Bernie Sanders. (photo: Karen Bleier/Getty Images)
What the Hell Does Bernie Sanders Think He’s Doing?
By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News
31 May 16
oor Hillary. I know I’ve said that before, with tongue in cheek, of course. But the time has come to listen closely to what’s really bothering the former Goldwater girl. Time, as Slick Willie would say, to share her pain.
She had expected a stroll in the park to her anointment as Democratic candidate for president. But Bernie Sanders has made her life hell, forcing her to take left-leaning positions that will only make it more difficult for her to backtrack when the nomination becomes hers. He even pressured her to give his supporters a place on the 15-member panel that will draft the platform, a move that can easily saddle her with political positions around which she will have to struggle.
Nowhere is the threat greater than on support for Israel. She clearly announced that she intended to take the relationship with the Jewish state “to the next level.” But the platform drafters now include three Sanders supporters who are long-time defenders of Palestinian rights: James Zogby, head of the Arab-American Institute, Muslim congressman Keith Ellison, and social justice activist Cornel West. Along with two Congressional progressives, Elijah Cummings and Barbara Lee, and others on the drafting committee, the platform could contain wording far different from what she wants. It will likely defend both Israel’s security and fairness for Palestinians. It might even mention Israeli settlements and occupation of the West Bank.
What’s the difference? Who will even remember what the platform says? Normally, no one. But Bernie has changed the rules of the game. He and his supporters refuse to step aside, and they will use even-handedness to both Israelis and Palestinians as a new marker to define the Democratic Party. What kind of Jew does that? How can Bernie betray his own people? And how can left-wing Jews like Rabbi Michael Lerner say that Bernie Sanders and his balanced approach would even help heal the State of Israel?
Worse, Bernie and his bunch are playing the same game across the board. Climate change. Trade treaties. Breaking up the biggest banks. A $15 federal minimum wage. Universal health care. Taxing Wall Street to pay for tuition-free college education. And all the other ideas he is pushing. Either Bernie’s people get words they want in the platform, or they will use the fight to win further converts within the party and beyond.
Doesn’t Bernie remember that she and Bill redefined the Democratic Party? That the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), Will Marshall’s hauntingly named Progressive Policy Institute, and mega-banker Robert Rubin, of Goldman-Sachs and later Citigroup, helped them make the party more pro-Wall Street, more pro-corporate, and more “free market?” Bill drew a line in the sand when he declared an end to the era of big government, welfare as we know it, and the long-standing regulation of Wall Street embodied in the Glass-Steagall Act and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
How do Bernie and his people truly think they can undo all that? Do they expect party officials to turn their backs on all the campaign contributions, not to mention high-paying jobs as lobbyists and corporate honchos? Do those who feel the Bern really see the Democratic Party returning to the down-at-the-heel days of FDR and the New Deal?
What effing idealists! Why couldn’t they just go away? Or join the Greens? Or become independents?
In Hillary’s book, anyone who wants to get anything done has to come to grips with the reality of Big Money, as she did when she joined Walmart’s board of directors, as Bill did as governor of Arkansas and even more as president., and as Barack Obama did when he accepted the backing of Rubin and Goldman-Sachs in 2008.
Surely Bernie can see that. Yet, even as he carries his presidential campaign all the way to the convention floor, his people are already laying the groundwork for a permanent progressive movement, hoping to use his growing popularity – and his unbelievably successful fund-raising email list – to create their own people’s agenda, expand their Berniecrat base, and elect a “Brand New Congress” for the mid-term elections in 2018. Who the hell do these people think they are? Are they trying to create a left-wing Tea Party that will purge those they see as DINOS, Democrats In Name Only?
Bernie himself is already raising money to defeat some of the party’s leading lights, people like Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, the party chairman who has done everything she could to help Hillary prevail. He’s even pushing for the party to throw Deb under the bus before the convention, which party leaders may have to do to prevent an embarrassing protest against her on national television.
But most worrying of all is the possibility that Bernie will use his speech at the convention to take leadership of the campaign against Donald Trump. If Trump wins, Hillary will be to blame. If Hillary wins, Bernie will take the credit. What a galling turnabout for Hillary that would be, especially after all her efforts – and those of her friends – to discredit Sanders and his highly independent supporters.
A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, “Big Money and the Corporate State: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How to Nonviolently Break Their Hold.”
Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.