Bernie Sanders has lowered the curtain on the last act of the Bernie Sanders Show. He has done what was clearly in the works for weeks – issued a formal endorsement of Hillary Clinton. And with the show now closed, Sanders’ supporters – at least some of them — will have to draw some hard conclusions. “What is left?” they should be asking themselves. “Was it ever really anything more than a political campaign? What of the ‘political revolution’?” Most important of all, what should be asked is “what sort of organization was built through the Sanders campaign? In what way has the Sanders campaign helped us organize better to fight Corporate America?”
The fact is that his campaign did not. On the contrary, just as Sanders has vowed to do all along*, he is seeking to strengthen the Democratic Party.
Like Water Sinking Into the Sand
It is understandable that those new to the struggle, especially the younger generation, would be taken in by some of Sanders radical rhetoric and that they might be surprised by his capitulation to Clinton and the leadership of the Democratic Party. They would not have known the history of the Gene McCarthy campaign of 1968, the George McGovern campaign of 1972, or the Jesse Jackson campaigns of the 1980s. They would not have known how those campaigns ended up like water sinking into the sands leaving nary a trace. But how do the older socialists explain themselves now?
Most particularly, how does a socialist group like Socialist Alternative justify its position? Their call for Sanders to run outside the Democratic Party is like a bridge jumper calling on gravity to stop operating – it violated the laws of political nature. Its only affect was to maintain the illusions that millions had in Sanders.
Instead, shouldn’t they have been warning Sanders supporters? Shouldn’t they have been explaining what had happened with previous similar campaigns – Gene McCarthy in 1968, George McGovern in 1972, Jesse Jackson in 1984 and ’88, Dennis Kucinich in 2012? Shouldn’t they have been explaining the need for a mass workers’ party and how none of the needs of workers and young people can be met through any wing of the Democrats? Shouldn’t they have been explaining the role of candidates like Sanders in luring people into the Democratic Party swamp?
It all could have been done in a friendly and sympathetic way. It might not have convinced people at the time, but it would have left a marker, left something to think about for a time like this.
It will be interesting to see how Sanders supporters respond. (According to a Wall St. Journal poll 14% of self-identified Sanders supporters say they’ll vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein while 9% say they’ll vote for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and 8% say they’ll vote for Trump, meaning that 17% say they’ll vote for a far right wing candidate.)
In a little over a week, thousands of Sanders supporters and others will be descending on Philadelphia, site of the Democratic Party convention, to press their demands. Oaklandsocialist will be there too to see and report on the mood and on what people are saying. We’ll also be there to stress the need for:
- An independent party of, by and for working class people – a party that not only campaigns for office but also organizes in the communities, work places and in the unions to fight Corporate America
- For a united struggle against racism and police murders.
- For unions that really fight for their members and for all working class people. This must include the unions to help lead the struggles agains the wave of police murders in this country.
- For the movement in the streets to reach out to the wider working class and to run its own candidates for office, outside of and opposed to the Republican/Democratic Party paradigm.
(Note: Since that time, we did go to Philadelphia. What we experienced there confirms everything this article explains. A report on that visit can be found here.)