by Danny Haiphong
Bernie Sanders will never break with the Democratic Party and its finance capitalist masters. Progressives have no choice but “to take the genuine demands for a living wage, socialized healthcare, and free higher public education out of the two-party duopoly and into the streets.” Sanders is also totally useless in the fight to save the planet from nuclear conflagration; he “has made his peace with war.”
Bernie Sanders: Loyal Democrat, Stalwart for Empire
by Danny Haiphong
“Sanders would not be able to remain in the Democratic Party if he posed a viable challenge to Empire.”
The rise of Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election ignited a debate among left-leaning constituents in the US. Some on the radical left, like the editors at Black Agenda Report, saw Sanders as a sheepdog for imperialism. His most ardent supporters disagreed that Sanders was merely herding voters into the Democratic Party and believed his populist domestic agenda was a great leap forward for progressive politics in the US. They flocked in the tens of thousands to his rallies, attracted by the prospects of a President who advocated for free higher public education and universal healthcare. The big question mark was whether Sanders would eventually break from the Democratic Party elite once and for all.
Sanders has repeatedly shown that he has no plans to break from the Democratic Party establishment. He didn't contest the Democratic primaries when he had the chance at the convention. During the general election, he derided Donald Trump as the greatest threat to the future of the US but ignored Hillary Clinton's predilection for nuclear war. Then Sanders joined the Democratic Party officially as the head of outreach. He has been busy on the outreach circuit in Red States alongside DNC chairman and corporate Democrat Tom Perez, putting the final nail in the coffin of hopes that the Vermont Senator would break from the Democrats in the aftermath of his humiliating defeat.
“Sanders' base genuinely wanted relief from student loans, low-wages, and rising healthcare costs.”
The mass excitement over the Bernie Sanders phenomenon was understandable given how much the progressive and humane sentiments of the people were suppressed in the Obama era. Obama and the Democrats crushed the hopes of their younger constituents. What eventually became Sanders' base genuinely wanted relief from student loans, low-wages, and rising healthcare costs. The last eight years and, arguably, the last thirty have been an experiment in how long the Democratic Party could get away with serving the wealthy and no one else. Bernie Sanders was the first sign that such a political alignment would no longer be tolerated without consequences in the voting booth.
But because Sanders never broke from the Democratic Party, unresolved contradictions inherent to his political ideology have morphed into antagonisms. The Democratic Party is not capable of bringing about social transformation because it is under the complete control of the most dominant force of reaction: finance capital. Sanders has criticized the Democratic Party elite for its subservience to "special interests.” However, he has yet to challenge the Democratic Party's lust for war, and never will. That's because Bernie Sanders himself has consistently been a pro-war politician from his time on the Senate floor and into the present.
As a candidate for President, Sanders criticized Henry Kissinger's relationship with Hillary Clinton but offered no alternative to the Democratic Party's imperialist policies. There was little about US empire that Sanders disliked as long as it didn’t risk the safety of US troops. Sanders supported more US involvement in Syria and Iraq in 2014 after criticizing the wars that greatly increased the presence of terrorism in both countries. He also came out in favor of Obama's kill list and drone program. And there was little honesty from Sanders about his past voting record, which included authorizations for the US-led wars in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan.
“The Democratic Party is not capable of bringing about social transformation because it is under the complete control of the most dominant force of reaction: finance capital.”
Bernie Sanders has continued his long standing support for war in the era of Trump. When Trump showed his first real signs of capitulation to the Deep State, Sanders presented little opposition. He repeated US imperialism's mantra that "Assad must go" in the aftermath of Trump's authorized tomahawk strikes on a Syrian airfield in early April. Trump then set his sights on the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea (DPRK), sending US Navy warships to the Korean Peninsula. Sanders voiced public support for this move by stating that Trump was "on the right track" in relation to the DPRK. More recently, Sanders signed a letter to the UN along with the rest of the US Senate condemning the "unfair" treatment of Israel in the international body.
The truth is that Sanders would not be able to remain in the Democratic Party if he posed a viable challenge to Empire. US imperialism depends on empire for its very survival. It has become an objective necessity for the US military state to destroy nations around the world in order to expand the profit opportunities available for finance and monopoly capital. These opportunities are drying up with the rise of Russia and China alongside a stagnating capitalist economy, making military confrontation an endless venture. Sanders has made his peace with war, now it is time for the people to make their decision about him.
“Sanders himself has consistently been a pro-war politician from his time on the Senate floor and into the present.”
This requires a qualitative change in the relationship between Sanders and his popular base. However, only an organized movement can alter the balance of forces in society. Sanders supporters had the wind knocked out of them when the chance to win the Democratic Party nomination was stolen from their candidate. Yet his historic pro-war stance should have always been a stark indication of the limitations of his efforts. It is one thing to promote a populist economic agenda, but another to ignore the relationship between war abroad and material hardship in the US mainland. Homelessness, poverty, and racism are brought to you by the same capitalist ruling class that gives away trillions of dollars from the pockets of the working class to wage endless war around the world.
But Sanders has yet to tell the truth about war and capitalism because he is indebted to the Democratic Party. Jill Stein attempted to convince Sanders to break from the two-party duopoly, but he declined. Cornell West is currently resting his hopes on the formation of "Peoples' Party" with the support of Sanders himself. This is a miscalculation. The Democratic Party is the War Party and Sanders cannot be expected to renounce his membership. It is time to take the genuine demands for a living wage, socialized healthcare, and free higher public education out of two-party duopoly and into the streets. A truly independent political party of the masses must rely on the masses and view electoral political organization as a tactic toward the broader strategy of social transformation. Support for Empire in any forms must be off the table. No such development could ever be aided by or exist in the bowels of the Democratic Party.
Danny Haiphong is an Asian activist and political analyst in the Boston area. He can be firstname.lastname@example.org