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The Candidate Rides Again: The Bernie Sanders Re-Run

He could not stay away, and few could blame him. Such political tendencies are nerves, conditions, diseases: eventually, we have to succumb to them. Bernie Sanders has announced his intention to run for the White House in 2020. It was as surprising as any statement about US inequality. But what matters here is the crowd – and a large one at that – that Sanders has to contend with this time around.

The primary problem here is timing and that old nag of history. Politics has, at its core, a clock. Ticking, with an ancient menace, it reminds politicians that a time to challenge comes only once in a time, if not a life time. It might resurface, supplying the failed candidate with a chance for redemption. Generally, this is rare; politics and Lazarus do not tend to meet.

The short of it is this: Abiding by the tick-tock of political opportunity benefits the shrewd and calculating. On evidence, Sanders is neither shrewd nor calculating. Passionate, yes. Buckets of character, yes. On some level, conditionally principled, but otherwise green on the kill. His capitulation to Hillary Clinton and her family’s strangling apparatus over the Democratic Party was significant in giving the brightest of green lights to Trump.

The populist election should have been a battle of the populists, and for some time, Sanders’ 2016 campaign was marked by colours different from the standard Democratic line. His movement into the Democratic universe proved to be a mistake, though it should never be forgotten that he has, at stages of his political life, hugged the outlines of that confused “centrist” party.

His voting record show patches of poor, and, in some instances severely compromised judgment. He favoured sending his state’s nuclear waste to the township of Sierra Blanca, Texas in 1998 (better out of Vermont than in). He favoured the sanctions regime against Iraq, one that did much to cause desperation in the populace and nothing to dislodge Saddam Hussein’s regime. And, in a fit of humanitarianism-at-the-end-of-a-missile, he supported the attack on Serbia in 1999. This was all the more galling given Sanders’ credentials as the great anti-war activist.

The point was not missed by fifteen Vermonters who proceeded to occupy his office. As Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn remind us, “The last time any political rep from Vermont had an office occupied was when a group later known as the Winooski 44 sat in (Republican) Jim Jeffords’s office in 1984, protesting Reagan’s war in Central America.”

The befuddled statisticians, strategists and Mook-governed sociopaths in the Clinton camp attempted to absorb the threat posed by the Sandernistas, thereby extinguishing it while hoping to grab the voter base. This did not happen, and a campaign was strangled.

Not all blame can be laid at Clinton’s feet and venal calculation. Sanders retreated, effectively abandoning his supporters. That old hard-nosed Russian dissident Boris Kagarlisky had something to merit the following remark: in Philadelphia, as he surrendered to Clinton, the political figure from Vermont became “a pathetic old man who does not understand what is happening around him.”

Sanders may well have aroused the electorate, but he had no desire to consummate his attraction. Instead he spoke about the future. “Together, we continue to fight to create a government that represents all of us, and not just the one percent – a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice.”

Now, Sanders does not come out as the fresh eccentric and dynamic alternative figure. He is an establishment candidate whose message of “Medicare for all” and a Green New Deal has been, for the most part, accepted by the bevy of Democrats making the White House charge. While it would be nonsense to suggest that the United States has suddenly become more attuned to social democratic principles, there is something to suggest greater receptiveness to them.

Sanders himself acknowledges how his flush of ideas was received in 2016. “Three years ago, during our 2016 campaign, when we brought forth our progressive agenda we were told that our ideas were ‘radical’, and ‘extreme’. We were told that Medicare for All, a $15 an hour minimum wage, free tuition at public colleges and universities, aggressively combating climate change, demanding that the wealthy start paying their fair share of taxes, were all concepts that the American people would never accept.” After three years “millions of Americans” were now “standing up and fighting back”, in the process supporting “all of these policies”.

Sanders, this time around, is playing on the unity message. As an announcement of his candidacy goes, “I’m running for president because, now more than ever, we need leadership that brings us together, not divides us up. Women and men, black, white, Latino, Native American, Asian American, gay and straight, young and old, native born and immigrant. Now is the time for us to stand together.”

Against the whole gaggle of female candidates, and a spread of younger variants of himself who have made it clear that they want the laurels; and against other aged hopefuls, Sanders has a mountain to climb so high he may lose his breath. But US politics, since 2016, is as interesting as any other theatre on the planet. Best call off the bets and wait the next turn.

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9 comments

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  1. Andreas Bimba

    Bernie Sanders is not naive to the reality of US politics and his capitulation to Hillary Clinton at the Democratic Party convention prior to the 2016 presidential elections was just a reluctant acceptance of how corrupt and unjust the processes in that party have become.

    This article by Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers appearing in Popular Resistance shows how undemocratic the US Democratic Party has become.

    https://popularresistance.org/the-movement-and-the-2020-elections/

    Bernie knew what he was up against but there were no better alternatives. He was even offered the opportunity by the Green Party of the US to be their candidate for the 2016 presidential elections by their leader Jill Stein but the US political system like ours has a single member seat, winner takes all voting system for their House of Representatives – that decides on all money bills, and political campaigning usually requires vast financial resources to gain traction and therefore is heavily stacked in favour of the duopoly of the Democrats and Republicans.

    During the Democratic Party presidential primaries and caucuses, Bernie gained a decisive majority of votes in most states, his rallies were huge and he managed to build a very large campaign team. He even gained significant financial resources due to millions of small donations by supporters. Bernie spoke at numerous rallies before enthusiastic crowds of tens of thousands of supporters whilst Hillary gave the usual hollow speeches before small selected audiences of party faithful. The super PACs and all the other undemocratic tools at the disposal of the Democratic Party old guard, that serves the interests of the big corporate donors, only just managed to get Hillary across the line without everyone noticing the process was a total sham.

    Bernie would have beaten Trump decisively during the 2016 elections as Bernie was equally strong in the rust belt, amongst the rural poor and would have won substantial majorities in the major urban centres and amongst most minorities.

    Not only did Bernie Sanders have (and still has) the most ambitious and progressive policy agenda it was the most soundly based economically as Stephanie Kelton, a leading Modern Monetary Theory proponent, was the primary economic advisor to the Bernie 2016 presidential campaign and prior to that she was chief economist on the U.S. Senate Budget Committee (minority staff) in 2015 when Bernie Sanders was the highest ranking minority member.

    The US is sliding over the cliff in so many ways such as on inequality, degeneration of democratic processes and oligarchic control of governmental institutions, ignoring global warming, poor health, education and social services, economic decline especially relative to China, so many pointless and highly destructive wars, decaying infrastructure and violence and injustice.

    The 2020 US Presidential elections will be vitally important, not just for the US, but for the whole world.

    It would represent enormous progress if our ALP adopted the policy positions held by Bernie Sanders but a Shorten, Ardern, Trudeau and Corbyn Prime Ministership and Sanders Presidency all at the same time could be a great moment in history and a vast improvement over the cruel neoliberal austerity and incompetence of the conservative and populist right.

    Shorten for 2019, Bernie for 2020 and Corbyn for 2022. Ardern and Trudeau keep hanging in there and please give Stephanie a call before she becomes too busy.

  2. Pam

    Crap article. Worst I have read on AIM.

  3. martk delmege

    Contrary to MSM reporting the rigging of the Democrat vote against the Sanders was the reason for the inside hacking and the leak to Craig Murray that set the false narrative Russia Russia Russia chant ablaze. Sadly like Sanders most of the so called progressives in the Democrats wont take on Empire in any meaningful way. Much like the ALP and Greens here.

  4. Michael Taylor

    Noooooo. It has just been announced that Trump is planning a visit to Australia. The bastard isn’t welcome here.

  5. mark delmege

    I’ll disagree with you Pam (if only to get my spelling correct) I think it is quite a good article.

  6. Kronomex

    Pam, why not just come out and say it, “It’s a fake article! Bernie Sanders is a leftie and a socialist.” Not a republican and Trumpite by any chance, hm?

    Michael, if true about The Donald lets hope it occurs well after the Scummo and Crony Corruption Inc. has been removed from Canberra.

  7. Marcus Champ

    I have been following AIM for years, and did not expect an Article by Mr Kampmark to be disappointing…but I guess sometimes you just get it wrong. For example, to state “his capitulation to Hillary…” is so off the mark to the actuality of what he was faced with, it suggests a very shallow level of understanding that is uncharacteristic of the usual level of discourse I have come to enjoy.

    Bernie is getting smeared every day by the mainstream media in the US…the Washington Post for example has been particularly quick off the mark with several articles in the first few hours after he announced his run. On that I strongly recommend a very good essay on that topic in Harper’s Magazine https://harpers.org/archive/2016/11/swat-team-2/ but did not expect to see it here, and particularly not in AIM of all places.

    Andreas addressed several key points already, so I will just add I expected better.

    Marcus

  8. martk delmege

    As an octogenarian I kinda dont think so. Not many at that age are capable.

  9. Andreas Bimba

    Hopefully Bernie can prove to be the exception for octogenarians. He will be 79 during the 2020 US Presidential elections. Even if he can serve one year as President it could set the foundations for much progress. The Russians managed to keep Brezhnev in office well beyond his natural death?

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