Monthly Archives: February 2016
Progressive presidential options (2016)
Though many progressives may end up voting for her for pragmatic reasons, Hillary’s no progressive.
What about Bernie? In a February 6th article on the World Socialist website (wsws.org), Patrick Martin writes that “if the American financial aristocracy thought Bernie Sanders represented a genuine threat to its interests, it wouldn’t be putting him on national television to deliver his jeremiads before a mass audience. The ruling elite has more than a century of experience in the use of such figures to manipulate mass sentiment and safeguard the profit system from challenges from below. These include third-party efforts like the Populist Party of the 1890s, the Progressive movement of the early 20th century, the Farmer-Labor Party of Robert La Follette in Wisconsin in the 1920s, and the Progressive Party of Henry Wallace in 1948. All these campaigns dissolved, sooner or later, back into the Democratic Party.
In the past half-century, the ruling elite has sought to avoid any significant ‘left’ third-party efforts, using the Democratic Party as the principal vehicle for containing and dissipating mass popular opposition to the US ruling elite, whether over the Vietnam War, the violent attacks on labor struggles in the 1980s, or the endless wars in the Middle East and the staggering growth of social inequality. Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy in 1968 and George McGovern in 1972 were followed by Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988, Howard Dean in 2004, and now Bernie Sanders.” Martin fails to mention Dennis Kucinich, who was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in 2004 and 2008, but, probably because he did represent a chance for real change, received virtually no press coverage and was barred from all campaign debates. Howard Dean, whom Martin does mention, didn’t represent an opportunity for real change.
“Considered in this historical framework, what’s remarkable about Sanders is how vacuous his supposed radicalism really is. He’s far less radical in his domestic policy than the Populists, the anti-Wall Street presidential campaigns of William Jennings Bryan, and the Farmer-Laborites. And in the crucial area of foreign policy, he’s virtually indistinguishable from Obama and Hillary Clinton, even attacking them from the right on issues like trade with China. When asked directly last year about his attitude to US military intervention abroad, he declared he was for ‘drones, all that and more.’
If Sanders goes on to win the Democratic nomination and the presidency, he’ll flagrantly and immediately betray the aspirations of his supporters. A thousand excuses will be brought forward to explain why the wars must continue abroad and nothing can be done to rein in Wall Street at home.
Rather than being the representative of a working class movement, Sanders is the temporary beneficiary of a rising tide of popular opposition passing through only its initial stages of social and class differentiation,” a process that can easily become stillborn along the way, as it always has in this country, except for movements like the Wobblies that the government had to violently repress.
In a February 6th article on the Counterpunch website (counterpunch.org), Jeffrey St. Clair writes similarly that “the Sanders revolution was over before it started, its revolutionary aspiration having expired the moment Sanders decided to run in the Democratic Party primaries, instead of as an independent, where he might have proved a real menace to the neoliberal establishment. Sanders even pledged to support HRC in the general election.
Revolutions aren’t led by well-meaning wimps. [St. Clair accuses Sanders of letting Hillary fraudulently claim victory in Iowa.] But Sanders was never interested in a real revolution. He’s more Hubert Humphrey than Che Guevara – a timid reformer, an old-time liberal ranting in the antechambers of a party that’s long since made its Faustian bargain with the agents of austerity.
Left and right, the sour mood of the country burns for a true political and economic rebellion. It may well happen. But look for it out on the streets, not in the hollow rituals of these elections.”
Presidential elections under the current two-party, Electoral College, fragmented-primary system are hollow rituals, rarely – if ever – resulting in the election of a president who makes substantive changes, especially in our economic system. A candidate may promise – usually by inference – such changes, but once in office always fails to deliver. A president who shows signs of wanting to buck the system while in office, as JFK did in 1963 with regard to Vietnam, will be dissuaded – either by assassination or the threat of it or its equivalent. (In the same way, RFK, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated before their potentially revolutionary programs could proceed.) Backers of the status quo have also tampered with the election process in various ways, resulting in the election and reelection of George W. Bush in 2000 (via premature concession by Al Gore) and 2004 (via a Supreme Court decision). We really do need a (real) revolution.
In the meantime, what’s a would-be voter to do? A purist would abstain from voting or write in a candidate like Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate in 2012 and likely nominee this year. She’s for “a ‘Green New Deal,’ in which renewable energy jobs would be created to address climate change and environmental issues and employ ‘every American willing and able to work.’ Stein would fund the start-up costs of the plan with a 30% reduction in the U.S. military budget, returning US troops home, and increasing taxes on areas such as speculation in stock markets, offshore tax havens, and multimillion-dollar real estate. She says, based on the research of Phillip Harvey, Professor of Law & Economics at Rutgers University, that the multiplier economic effects of this Green New Deal would later recoup most of the start-up costs. Stein’s vision includes increasing intra-city mass transit and inter-city railroads, and creating bike- and pedestrian-friendly streets and regional food systems based on sustainable organic agriculture.” [Wikipedia]
A more pragmatic voter, perhaps anxious to avoid a Trump or Cruz presidency, would watch the polls in his or her state and vote accordingly. A blue-state voter could probably risk writing in a third-party candidate; such a red- or swing-state voter should probably vote for the Democratic nominee.