How can Bernie Sanders or Barbara Lee keep any of their social democratic promises while scapegoating Russia?
“Endorsing Greens, or even independents, is not in the script that might win him the Dems’ 2020 presidential nomination.”
For starters, Barbara Lee did not support Bernie Sanders at the 2016 Democratic Convention. As a superdelegate, she cast her vote for Hillary Clinton. And she did that despite support for Bernie in the district she represents—California Congressional District 13—which includes Berkeley and Oakland. Bernie yard and window signs were more common than not in many D-13 neighborhoods, most of all in those two cities.
Three thousand people turned out for last Thursday’s Barbara-and-Bernie, get-out-the-vote rally at the Berkeley Community Theatre, nevertheless. Some even arrived with the dusted-off Bernie signs they’d displayed in their yards and windows two years ago. Polls still show that Bernie is the most popular politician in the country, and he still draws standing-room-only crowds as he did in Berkeley. His 45-minute speech was obviously meant to lay ground for a 2020 presidential run, and it’s hard to imagine that Barbara Lee can refuse to support him next time, regardless of pressure from the Clinton wing of the party.
“Polls still show that Bernie is the most popular politician in the country.”
And, giving credit where it’s due, Bernie did us a favor while he was here. He endorsed Jovanka Beckles, an authentic progressive Democrat who takes no corporate donations, for California State Assembly District 15, as did Barbara Lee. That may well carry the day for Jovanka, a former Richmond City Councilor and member of the Richmond Progressive Alliance. Jovanka has been in a tight race with a horrid candidate, former Obama and Clinton campaign strategist Buffy Wicks, who is running on both their endorsements.
And besides, we need a Black Panamanian American dyke who rides a motorcycle in the state legislature. Jovanka appeared on stage with Barbara and Bernie at the rally, and the crowd chanted JO-VAN-KA.
“Jovanka Beckles, an authentic progressive Democrat, takes no corporate donations.”
But would Bernie have endorsed Jovanka if she’d run as a Green or an independent with the same progressive politics? Jovanka and former Richmond mayor and city councilor Gayle McLaughlin both joined the 2016 Bernie surge and then tried to ride it to Sacramento, California’s state capital. Gayle had won running as a Green in the City of Richmond, but she ran for Lieutenant Governor as an independent, saying she hoped to unite both Greens and Bernie voters. However, despite identifying as an independent himself, Bernie did not endorse Gayle, and she was clobbered in the top-two primary by candidates with huge, unprecedented campaign war chests for a largely ribbon-cutting office. Gayle might not have won even if Bernie had endorsed her, but she would have done a lot better.
The Democrats created a new position for Bernie after the 2016 race—Democratic Party Outreach Coordinator—even though he had reasserted his independence. Endorsing Greens or even independents like himself—putatively—is not in the script that might win him the Dems’ 2020 presidential nomination.
Why campaign for a candidate who can’t lose?
And why did Bernie come here to campaign for Barbara Lee, who can’t possibly lose to her Green Party challenger Laura Wells? Knowing that Barbara Lee is unassailable in District 13, Laura and the Alameda County Green Party have simply tried to encourage a debate to distinguish the two parties’ platforms from one another. Wells’s name appears alongside Lee’s on the ballot because she finished second in California’s top-two primary, but the only public exchange between the two has been a half hour forum staged by the League of Women Voters after its much longer Oakland mayoral forum.
Wouldn’t it make more sense for Bernie to appear with Democrats in tight races such as that between Democrat Andrew Janz and Republican Devin Nunes in California’s 22nd Congressional District? Janz is a Fresno County Deputy District Attorney, Nunez the current Chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Janz accuses Nunes of ignoring Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia and Vladimir Putin, and Nunez insists that Trump didn't collude with Russia or Putin but that he, Nunes, repeatedly warned of Russian interference in US elections during Obama’s second term. Bernie comes down firmly on the Janz side of this ridiculous argument, and Janz was trailing Nunez by 5%, 46% to 51%, in Five Thirty Eight’s October 19-21 polls.
That’s not actually so surprising because Janz agrees with Bernie about little more than the Russian menace. But how can Bernie or Barbara keep any of their social democratic promises so long as they join the rest of the Democratic Party in scapegoating Russia? Bernie spent most of his 45-minute speech attacking Trump over income inequality, the health care crisis, the housing crisis and more of Bernie's signature issues. He also called Trump spineless for refusing to stand up to Russia and Putin. To go along with this Neo-McCarthyism, the Democratic Party’s principal platform plank, is to call for more NATO, more weapons manufacture, more austerity, and more war.
Contradictions in Barbara Lee’s speech also went unnoticed by the adoring crowd. “We can either,” she exhorted, “return a Republican Congress that’s beholden to Wall Street billionaires, polluters, and special interests, or we can elect a Congress that works for the people!” That’s quite an exaggerated claim for a House Rep who voted for the bank bailout, the biggest upward transfer of wealth in American history, which was championed by a Democratic president more beholden to Wall Street than any president preceding him.
“Mejia would cut military spending and end huge corporate tax breaks and subsidies.”
The saddest moment of Bernie Sanders’s visit to California may have been his endorsement of Jimmy Gomez, an incumbent, party-line Democrat facing Kenneth Mejia in California’s poor, predominantly immigrant District 34. Mejia, like Gomez, advocates Medicare-for-All, but unlike Gomez, he advocates universal rent control, more quality public housing, increasing Social Security, 100% renewable energy, more maternity and paternity leave, free tuition for public college, full legal status for immigrants, and abolishing ICE. When asked the inevitable question—”How’re you going to pay for all that?”—he responds that he’d cut military spending and end huge corporate tax breaks and subsidies.
Kenneth campaigned for Bernie and ran for Congress as a Democrat in 2016. So what’s the problem? Disgusted by the DNC’s dishonest determination to give the Dem nomination to Hillary, he chose to run as a Green this year, and he’s campaigned relentlessly, despite a day job as a public accountant. There is no least-worst Democrat in this race between a Democrat and a Green, so why did Bernie feel compelled to endorse Jimmy Gomez, despite staying out of so many tight races between Democrats and Republicans? The Democrat Party path to the 2020 nomination no doubt compels him to dismiss Greens, whom Democrats blame for their losses almost as much as they blame Russia. “The revolution” must be abandoned for the counterrevolution.
Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes region. She can be reached at [email protected].
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