Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is running for the Democratic nomination for President, supports a breakup of the too-big-to-fail banks, higher taxes on the ultra-rich, Medicare for all and repairing America’s decaying physical infrastructure.
He is opposed to the war on drugs, bank bailouts and the Trans Pacific Partnership.
He voted against the original USA Patriot Act, authorization to use military force against Iraq, confirmation of John Brannan as director of the Central Intelligence Against and immunity for telephone companies who conduct illegal surveillance for the government.
That sounds good to me, but I have been warned by Bruce A. Dixon on the Black Awareness Report not to be fooled. Sanders’ function, he wrote, is to be a “sheepdog” to herd angry liberals and progressives back into the Democratic Party.
In almost every Presidential year, he noted, there is some Democratic candidate—Jesse Jackson, Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich—who gives voice to the discontent of working people, minorities and progressive intellectuals with the existing Democratic Party policies.
Afterwards, feeling they have had their say, they vote for the establishment Democratic candidate. Ford thinks the same thing will happen in 2016. After venting their feelings by voting for Sanders, Democrats will fall into line and support Hillary Clinton as the latest lesser evil.
There is something to this. As Dixon correctly pointed out, you would think, to listen to Sanders, that all the USA’s problems stem from the Republican Party, Wall Street bankers, Fox News and the Koch brothers, and have nothing to do with Barack Obama, Bill or Hillary Clinton or the Democratic Party.
That is the price of party loyalty. If you ask for a political party’s nomination, most members of that party would expect you to support that party’s ticket. The same dynamic operates on the other with Rand Paul and the Republicans.
Political activists face a real dilemma. Do they work to change one of the two major U.S. political parties from within, or campaign for a third party, or concentrate on working for change through labor unions or civil rights organizations rather than electoral process?
My answer to that question is “Yes.” During earlier eras of political reform, the Progressive Era of the 1900s and the New Deal of the 1930s, there was ferment within the two major political parties, and also enough third-party activism to worry the major parties and powerful farmer and also strong labor and protest movements not committed to either party.
These different approaches reinforce each other. The protest outside in the streets made the powers-that-be more willing to listen to reformers within the building.
The Democratic and Republican Parties have so entrenched themselves in that trying to gain influence within one of the parties is a realistic option. If American politics continues to be alternation between the two major parties, then a group that controls one of the parties, or even exercises important influence, is bound to come into power sooner or later. The Tea Party movement within the Republican Party is an example of this.
What the different approaches to political change all have in common is that they all require broad-based grassroots power. It matters who is elected President, but even a President doesn’t have the power to turn the country around all by himself or herself.
I myself have no problem. I am not an activist, merely an observer, a blogger and a voter. Barring the unforeseen, I expect to vote for Bernie Sanders in the New York primary election, and the best of the third-party candidates in the general election.
Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders: Sheepdogging for Hillary and the Democrats in 2016 by Bruce A. Dixon for the Black Agenda Report.
This Is What Happens When We Follow the Democrat Sheepdog And What Can Happen If We Don’t by Bruce A. Dixon for the Black Agenda Report.
The Sanders Syndrome Hits Home Court by Paul Street for Counterpunch.
The Problem With Bernie by Ron Jacobs for Counterpunch.