Bernie Sanders, the self-described democratic socialist from Vermont is running for the presidential nomination for the Democratic Party to the delight of many on the left.
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Not only are progressives delighted but are putting their money where their mouth is as well:While running for the president and presenting his progressive ideas to the American people is certainly a positive result, several articles in leftist publications suggest that the real function of Sander's run for presidency is to make sure the left stays within the two party system and ultimately supports Hillary Clinton for president. He is, in effect, a socialist sheep dog whose function is to herd left activists and their base into the Democratic corral, Two articles, one in the Black Agenda by Bruce Dixon and the other in Jacobin both argue that Sander's role is to prevent leftists from opting for a third party.Sanders sits as an independent although he votes almost all the time with the Democrats. One might ask why he would run for the Democratic nomination for president rather than running for the president as an independent as others such as Ralph Nader have done. This would give him even more opportunities to present his ideas to large numbers of Americans. Instead of doing that, he is running for the Democratic nomination, a race he has about zero chance of winning. Meanwhile activists time and money is being diverted from other activities to his campaign within the Democratic party. In the summer of 2016 when this all ends no doubt Hillary Clinton will win. Then what will Sanders do? He tells us in an interview with George Stephanopolous on ABC news:Ashley Smith in the Jacobin points out that Sanders could have built up support for an independent left in several ways rather than running for the presidential nomination for the Democrats. He could have run as an independent or alternatively he could have run for governor of Vermont as an independent where he would have an excellent chance of winning over the Democratic incumbent. Sanders is the most popular politician In Vermont. Surprisingly many activists including more than 50 from the Occupy Wall Street movement have formed People for Sanders. Their founding statement says:The statement fails to mention that Sanders has opposed several moderate gun control bills. This may not be too surprising since Vermont has high gun ownership and lax gun laws. He also believes that gun control laws probably do not reduce gun violence and that there is "elitism in the anti-gun movement" However, there is one very pernicious bill Sanders supported:Not only are Sanders and Warren drawing leftists and activists into the Democratic party, Hillary also is joining the left populist chorus talking about issues such as inequality and criminal justice reform. Hillary welcomed Sander's entry into the presidential race saying:
While unlike Rubio, Cruz, and Paul, Sanders may not have fat cat donors, what he does have is an army of grassroots supporters — everyday Americans who are sick of the system, sick of the Koch brothers and want to wrest the country out of the hands of the greedy, Politicus notes.Sanders has his own website where he sets out his policies. Even those relatively far to the left such as the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism applaud Sanders' decision to run and note that Sanders' left-wing populism is as American as apple pie. Sanders is quoted approvingly when he announced he was running for president:
“Ever since I was a kid I never liked to see people without money or connections get put down or pushed around. When I came to Congress I tried to be a voice for people who did not have a voice—the elderly, the children, the sick, and the poor. And that is what I will be doing as a candidate for president.”
STEPHANOPOULOS: So if you lose in this nomination fight, will you support the Democratic nominee?Dixon gives examples of other sheep dogs used to keep the left within the Democratic party, including Jesse Jackson and Dennis Kucinich. No doubt Elizabeth Warren is another example in this campaign. She refuses to run as an independent as many of her supporters want and has declared her support for Hillary Clinton. Dixon maintains that after electoral victory the left bloc that has been shepherded back into the fold often has little influence on policy. He notes that Obama in many areas has simply followed Bush and on medicare refused to even consider the type of universal system common to almost all advanced capitalist countries.SANDERS: Yes. I have in the past.STEPHANOPOULOS: Not going to run as an independent?SANDERS: No, absolutely not. I've been very clear about that.
“We support Bernie Sanders in his bid to become the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. We stand firmly behind Senator Sanders as the strongest progressive possibility in the race right now. His commitment to our values is one of longstanding commitment. Sanders is the bold alternative.”
In 2005, a Republican-dominated Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). This law doesn’t protect gun owners; it protects gun manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and importers. The PLCAA was the No. 1 legislative priority of the National Rifle Association for years, because it shields gun makers and dealers from most liability when their firearms are used criminally. It is one of the most noxious pieces of pro-gun legislation ever passed. And Bernie Sanders voted for it. (Sanders’ campaign has not replied to a request for comment.)Saunders also has stressed Israel's right to defend itself and while critical of Israel's excesses in the Gaza war tends to stress the responsibility of Hamas for what is happening following the Israeli line on the issue as indicated in the video of a rather raucous town hall meeting.
“I agree with Bernie. Focus must be on helping America’s middle class. GOP would hold them back. I welcome him to the race.”The final act is for Sanders is to urge the left to support Hillary or whatever other mainstream candidate is elected to run for the Democrats. As long as there are sheep dogs and establishment candidates mouthing populist rhetoric there is little hope of a third party being developed or any real alternative to a two-party system which ultimately ends up serving mostly big business with perhaps a few more crumbs trickling down to the rest of the populace when the Democrats win.