Thrown Under The Bus Again?

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Anticipated publication at CounterPunch the week of May 1, 2017.

Thrown under the bus again?

Common sense needs to inform those on the left that hitching our collective and individual aspirations to the Democratic Party is like throwing oneself under a proverbial bus and expecting to come out of the catastrophe unscathed. The latter happens with about the same regularity and predictability as trains that ran during Mussolini’s rule.

After witnessing the decades of abandonment of left causes and ideals by the Democratic Party establishment, we need to have learned a lesson. The political duopoly in the U.S. is nothing less than a great and spectacular failure. The party that says it is the champion of both the working class and middle class is full of more hot air than a balloon.

The latest example of the failure of Wall Street interests and the permanent warring class within the Democratic Party is the presidential campaign of 2016. Rigged from the beginning within the Democratic National Committee, the idealism and energy that fueled the Sanders campaign never had a chance. The neoliberals who supported Hillary Clinton would not allow the Sanders campaign to be successful at the polls. And indeed with the forces of neofascism in play, the outcome of a matchup between Sanders and Trump would have been completely unpredictable.

And now we have the unity campaign of the Democrats, with the deputy chair of the DNC, Keith Ellison, and Bernie Sanders working their way across the country at rallies and stops in support of candidates they believe can win elections throughout the country at all levels of government, which is also one of the objectives of Our Revolution, a spinoff of the Sanders campaign.

On one stop of the “Unity Tour,” Senator Sanders rallied for Heath Mello, a candidate for mayor of Omaha, Nebraska. Mello, who as a state senator in Nebraska supported a bill requiring that women be informed that they have a “right” to a fetal ultrasound before having an abortion. At least the favored words of the antichoice right, “unborn child,” weren’t in the bill.

In Nebraska, the politics of the traditional base of the Democratic Party and the party’s leadership clashed like the storms of spring.

Readers would do well to read Ashely Smith’s May 2015 article in the Socialist Worker, “The problem with Bernie Sanders.” The article is prescient and accurately predicts much of what would happen in the presidential campaign of 2016.  Of particular interest is Smith’s cataloging of Sanders’ record on war and peace. This is especially important to consider when the warmongering that has gone unabated since the September 2001 attacks is front and center once again in the Trump administration:

“His foreign policy positions are to the right of many liberal Democrats. Sanders voted in favor of George W. Bush’s original Authorization for Use of Military Force resolution that gave the administration a green light to launch the war on Afghanistan. While he did vote against Bush’s invasion of Iraq, he repeatedly supported funding resolutions for both U.S. occupations. He is also a Zionist who supports Israel consistently, even after its recent escalations of the slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza.”

In fairness to Senator Sanders, when issues were presented to him that diverged from the traditional cant of the Democratic Party establishment, he did, to a degree, incorporate those policy positions in his 2016 presidential campaign. He was the only candidate not to appear at the 2016 American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference (“Bernie’s bold move: Sanders only candidate to skip AIPAC pro-Israel conference, Salon, March 18, 2016). Sanders remains the most popular politician in the U.S. today according to a Harvard-Harris survey (“Bernie Sanders Is the Most Popular Politician in the Country, Poll Says,” Mother Jones, April 2017).

In a Democracy Now interview (“Cornel West & Former Sanders Staffer on Movement to Draft Bernie for a New ‘People’s Party’ in U.S.,” April 25, 2017), Professor Cornel West and former Sanders staffer Nick Brana make an impassioned case for a People’s Party to challenge the duopoly in the 2020 general election. The appeal makes perfect sense except for the fact that the two-party system is hardwired into most people’s mindset and it merits noting that false economic populism and fear mongering carried the election in 2016. Without a multiparty tradition in the U.S., and candidates success, to an extent, dependent on fear and loathing that is underwritten by the two-party system, the ideal of a People’s Party is a very, very distant prospect.

The track record of third-party candidates on the left has not been promising. Candidates like Ralph Nader and Jill Stein faced daunting obstacles in their campaigns, while third-party candidates on the right have done much better.

The daily outrages of the Trump administration continue ad nauseam, and the Democratic Party would like people to believe that Wall Street and individual donors from the 1% are the only source of campaign funding. The Sanders campaign proved that the latter is not necessarily so.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.

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Bernie Sanders: Savior or Seducer of the Anti-War Left?

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Bernie Sanders: Savior or Seducer of the Anti-War Left?

Ashley Smith’s “A Socialist in the Senate? The Unfortunate Truth about Bernie Sanders,” (November 15, 2006) tells the tale of how the political Left gets thrown under the relentless wheels of the military-industrial complex by supporting candidates who do not consistently serve the interests of peace. The decimation of the forces for peace is predictable as they are sacrificed and offered up to the gods of electoral politics. The marginalization in each electoral cycle of the Left is a testament to how relentless the political/economic system is in guaranteeing its outcomes vis-à-vis war and peace.

A few years ago an email communication from Senator Elizabeth Warren, a steadfast supporter of an economic egalitarianism and regulation of the forces that control capital, left me with the same sense of how business as usual about U.S. war making has all but captured and controlled dissident voices. Only those on the fringes (not the fringe of significant and importance) of the political process are left to stand and are effectively marginalized and silenced. In the email the senator expressed her steadfast support of the war on terrorism.

While vigilance is an intelligent policy, the paths leading to the so-called war on terror are littered with counterproductive foreign and military policies. It is impossible to deny, in just one example, that U.S. support of religious fundamentalists in the 1980s in Afghanistan led in a direct line to the attacks of September 2001. As a result, we have witnessed over 13 years of endless wars. Mario Puzo’s admonition to “Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer,” needed to be  recognized in U.S. foreign policy.

Sanders’ socialist beliefs and actions evolved into almost complete support of the Democratic Party after leaving the stage of Vermont politics and entering the national arena. Smith points out that Sanders voted with Democrats more consistently than many other Democrats: Ninety-eight percent of the time at the writing of Smith’s article. Sanders’ support for Democrats soon was reflected in their financing of his campaigns.

And here is where Sanders greatest equivocation has come. In spite of claims of being antiwar, his “hawkish” support of Clinton’s military actions in the 1999 Kosovo War caused one of his advisers to quit. When antiwar activists occupied Sanders’ office in 1999 because of that support of Clinton’s war policies, he had them arrested.

In 2001, Sanders did not support the vote in Congress to oppose the war in Afghanistan. Congresswoman Barbara Lee stood alone! This vote was followed by his support for appropriations to support boththe war in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2003 he supported the resolution that gave support to George W. Bush in both Iraq and in the larger war against terrorism, although Sanders has been a critic of the Iraq War.

Then Sanders supported only a gradual withdrawal from Iraq. When impeachment was on the so-called table against George W. Bush in 2006, he said that impeachment was “impractical.”

Sanders, like his Democratic allies, has supported Israel’s aggressive Middle East policies against Palestinian statehood. He supported HR 282, the Iran Freedom Support Act, which was similar to the resolutions leading to the Iraq War. Indeed, it appears that Sanders is even to the political Right of many liberal Democrats!

An article in the Huffington Post, “President Bernie Sanders Will Save America From Endless Counterinsurgency Wars and Protect Our Nation’s Veterans,” (July 7, 2015) is laudable for its recognition of Sanders’ support of military veterans, but is way off of the mark as far as what Sanders might accomplish against the thoroughly militarized foreign policies of the government. Presidential candidates of the past such as Ralph Nader, Jill Stein, and George McGovern have strongly and bravely criticized the militarized policies of the government and were left in the political dust.

My Facebook pages are loaded with posts on a daily basis lauding Bernie Sanders as the savior of the Left, yet some of his actions in Vermont, and in both the House and Senate, are at odds with the Left/populist image that he attempts to put forward. Whether or not Sanders has a chance of winning the Democratic nomination for president is debatable, but readers ought not to count on him to push back on the militarism and military actions that have become routine under both Democrats and Republicans who occupy the presidency. Even President Eisenhower, who warned of the dangers of the military-industrial complex, went along with the expansion of that juggernaut. And the beat goes on, as does the march of empire and greed, and the wars continue.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.