The myth named Bernie Sanders – Former Democratic presidential candidate Sanders, whose stump speech always included talk of a “political revolution” in America, ain’t no revolutionary.
From a 1963 speech known as “Message to the Grassroots” by Malcolm X (El Hajj Malik el Shabazz)
…(M)any of our people are using this word “revolution” loosely, without taking careful consideration [of] what this word actually means, and what its historic characteristics are. When you study the historic nature of revolutions, the motive of a revolution, the objective of a revolution, and the result of a revolution, and the methods used in a revolution, you may change words.
Look at the American Revolution in 1776. That revolution was for what? For land. Why did they want land? Independence. How was it carried out? Bloodshed. The French Revolution…The land-less against the landlord. What was it for? Land. How did they get it? Bloodshed. Was no love lost; was no compromise; was no negotiation.
…(Y)ou don’t know what a revolution is. ’Cause when you find out what it is, you’ll get back in the alley; you’ll get out of the way. The Russian Revolution – what was it based on? Land. The land-less against the landlord. How did they bring it about? Bloodshed. You haven’t got a revolution that doesn’t involve bloodshed. And you’re afraid to bleed.
…A revolution is bloody. Revolution is hostile. Revolution knows no compromise. Revolution overturns and destroys everything that gets in its way.
So I cite these various revolutions, brothers and sisters, to show you – you don’t have a peaceful revolution. You don’t have a turn-the-other-cheek revolution. There’s no such thing as a nonviolent revolution.
This week at the Democratic National Convention, we discovered that Sanders – who started a political ‘revolution’ that raised money online at an unprecedented pace, energized young people with calls to decrease education costs and solve income inequality, and briefly threatened the Democratic Party establishment’s well-laid plans to anoint Hillary Clinton as its standard-bearer – is figuratively “afraid to bleed,” although many of his supporters are not.
That conclusion became clear as Bernie soaked up the politically calculated adulation of the Democratic establishment while many of his supporters booed even him and walked out during convention proceedings.
Leading sheep ‘home’
Bernie thus fulfilled the May 2015 prophesy of Black Agenda Report’s Bruce A. Dixon that he, Sanders, was really a “sheepdog,” following a recent tradition in the Democratic Party. Here’s what Dixon wrote then:
“The ‘sheepdog’ is a presidential candidate running ostensibly to the left of the establishment Democrat to whom the billionaires will award the nomination. Sheepdogs are herders, and the sheepdog candidate is charged with herding activists and voters back into the Democratic fold who might otherwise drift leftward and outside of the Democratic Party, either staying home or trying to build something outside the two-party box.
“(In) 1984 and ’88, the sheepdog candidate was Jesse Jackson. In ’92, it was California governor Jerry Brown. In 2000 and 2004, the designated sheepdog was Al Sharpton, and in 2008 it was Dennis Kucinich. This year it’s Vermont senator Bernie Sanders. The function of the sheepdog candidate is to give left activists and voters a reason, however illusory, to believe there’s a place of influence for them inside the Democratic Party, if and only if the eventual Democratic nominee can win in November.”
“Berniacs,” I know how you feel. I was painfully “sheepdogged” years ago when Jesse Jackson ran twice.
‘Run, Jesse, Run!’
Like many Black youth and young Black professionals at the time, we were as rabid for Jesse as Bernie’s fans are today. Jackson did unexpectedly well during the 1984 and 1988 primaries by trying to establish a “Rainbow Coalition” of Blacks, Latinos, poor and working-class Whites, homosexuals, and progressives – the same coalition that was to elect Barack Obama some 30 years later.
Jesse ran on the same issues that Bernie did: An American jobs program to rebuild aging infrastructure; free community college education; universal health care; eliminating the “War on Drugs” which even then was disproportionately locking up Black people. Jesse ran hard and won primaries in multiple states, as Bernie did.
But the Democratic establishment fix was in. Jesse complained, to no avail. Dems refused to place any of his demands in the party platform. He threatened to walk out of the Democratic convention and take Black America with him if he didn’t get what he wanted.
No ‘time to go’
In that pre-Internet era, I remember watching expectantly when Jesse spoke at the convention for the signal that it was “time to go.” But Jesse did what sheepdogs do: he got back in line. Both of Jesse’s 1984 and 1988 prime-time convention speeches included the usual “most important election in our lifetime” references.
He went out on the campaign trail for the disastrous Democratic campaigns of Walter Mondale in 1984 and Michael Dukakis in 1988. Mondale – with the support of 90 percent of Black voters – got his head handed to him and lost 49 of 50 states to Ronald Reagan in 1984. Dukakis – with the support of 90 percent of Black voters – got his head handed to him and lost 42 of 50 states to George H.W. Bush in 1988.
And Black Americans – who went down with the sinking Democratic ship of that era – were personae non gratae for three presidential terms and had nothing to show for their fierce loyalty to a Democratic Party that couldn’t even turn out their own White voters.
Had Jesse Jackson walked away from the Democrats when he didn’t get what he wanted, Reagan and Bush would still have been elected. The Democratic Party’s stranglehold on Black America would have been broken, and they wouldn’t be taking the Black vote for granted today. Black people would have more confidence and trust in Black leadership.
Instead, Jesse got high-level Dem contacts that he turned in financial resources for his own family and for his organizations. He got the ability to stay politically relevant. He got proximity to power when the political pendulum swung back to the Dems with Bill Clinton’s two terms.
That’s just what Bernie will get. What will his supporters get? NOTHING.
Fast-forward to this week. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the weakest major party presidential nominees in recent American political history. Sanders, the only non-party affiliated member of the U.S. Senate, owes the Democratic Party nothing, because they didn’t get him elected to the Senate. He only ran as a Democrat because that’s where the TV cameras were.
Thus, Sanders was in a great historical position to destroy the two-party status quo by kissing the Dems goodbye, then using his robust online fundraising operation and the pent-up energy of his supporters to run for president of the leftist Green Party – which is on the ballot in all 50 states – and establish a true progressive alternative to the Democratic Party for the first time in modern history.
Had he run, Sanders would be hailed years from now (whether Trump won or not) as the man who began the demise of a two-party system that devolved into legislative stalemate and corporate-owned “binary choices” presented to the American people by mainstream media.
Instead, Bernie was so afraid of being “Ralph Nader,” who ran as a third-party candidate in 2000 and is unfairly blamed for taking votes from Democrat Al Gore in a close race against George W. Bush. So Bernie will get what the Dems decide to give him as the sheepdog that he is.
The fact that he didn’t walk from the Dems – as Jesse didn’t 30 years ago – tells me that Bernie is a typical politician: a ‘revolutionary’ in his own mind.
So Berniacs, dry your tears. We’ve seen it all before.
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