Bernie Sanders needs a grassroots movement

Bernie Sanders

Corporate Democrats have had great success in smothering Bernie Sanders’ challenge to the capitalist austerity regime that has eroded U.S. working-class incomes and economic security for two generations.

Just two years ago, in the wake of his astounding bid to deny Hillary Clinton the Democratic presidential nomination, the Vermont senator was the most popular politician in the country.

Although some Democrats blamed Sanders for Donald Trump’s even more surprising 2016 election, by the next year the septuagenarian Medicare for All champion’s favorability ratings exceeded all others – including among Black voters. 

‘Socialism’ redeemed 

Most astonishingly, Sanders had almost single-handedly removed the stigma from the word “socialism” – an amazing feat for a New Deal Democratic reformer who has never advocated anything remotely resembling the overthrow of the rule of capital, and who remains an “imperialist pig” in foreign affairs.  

As the 2020 campaign season approached, a great sense of foreboding was evident within the U.S. ruling class. 

Sanders was by now associated with a whole menu of issues – Medicare for All, free public college, a $15 an hour minimum wage, and more – that had become popular with majorities of all voters and super-majorities of Democrats. With the Clinton machine in tatters and Sanders’ supporters presumably eager for another shot at seizing the commanding heights of the Democratic Party, 2020 was looking like a very problematic year for capitalist duopoly politics.

Corporate Democrats were confident – just as they were in 2016  – that they could win the White House by making Trump, himself, effectively the sole issue of the campaign. But first they had to neutralize Bernie and his austerity-busting, super-majority issues, to clear the way for an economic issues-less anti-Trump crusade – the corporate Democratic ideal.  

Everyone in the race 

So they simply threw everything into the game, simultaneously mobbing and co-opting Sanders with the biggest, most multi-colored crowd of Democratic politicians ever assembled for a presidential race – even larger than the horde that Republican moneybags financed in hopes of derailing Donald Trump, four years earlier.

Dollar-drenched corporate hacks like Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris claimed to endorse Sanders’ signature Medicare for All legislation, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, once considered anathema by corporatists, was suddenly a darling of party leaders and media. 

Sanders has gotten lost in the slosh, as intended. 

The corporate strategy was to ensure that the super-majorities of Democrats that support Sanders’ issues were split among the “progressive” pretenders, while Joe Biden soaked up the nervous-Nellie voters that are desperate to beat Trump with someone – anyone – “electable.”

The corporatists’ nightmare scenario – that Sanders would rev up his highly energized and youthful 2016 machine, funded by tens of millions in small-contributions, and smash his way to a first-ballot victory at the convention – seems far less likely. 

Harris attacks 

In their desperation to blunt Bernie, the Lords of Capital gave Kamala Harris permission to ambush Old Man Biden, who personifies Barack Obama’s partially successful Grand Bargain with Republicans, as well as an earlier accommodation with Dixiecrats. 

Harris’ strategy to diffuse the Sanders vote is much like the “close as a man’s belt” battle doctrine employed by the Vietnamese, who would attack the Americans from such close quarters that it was impossible for the U.S. to effectively deploy its awesome artillery and air power without hitting their own troops’ positions.

Harris hung around Sanders belt on Medicare for All, even raising her hand when the corporate debate instigator/moderator asked who among the candidates would abolish private health insurance. (Naturally, she reneged afterwards.) 

As the emerging Great Corporate Black Hope (Booker is clearly hopeless), Harris offers the African American supermajority that supports Medicare for All a Black face (and a woman) to vote for. At the end of the process, Harris will revert to corporate form.

There is only one escape from this fetid and flooded corporate swamp for Sanders. He must very quickly get serious about building a grassroots movement-type politics on the ground that creates issue-based events that cannot be ignored, involving tens of thousands of people, and that disrupts the corporate-managed pace, coverage and content of the primary season. 

In short, Sanders must subvert the corporate process and start acting like he really is leading a “revolution,” as he tells his supporters. Otherwise, he will be effectively marginalized, despite the super-majorities that support his issues and the transparent dishonesty of his mimics.

Don’t get it twisted 

If you think this column is supportive of the Sanders candidacy, then you haven’t been reading BAR all these years. We are socialists and Black liberationists who do commentary and analysis, and have never backed corporate parties or candidates. The Democratic Party serves its ruling class financiers, and is the main agency of their control over Black America, where the Republicans are irrelevant.

As one of the two parties of capitalist governance in the U.S., the Democratic Party will self-destruct before it bucks its corporate bosses. That’s why purported “socialists” like Sanders, or the Democratic Socialists that always wind up supporting Democrats, are delusional if they think they can usurp control of the devil’s machine – or they are trying to fool the rest of us.

However, Bernie Sanders’ nonsocialism isn’t really important at this juncture in history. The ruling class isn’t scared of his socialist pretensions, but will viciously resist New Deal-type reforms that threaten their austerity regime, a global Race to the Bottom that ruthlessly diminishes the living standards and economic security of the masses of people, so that they will accept any job, under any conditions of employment. 

Taking anything offered 

Capitalist austerity is designed to provide working people with no options but to take what the bosses offer. Austerity regimes gut the social safety nets, not to save money, but to impose abject desperation on working people, so that they will accept the “shit jobs” that are now the norm even in the “most-developed” capitalist countries. 

The Lords of Austerity are creating a global precariat, defined as “a condition of existence without predictability or security, affecting material or psychological welfare.”  

The Lords of Capital oppose single-payer health care, not so much in solidarity with their capitalist brethren in the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, but because single-payer erases the connection between employment and health care, eliminating medical precarity and reducing the bosses’ power. 

Thus, capitalists oppose single-payer even though it would dramatically reduce the costs of labor for most businesses. That’s why corporate Democrats resist Sanders’ menu of reforms despite the fact that 80 to 90 percent of Democratic voters support them. 

The same agenda

The ruling class agenda for the future is quite simple: endless war and austerity. Since they have no other vision, and have done fabulously well for themselves over the past 40 years of austerity and war, they tolerate no deviation from the corporate order and will lash out lethally against those that threaten their war-making and austerity-imposing prerogatives. 

It is unthinkable that the rulers would allow one of their governing parties to fall into the hands of austerity busters. Rather, the Lords of Capital would be compelled to destroy such a party – and govern from another platform – rather than surrender the institution to folks that actually want to give the people what they want. 

The people need to see that contradiction played out in the Democratic Party, the duopoly party whose constituencies are actually eager to make substantive demands on the state. (Republican rank-and-file Whites desire only that their government affirm White supremacy.) 

Make Dems steal it 

It would have been a great political lesson if Sanders’ momentum was such that corporate Democrats have to steal the nomination from him in broad daylight, hopefully prompting a mass exit from the party and creation of a new social-democratic formation (or a much bigger Green Party). Or, if somehow Sanders won the nomination, we could all watch the corporate players pick up their marbles to form a new “centrist” party, leaving leftish Democrats encamped in the hollow shell.

As things stand at this early stage in the process, Sanders may simply wind up an also-ran – allowing the corporate spinners to write the obituary on his “farleft” escapades. Or maybe Bernie will catch fire again, and propel us to the next contradiction.


Glen Ford is executive editor of BlackAgendaReport.com. Email him at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

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