has many faces. However if he had decided to run as an independent after losing the Democratic nomination then he would be a spoiler. He has a long record of doing what he does so we will what happens with him in this campaign.

Make Bernie Show His Hand

Bernie calls for a “political revolution” against the “billionaires and oligarchs” who have hijacked the political system.

Then support the policy, not the politician.

Direct ten times the “revolutionary” oppositional zeal that he asks for or expects against his fellow Democrats, until he and they choke on it.

If he can be made to do anything, make him do this.

Make him show his hand.

Make the passion this issue brings to the people grow stronger than his ability to stifle and contain it.

Make him renounce the party and politicians he now promises to support, and make the Democratic Party renounce him for his disloyalty to the big money parties.

Make him run as an independent, or not at all.

Or make him be known as the sheepdog.

Not true

It is conjecture to assume those that do or don't call themselves Democrats but support Sanders will vote for Clinton. Those I know will NOT, under almost any circumstance vote for Clinton, but they might vote for Sanders.

Perhaps if those that make this argument stated something like this: "Disaffected Democrats, Democrats that support Sanders, will be brought back into the fold and may finally be convince to vote for Clinton after all is said and done." Progressives that are NOT Democrats but support Sanders are unlikely to support Clinton is she wins the nomination." PTxS

RE Jill Stein -- Zionist?

Bruce A. Dixon on Fri, 05/08/2015 - 10:08 : "I think you should read the article you cite more carefully. It doesn't say Stein is a zionist, it says her position could be better. In fact, calling her a zionist is just plain calumny, it's wrong."

Bruce, I can't think of anytime I've disagreed with you in your commentaries -- oral or written. And from whatever I've read, I support the B.A.R. team -- not only, but, especially Glen Ford -- enthusiastically.

I'm not going to look up Jill Stein's stance on Palestine because it's not that important to me at this time. But, I read about her position the last time she ran for president on the Green Party ticket. _For a Green party member and, no less, presidential candidate_, her position was somewhere between UNINFORMED and ABYSMAL -- also especially for anyone who's supposed to be an intellectually curious (I assume a Green party presidential candidate would be) and well-read -- especially politically well-read. I think that she purposely had her head in the sand about Israel: she didn't really *want* to know. If Jill Stein is not a regular Zionist, then I'd bet she's a, so-called, "left" Zionist (like Chomsky, Finkelstein, and several others who have traditionally dominated the American "pro-Palestinian" movement) -- which is just a liberal/progressive/left *racist*, at least when it comes to Palestnians/Arabs. But, if someone is going to run a Quixotic candidacy anyway, then why not run on firm, sound, moral principles?: we support the *oppressed* and oppose the *oppressors* and their racist, oppressive ideology/system NO MATTER *WHO* THE OPPRESSORS ARE OR HAVE BECOME.

Israel is the most important factor in U.S. foreign policy -- and the reason we've (the U.S. has) been in so many Mideast wars (whether declared or not). I think that Jill Stein should have had a better position that her liberal namby-pamby, pro-Zionist 'liberal' position she had the previous time she ran as Green Party president.

If Jill Stein has truly educated herself, since then, on 'The Palestinian Question', then I would be pleased to hear it and see specific, substantive evidence of it.

I know that the Green party is infiltrated with Zionists posing as "progressives/leftists" (just like the American "pro-Palestinian" movement has been dominated and infiltrated with such Zionists, from Chomsky and Finkelstein on down) who would skew and pressure any nationally known Green party presidential candidate to support an ideologically Jewish-white-supremacist state -- and Zionists, failing that, would work, outside of and among progressives/leftists, to discredit and politically destroy any anti-Zionist Green party presidential candidate. I wrote a casual commentary years ago and available online:


 -- by Joseph Anderson, Berkeley, California

Sanders and his black sheep

Hey Bruce: Regarding Sanders, a real incident in Atlanta. 3 years ago, Sanders spoke at the IBEW auditorium for the DSA and the AFL-CIO.  Usual stump focussing on class solidarity, raising the minimum wage etc. When he was leaving, I went up to him and asked:

"why (in Atlanta!) did you make no mention, not once, of the African-American community?" 

Sanders replied: "They are not part of my constitutancy."

No black sheep in is flock.

ted brodek