farewell to the revolution - part 2

For part 1, click here.

For a few months, as the Sanders campaigned defied fundraising expectations and built an enthusiastic grassroots movement, it seemed as if something genuinely remarkable was happening in contemporary American politics. We were seeing a significant challenge to the corporate establishment in a process rigged against Sanders from the beginning (e.g. superdelegates pledging themselves to Clinton before the primaries). Despite massive opposition, Sanders managed not only to win in primary contests but also draw a very sharp distinction between himself and Clinton. Where Sanders had the ambition to reach for universal single-payer healthcare, Clinton was reduced to an uninspired advocacy for incrementalism under the banner of pragmatism. Even her support for a higher minimum wage was extracted, in real-time during a live debate, by a persistent Sanders.

As 2016 got underway, it seemed that despite Clinton’s triangulated step leftward, there was simply no way to reconcile her Wall Street candidacy with Sanders’ grassroots revolution. How could a Sanders supporter conceivably support Hillary when she clearly did no embrace the values or policies of the Sanders campaign, except in a half-hearted way obtained under duress? The fact that Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic Party, only espouse meaningful progressive values and policies when pushed hard says a lot about their natural instincts. Surely voters should not have to subject the people who courted their votes to tourniquet and thumbscrews, yet that is exactly what happens when voters are manipulated into supporting a candidate who doesn’t actually represent their interests. Add in Clinton’s record from First Lady to Secretary of State (see Don't Call Him Bernie Anymore at CounterPunch), her work with the dubious Clinton Foundation, her financial ties to Wall Street, the “extreme carelessness” she displayed in regards to her eMails, and the grotesque abuse of feminism wielded by surrogates like Gloria Steinem and Madeline Albright, and the preponderance of evidence demolishes her progressive credentials. She is neoliberalism’s champion. (If you want more on this, see Ted Rall at rall.com and the folks at CounterPunch.org).

Then came the end game, demarcated by California’s compromised primaries (see California Calls Fraud at the Observer) . The biggest outrage came when the media abandoned journalistic ethics and professionalism by declaring Clinton the Democratic nominee before Californians even voted. But Elizabeth Warren’s endorsement of Clinton, after months sitting on the sidelines, was a special kind of kick in the teeth. Having built her political career on economic justice – by holding Wall Street accountable, for instance, and opposing the TPP – it was shocking to have her support a candidate so tightly embedded with the country’s economic elites. Then came talk of the Vice Presidency. Along with the fact that Warren withheld her endorsement until the primaries were effectively over, when her political support wouldn’t mean very much, her willingness to be considered as Clinton’s VP stained her endorsement as opportunism as well as political cowardice. Bravery would have been endorsing the candidate in line with her agitation for economic reform, Sanders, during the primaries when it could have made a difference.

So now here we are, with Sanders having satisfied the Democratic Party’s wish for unity and endorsed Clinton. His supporters are now expected to vote for her in a bid to stop the latest GOP bogeyman. The question, then, is whether he did succeed in creating a movement beyond himself that will endure to apply the tourniquets and thumbscrews the Democratic Party after the election. It might, but all that Sanders’ political revolution has to show is a symbolic party platform that contains some admittedly good ideas. Without opposition to the TPP and fracking and support of universal single-payer healthcare, however, the DNC’s symbolic party platform document is another example of throwing a few crumbs to the birds so they don’t notice the cage being built around them. And again: it’s a non-binding document. So what is it about changing the language on a rhetorical document that constitutes a victory for Sanders’ political revolution?

If I were really cynical, I’d think the Clintons put up Trump to run on the GOP ticket in the effort of providing a monster so scary that voters would line up behind the generally disliked Hillary Clinton. There’s no need to take out the tin foil, however, because the reality is bad enough: Sanders did as he said he would, suggesting that in the end he wasn’t himself transformed by calls for political revolution. Whatever his intentions, the end result is precisely the Clinton-friendly, revolution-neutering scenario imagined when he first announced his pursuit of the presidential nomination.

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