Among what one might call the “real” Left, as opposed to Liberals and/or Democrats, Bernie Sanders is either a small opening to be exploited or just another straw dog to suck up the people’s energies into ineffective action. Many of them ignore his unusual circumstances as a presidential candidate. Meanwhile they also thought that Wall Street would run to The Donald in the event of Clinton failure.
But recently, Paul Street wrote in a Counterpunch article:
I am starting to think that I may be off base on one of my political calculations. In the course of arguing that Hillary Clinton would be more electable than Bernie Sanders in a general election contest with Donald Trump next November (whatever match-up polls may say now), I have reasoned that big corporate and Wall Street campaign money originally earmarked for Hillary Clinton would flood over to the noxious Republican candidate if Sanders won the Democratic nomination.
Street’s calculation is based on straight class interests. In a presidential clash between the two “outsiders”, Trump is the billionaire of course, while Sanders is a “leftish progressive and nominal socialist who rails against economic inequality and ‘the billionaire class'”. Ergo, ruling class money goes to Trump.
Street has second thoughts:
Now I’m starting to wonder about that. As I suspect many halfway intelligent One Percenters know, Trump may represent a bigger threat to their interests than Bernie. The outlandish and preposterous, Twitter-addicted Trump is a wacky, uber-narcissistic wildcard who threatens to make the United States domestically ungovernable while wrecking the United States’ image and brand abroad.
The Preservation Society, through its organ The Ruling Class Observer, has been saying this since our first post on February 19th, 2016. We have argued for the appeal Sanders might have for the ruling class if we only took the ruling class googles off. The Preservation Society believes the worst that can happen under Sanders is a restabilization of our system through public investment. That would be easy to achieve, since the masses would want it too. From the masses‘ point of view, he is an opportunity to expand freedom. We believe could add another 50 years or so to the nation’s life, if ecological disaster doesn’t get us first. The masses should take this as encouragement in pursuit of their own interests.
Street is very cynical. He seems to know without a doubt that Sanders will immediately bow down to the “masters”. But how does he know that? Maybe its true, maybe not. Sanders represents an interesting case in politics. He has no big corporate interest backing him, and it’s become cliche to say “the average contribution to his campaign is $27”. The electorate has a rare and unique opportunity to support one who does not have quid pro quo understandings with Wall Street or corporate America. There is no reason to believe, barring deep state threats or worse, that Sanders will not try more earnestly than other candidates to pursue his public investment programs.
Many ruling class members will resist his efforts should he get the presidency, including many from the Preservation Society. Sanders may crumble easily. He may be a thorn in our side. Who knows? Certainly not Paul Street nor anybody else. “Bernie is an Empire man through and through,” says Street nonetheless. His utter dismissal of Sanders based on an unknown future is akin to economists who dismiss Sanders’s economic policies simply because we have never dared to project such big growth before. Does that mean it can’t happen? We believe this is not a proper reason to oppose Sanders if you value stability and mass complacency.
The Preservation Society is not suggesting that Sanders’s has any chance of effecting revolution, if he even becomes president. But for the masses he does represent a tiny sliver of a tear in the fabric of the Establishment. In 1932 patrician FDR campaigned on a platform of austerity and ended up implementing the New Deal. Sanders is a New Dealer from the start. The significant difference is that there is less radicalization today, no doubt dampened by social programs, inadequate though they are.
In some ways Street’s discouragement of Sanders benefits ruling class members’ private interests. It is tempting to oppose Sanders based on his plan for redistributing wealth (however slight), until one realizes that such attempts will not significantly disturb the status quo. Street’s dismissal of Sanders, while not unjustified — we agree with most of what he says — aids the Ruling Class. But that is not necessarily good. Foregoing the Bern Option helps us to continue to avoid dealing with the neglected infrastructure and programs that might diminish the effects of or prevent another collapse, one from which the “Republic” may not survive, judging by this election cycle.
Paul Street lays out a litany of reasons not to vote for Bernie Sanders. From the masses’ point of view one can understand Street’s frustration given the history of third party runs. But again we refer to Sanders’s special case as a DC politician. He is working from “inside” the organization. And when in Rome, do as the Romans.
Sanders entered Establishment politics as a young idealistic socialist, and now, he has crashed the national political scene as a seasoned political New Dealer, still relying, incredibly, on small money. Along the way he’s made his choices, not all made with purity of heart to be sure, but these things would have happened with or without him. Without supporting Israel and the defense industry it would probably not be possible for Sanders to stay in Washington. At the same time, he has mentioned the plight of the Palestinians, which is significant for a Washington pol. But hopefully these are not idle compromises. After all, he’s not Nancy Pelosi or Barack Obama, neither of whom would ever call themselves a socialist, or point out the suffering of Palestinians. Sanders has calculated to keep himself in Congress and climbing ever higher through the Senate as an Independent, while still calling himself a Social Democrat, till he could put himself in a position to offer a new New Deal, and to perhaps break up the big banks. And he is competitive with the biggest political machine in the world to boot. If anyone wrote the book on how to infiltrate from the inside it is Bernie Sanders.
The change-from-within approach invites culpability and imposes severe limitations, but Sanders has nearly made it to the top. But Paul Street focuses his frustration on “pretend socialist” Sanders instead of agitating for the possibilities he represents. This attitude squanders the masses’ opportunity to organize aggressively to push a potentially accessible president. But this is not what is happening. Imagine the power that could be behind Sanders, if the real Left came out of its guarded cynicism.
The masses are not encouraged to pursue solidarity. Instead of taking advantage of this tiny opening that is Bernie Sanders, the masses are largely complacent, and where political awareness is active it tends to be identity politics without class analysis. Modern Liberal political consciousness is preoccupied with “diversity”, and makes it easy for the Established order to convince the masses that Wall Street and the Environment are mere “privileged” issues, when it can be shown quite easily how related they are to the individual’s very life. And they are more: just as Earth is our foundation to live, Wall Street is a foundation of the society the individual calls home.
Street believes a Sanders administration will be as painless to the ruling class as a Clinton one. But again, who knows? A Clinton administration would be far preferable to a Sanders administration, which would trigger certain anxiety among the higher orders. It already has. It would, among other things, be an indication that a significant and growing portion of the electorate is cured of Establishment politics, even if Sanders does not represent much of a break with it. This is especially visible on the “progressive” side of the Liberal Establishment. Formerly staunch loyal Democratic outlets like Raw Story and Alternet, who many claim censored serious criticism of the Party, have now seen their comment boards lit up with Clinton repulsion. Establishment economists have been exposed as enemies of New Deal politics. A Sanders Presidency is as troublesome for the Democratic Party, as it may benefit the ruling class in the long run. Given the choice, the Preservation Society prefers the dissolution of the Parties. And therein lies the common interest (at the moment) between the ruling class and its masses.
But electoral cynicism is well grounded. The ruling class is so successful at breeding an apathetic masses that one has not even heard the discussion among the Liberal-to-left cliques on the duty of the individual to inform themselves. What ever happened to the informed citizen?
It doesn’t matter anyway. Sanders can’t win, we are told. This may be true but he could very well win the popular vote, which only serves to undermine the credibility of the Democratic Party in a highly visible election. Sanders is noncompetitive only if one drinks the corporate media kool aid. Ruling Class members want the masses to believe he is not electable, though he keeps winning. Thus the media does its part.
They claim he has a problem with diversity but a closer look by Seth Abramson at the primary and caucus results indicate a different story (see here and here). Sanders won Wisconsin and went into the primary leading in the African-American vote by 11 points.
Resignation turns to fatalism with the title of the last section of the article: “Reasons Not to Get Too Depressed About a Hillary Clinton Presidency”. For some reason Street believes “that its always better for the Left and for the development of the dedicated day-to-day grassroots social movement(s) that we so desperately need to have a corporate Democrat than a corporate Republican in the White House.” The historical record does not bear this out. Nothing but a uptick in Liberal impotent anger accompanies every Republican administration, while blaming them for every failure is generally the theme of a Democratic administration. Neither Bill Clinton nor Barack Obama have strengthened the Left. Why should Hillary be any different?
The masses can wait for the improbable proper social conditions to pursue change or they can take the improbable opportunities they have before them, imperfect though they are. Current conditions make doing nothing a dangerous proposition. The chickens are coming home to roost after decades (and more) of Establishment party malfeasance. The ruling class and the masses share the same interests in that we all want a stable and secure society. No one should confuse Bernie Sanders with radical change, but why should that stop the masses from supporting him? History will not wait for the proper circumstances to present themselves for change. As Howard Zinn said, “can’t keep neutral on a moving train”.