The plutocrats did not invest billions of dollars every election cycle in the Democratic Party to see it used as a tool of their disempowerment.
“Here comes Bernie Sanders -- again -- threatening to mobilize millions to seize control of the oligarchs’ favored party of governance.”
Having launched his second campaign for the presidency on Tuesday, Bernie Sanders is now the recurring nightmare of corporate Democrats: an old lefty who speaks the language of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the age of endless capitalist austerity and war. Sanders’ signature proposals on Medicare for All, free higher education, a $15 an hour minimum wage, and dramatically higher taxes on the rich, are supportd by super-majorities of the Democratic electorate, most independent voters, and even about half of Republicans. On top of that winning array of issues, younger self-styled “socialists” have put forward a Green New Deal that is both wildly popular and potentially transformative of the oligarchic order.
“The Party is not a democratic institution, but an embedded apparatus of capitalist governance, control of which is not negotiable.”
If there was anything “democratic” about the Democratic Party, Sanders would be the consensus choice for the nomination and an odds-on favorite to evict Donald Trump from the White House in 2020 -- a fact painfully understood by the institutional servants of capital, if not the oligarchs, themselves. However, the Party is not a democratic institution, but an embedded apparatus of capitalist governance, control of which is not negotiable. If anything, the Democratic Party has become even more strategically vital to capitalist governance, in the U.S. and globally, since the takeover of the Republican half of the electoral duopoly by the erratic and untrustworthy real estate magnate, Donald Trump. The bulk of the ruling class has arrayed itself against Trump in the most serious split among the Lords of Capital since the Great Depression, throwing the whole system into a crisis of legitimacy. For most of finance and high tech capital, the Democratic Party has become an indispensable tool whose loss is unthinkable. But, here comes Bernie Sanders – again -- threatening to mobilize millions to seize control of the oligarchs’ favored party of governance. When combined with the raging crisis of legitimacy, this is a volatile brew.
“For most of finance and high tech capital, the Democratic Party has become an indispensable tool whose loss is unthinkable.”
The billionaires will never assent to allow the Democratic Party to be deployed against their core policies of endless war and austerity: the ruling class consensus. Bernie Sanders “socialism” is not the issue. The Lords of Capital know as well as real Marxists do, that Sanders is a “semantic” socialist, not the kind they are sworn to kill (or else he would likely be dead already). But, Sanders’ New Deal proposals would mean an end to domestic austerity, and would almost certainly also unleash irresistible pressures to dramatically shrink the war budget. This is totally unacceptable to the Lords of Capital and their servants, whose political task is to pacify society while wealth and power continue to devolve to an ever-shrinking group of oligarchs. The very idea of redistribution is anathema, a Pandora’s box that must not be opened, lest it never be shut. Endless warfare keeps the people’s minds on fake “existential” problems (“Russians”) instead of the real, metastasizing crises of capitalism.
“Sanders’ New Deal proposals would mean an end to domestic austerity.”
Therefore, Bernie Sanders’ non-socialism is perceived by the rulers as almost as dangerous as the real thing. In truth, Sanders’ agenda is derived almost wholly from Franklin Roosevelt’s “Economic Bill of Rights,” spelled out in an annual address to Congress on January 11, 1944. Roosevelt’s rights included:
*The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
*The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
*The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
*The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
*The right of every family to a decent home.
*The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
*The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
*The right to a good education.
Corporate Democrats have been turning their back on the Roosevelt legacy ever since…well, ever since FDR’s death, but with shameless abandon beginning in the 1970s. It’s been so long since actual New Deal rhetoric has been part of the national conversation, it passes for socialism in the American bubble. Bernie Sanders spelled out his “socialism” in an interview with CBS News shortly after announcing his second presidential run:
“I believe that people are inherently entitled to health care. I believe people are entitled to get the best education they can. I believe that people are entitled to live in a clean environment, People are entitled to have decent-paying jobs.”
“It’s been so long since actual New Deal rhetoric has been part of the national conversation, it passes for socialism.”
Sanders said he’s “not talking about the government running the local grocery store.” He’s also not talking about overthrowing the rule of capital -- which is fundamental to any notion of socialism. But, when systems are in crisis, slippery slopes appear everywhere, real and imagined.
Sanders’ program does not directly threaten the rule of capital, but it would spell the end of the Age of Austerity. And, although some billionaires may be reconciled to sharing a portion of their wealth in the interest of social peace, there is nothing remotely approaching a consensus on redistribution among the Lords of Capital. At any rate, the plutocrats did not invest billions of dollars every election cycle in the Democratic Party to see it used as a tool of their disempowerment. If Sanders insists on playing FDR, the Lords of Capital are determined that he do so in one of the small, non-governing parties. They will take all measures necessary to keep control of the Democratic apparatus, especially while Trump remains the top Republican.
“Sanders’ program does not directly threaten the rule of capital, but it would spell the end of the Age of Austerity.”
The Party is dutifully carrying out its masters’ orders. Shortly after the votes were counted this past November House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had her minions meet with insurance corporation executives to assure them she would block Medicare for All from becoming law, by hook or crook. (See “Pelosi Sabotages Medicare for All, But Corporate Media Pretend Not to Notice,” BAR, February 13). The corporate Democratic establishment moved early to field a colorful menagerie of presidential candidates in hopes of rendering Bernie Sanders irrelevant, or just hopelessly late. For good measure, they assigned two youngish Black senators, one of them a woman, to lay a trap for Sanders in the southern primaries, sparking a predictable (and infinitely cynical) scramble among the Black Misleadership Class to coalesce around the “Black” candidate -- almost certainly, the laughing corporatist Kamala Harris. Both Booker and Harris caught a (laughable) case of Me-Too’ism in preparation for their block-Sanders mission, claiming to have suddenly converted to the Church of Medicare for All.
The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and PBS either ignored Sanders and his frequent speech-making, or tried to make it seem as if he had missed the train. But the old New Dealer finally made it official, on Tuesday:
“Our campaign is taking on the powerful special interests that dominate our economic and political life. I'm talking about Wall Street, the health insurance companies, the drug companies, the fossil fuel industry, the military industrial complex, the private prison industry and the large multinational corporations that exert such an enormous influence over our lives,” said Sanders.
“Both Booker and Harris caught a (laughable) case of Me-Too’ism in preparation for their block-Sanders mission.”
Sanders is calling forth a movement -- as opposed to the faux-movement orchestrated by Barack Obama, in 2008. “The only way we will win this election and create a government and economy that work for all is with a grassroots movement -- the likes of which has never been seen in American history…. [W]e need at least a million people to join our campaign and help lead the movement that can accomplish these goals.”
It took only 12 hours for Sanders to raise $4 million from 150,000 mainly small donors, averaging $27 apiece. In contrast, corporatist Democrat show horse Kamala Harris took a full day to raise just $1.5 million. In 2016, Sanders amassed a phenomenal $228 million for his anti-corporate war chest, mostly from small donors.
The Sanders campaign, or the Sanders “movement,” if such a thing crystallizes, will not be allowed to defeat the Lords of Capital on their own bought-and-paid-for property: the Democratic Party. At this strange and ominous juncture in history, with the ruling class’s media organs incessantly blathering that the Republican President is a vassal of the Kremlin, the Democratic Party IS the party of the ruling class -- the only party they’ve securely got. It is inconceivable that the richest ruling class in the world would surrender such an indispensable political apparatus – crippling their ability to govern the rest of us – under any circumstances. Sanders must either be defeated -- by any means necessary – or be forced to capitulate under terms acceptable to the Lords of Capital (or, he can be incapacitated or killed).
“Sanders is calling forth a movement.”
There’s nothing in Sanders’ history that marks him as a hero. In the end, he’ll fold, like last time around. But the whole world will bear witness to the perversions of democracy that the Democratic Party is preparing to inflict on Bernie and his movement. It would be poetic justice for Sanders, a purported socialist whose sense of solidarity is limited to European social democrats, were to have his democratic rights gang-raped in the full light of day, as has been the fate of so many folks in poor non-white countries targeted by the U.S. war machine, with not a peep from Bernie.
In the end, the Democratic Party may be so discredited it’s not worth keeping, and the people will have to find other places to make politics.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].