Another Anti-Bernie Sanders Hit-Piece Considered
Another day, another rant; this time, I came across another anti-Bernie Sanders hit-piece. My response (which ends up here because, though not really a proper article in itself, it ran a bit long)…
Oh, look, another anti-Bernie Sander hit-piece. Just what the world needed. And as with almost every other article of this genre, it’s mostly built on misrepresentations, fictions and horrendous and ill-informed value judgments. Let’s see…
“While claiming politics was very important to him at an early age, he has also admitted to not voting until nearly 40 years old.”
And then you quote Sanders very noticeably NOT admitting to having not voted until nearly 40. “I think probably, I won’t swear to it, that the first time I voted was in the state of Vermont, probably for myself.” Sanders’ first political campaign was for governor of Vermont; he launched it in 1971 when he was 30. In a five-year period, he ran four campaigns, twice for governor, twice for the senate, and even at the end of all that, still five years away from 40.
You offer a lot of tendentious talk about participation in electoral politics. “Even protesting has its limits in creating social change if the protesters are unwilling to back up their beliefs at the polls.” Radicals typically aren’t given a hell of a lot of options at the polls, which a big part of why so many left activists are indifferent to electoral politics — there’s rarely anyone for whom to vote, the system is complete bullshit and they don’t feel like putting a stamp of approval on something they abhor. Sanders seems to have ultimately concluded that if the system isn’t producing what you want, do it yourself. He’s been doing the same for 46 years now.
“Only a wide-eyed idealist could say these things and not think they conflict with one another. If you believe elections are important because one gave rise to Hitler and therefore the Holocaust, why don’t you believe in them enough to vote in your own state’s or country’s until you’re the one on the ballot?”
Oh, I don’t know, maybe it has something to do with the fact that in those years in which he didn’t vote, Hitler was never on the ballot? Ya’ think?
“Perhaps that’s why in approximately 25 years in the House and Senate, Sanders doesn’t have a ton he can point to as an example of change he has championed and seen accomplished.”
Sanders has always caucused with the Democrats but he’s an independent; he doesn’t have a party organization with 40 allies instantly behind him on a word. Despite these limitations, his legislative record is actually pretty impressive.
What kind of experience does Bernie Sanders have? Let's take a look. "I'm a progressive, but I'm a progressive who…www.alternet.org
Bernie Sanders is a progressive who likes to get things done and his record of legislative accomplishments in the House…pplswar.wordpress.com
But to know that, you’d actually have to look into it instead of simply assessing his entire career via a pair of quotes from people who were supporting his political opponent at the time they offered the remarks in question (Barney Frank was particularly virulent in his hatred of the entire Sanders campaign).
“However, he conveniently leaves out votes against the Brady Bill, which mandated a waiting period when purchasing a firearm, and in favor of the now-infamous Clinton Crime Bill of 1994, among others.
“He was all too happy, however, to attack Hillary Clinton on such past issues while ignoring his own. This is the impulse of Bernie Sanders: everyone must past the purity test.
“Except Bernie Sanders, of course.”
Sanders never attacked Clinton on the Brady Bill (she attacked him on that one) or the 1994 crime bill. Sanders’ vote for the latter is probably the blackest mark on his legislative record. He voted for it because he strongly supported the Violence Against Women Act, which was attached to it, but that was a compromise he never should have made. He’d spent years denouncing the provisions of that crime bill and pretty much every bad thing he said about it ultimately came to pass. He was right on it but he cast the wrong vote. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, wasn’t just an enthusiastic backer of the crime bill, she spent years parroting the same awful right-wing “tough on crime” demagoguery that had generated it. She was singing the same tune right through the 2008 election, attacking Obama as soft on crime. Sanders never criticized her support for it. He did correctly note that the “superpredator” comment Clinton deployed at the time was a term loaded with racist connotations.
Your version of the “purity test” attack on Sanders is that he 1) has a purity test and 2) exempts himself from it, which is, of course, a self-annihilating contradiction. One can be true or neither can be true but both can’t be true. After invoking the dread “Purity Test” words against Sanders, you immediately deploy one against him, offering a long section devoted to questioning Sanders’ credentials as a Democrat. You lead with a false claim:
“After years of presenting himself as a maverick totally independent of the two parties — to the point of even refusing to caucus with Democrats while he was in the House because they couldn’t pass his purity test”
Upon his election to the House, Sanders, in fact, lobbied for inclusion in the Democratic Caucus. This was repeatedly refused over the years — he didn’t meet their purity test. He’s always caucused with the Democrats though, and been treated as de facto family, getting committee assignments and support from the party in his reelection efforts. He and four other Demos founded the Progressive Caucus as sort of an off-shoot/collaborator with the Black Caucus. He’s endorsed all of the Democratic presidential candidates. Later, you trash Sanders for some changing statements on whether he’ll continue to call himself a Democrat or an independent, something, like the rest of this topic, is, for non-purists, of absolutely no consequence (40% of Democratic voters presently call themselves “independents,” just under 60% call themselves “Democrats”), and if it ever occurs to you that perhaps Sanders had second thoughts about this as the primaries went along in response to the very shabby treatment afforded him by the DNC — the suggestions by Sanders’ supporters of a rigged primary were, in fact, true — you remain silent on the matter.
“The debates with Clinton, civil at first, got nasty and more personal the longer the primary went. The more states Sanders won, the more savage he became.
“Sanders attacked Clinton for her past voting record, though it largely holds up to his own. He even at one point called the former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State unqualified for the presidency. Then he began to claim the DNC had rigged the election against him.”
That’s a creative reimagining of the 2016 primary season. In the real world, of course, Sanders ran an issue campaign, describing Clinton from the outset as a friendly acquaintance and refusing to personally attack her, though she never hesitated to slanderously attack him at every opportunity. He held to this throughout the campaign, to his own significant disadvantage (and to the consternation of some of his supporters). After Sanders flattened Clinton in Wisconsin, Clinton launched a new campaign, the assertion that Sanders was unqualified to be president. When Sanders responded, he used this attack “as a rhetorical device to criticize her policy record.” Robin Andersen, writing for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, provides a timeline of these events and describes the pathetic spectacle that followed, as Clinton campaign operatives exploded with mock self-righteous outage and got the entire national press corps to claim that Sanders had finally gone negative and had called her unqualified.
Having learned that you’ve been so grossly misled by the Clintonites — basically turned into a useful idiot a year after you could be of any real use to Clinton herself — I’m sure you’re just as offended by Clinton’s tactics as everyone else of good conscience. Right?
“We all know how the story of the primary ended: Clinton wound up building an insurmountable lead that included a raw vote advantage of approximately 4 million and more delegates than Sanders could have hoped to gain with the few states remaining.”
There is no meaningful popular vote count in a primary/caucus process. What’s presented as the “popular vote” and that you’re referencing (repeating a false Clintonite claim, actually) was 3.7 million but that was the total after all contests had finished, not, as you presented it, as they were ongoing, and that number excludes and/or severely shortchanges numerous massive Sanders wins (I just covered all of this in a pretty long article of my own). Clinton only ever had an “insurmountable lead” because of the superdelegates, which, being a good Democrat, I’m sure you’ll agree are an anti-democratic abomination that shouldn’t have existed anyway. And you’re bashing Sanders for declining to drop out while there were still states in play and beyond the point it was statistically likely he could win, exactly the same thing Clinton did in 2008. Maybe you thought poorly of Clinton for this then too--if you're going to employ false Clintonite claims to attack Sanders, maybe you should say so.
"Since Trump’s inauguration in January, Sanders has consistently attacked Democrats and undercut them from the inside. Even knowing the Democrats face an uphill battle in fighting anything Trump and a GOP-controlled congress wants to do, Sanders can’t seem to quit stroking his own ego."
The usual Clintonite slander; it's all about Sanders' "ego" and not any sort of legitimate disagreement.
In reality, Sanders is probably the least egotistical politician in government. Here’s what Sanders has actually been doing since the new congress came into session. He and Sen. Amy Klobuchar put together an amendment that would have resulted in the Senate taking up the question of legally allowing importation of much cheaper prescription drugs from abroad. Sanders managed to convince 13 Republicans to support the amendment, and if you’ve paid any more than minimal attention to how things work in congress, you’ll already understand how utterly extraordinary that is. But then Sen. Cory Booker (“D”-NJ) led a dozen other Democrats to vote against the measure, sending it down in flames. Booker and his dirty dozen are financed by Big Pharma. Seems a pretty good example of the sort of bribery-and-donor-service system Sanders has condemned for decades, eh? More to the point, these Democrats, not Sanders, were the ones undercutting most of their colleagues. Sanders has teamed with Sherrod Brown and Al Franken to introduce legislation to, among other things, allow drug importation, prevent Big Pharma from monopolizing the results of publicly-financed research, cut the government-granted monopoly period and allow generics to come to market sooner and allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices — basically everything Big Pharma opposes. He’s introduced his newest free college tuition plan. He’s introduced a bill raising the minimum wage to $15/hour. He’s teamed with Jeff Merkley and Edward Markey to introduce legislation to “to build a 100 percent renewable energy economy by 2050.” And he’s working on introducing a new iteration on Medicare-for-all healthcare. While Clintonites sit on their asses writing poisonous articles calling Sanders things like a “saboteur from the inside.” he’s been working his ass off on behalf of progressive legislation.
You assert that the DNC “has done everything they can think of to appease [Sanders] and his supporters” and use as your example new DNC chief Tom Perez magnanimously supporting the creation of a new position at the DNC for Keith Ellison, Sanders’ choice to lead that org, after defeating Ellison for the top slot. In reality, the party bigwigs, upon realizing that a Sanders-backed liberal was about to become head of the DNC, recruited Tom Perez late in the game for no other reason than to take out Ellison. They dumped a bunch of anti-Ellison oppo research in the press to sabotage Ellison’s campaign. Perez had no real platform; the Democrats made him the chairman at the same meeting at which, over the Sandersites’ fierce objections, they declined to reinstate Barack Obama’s ban on the DNC taking money from lobbyists and PACs. More dirty money in which to wallow. Presenting this as an example of the DNC trying to appease Sanders and his supporters requires ignoring pretty much everything that happened.
You turn to the special election in Kansas, where Berniecrat James Thompson, running in an overwhelmingly red district, still managed to come within a few points of his Republican opponent:
“Sanders did not support Thompson in person, vocally, or in writing. He ignored the campaign almost completely, yet saw fit to lecture Democrats on doing the exact same thing he did.”
From the very Politico article to which you linked (but apparently didn’t read): “Democrat James Thompson, a veteran and civil rights attorney who Sanders endorsed…” The Wichita Eagle: “Sanders, who came to national prominence last year with a surprisingly strong grassroots campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, had endorsed Thompson.” The Associated Press: “Sanders did endorse and campaign for 46-year-old Democrat James Thompson, a civil rights lawyer, ahead of his closer-than-expected, losing effort in a special U.S. House election in Kansas last week.” Sanders came to Kansas at the end of February, the only national figure to do so. The Berniecrat Our Revolution endorsed Thompson and provided modest support, only $900 (or that’s all that’s been reported so far). The comparable figure from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, whose dedicated job is to support Democratic candidates, is $0.
“Speaking of which, Sanders also remained conspicuously silent regarding Jon Ossoff and his campaign to take Georgia’s 6th District, vacated by current HHS Secretary Tom Price.”
Ossoff had the support of the entire Democratic Establishment, which wasted enough money on him to have won a Senate seat, for no other purpose than to be able to go on television if he won and say “the Trump agenda is being rejected!” It was a bullshit show-election. Your conclusion that Sanders’ failure to comment on that race illustrates “his unwillingness to simply help the Democrats in resisting the Trump agenda” is ludicrous.
“Sanders decided it would be a great idea to come out and attack the entire foundation of the party… Again, the sentiment isn’t necessarily wrong. However, in a time when Democrats are doing all they can to resist a budding facist, it appears as though the effort to resist Trump really only counts if it’s his idea.”
Sanders said the Democrats’ model is failing. The fact that Republicans now control 32 state legislatures, 33 governorships, the presidency, both houses of congress and the Supreme Court speaks for itself. Just as “clearly,” argued Sanders, “the Democratic Party has got to change.” There isn’t even any conceivable argument against that, so you just try to present his case in favor of strengthening the party as one that undermines it, his argument that it must be a grassroots party as “an attack on the entire foundation of the party.” The grassroots are the foundation of the party. You’re clearly sympathetic to Sanders’ views but you’re tying yourself in knots for no other reason than to try to come up with some excuse to attack him, while, again, he’s the guy pushing for every issue every progressive holds dear.
“Even if that idea means supporting a candidate who opposes abortion, despite the Democratic party’s official stance to the contrary.
“Again, that’s the purity politics of Bernie Sanders.”
That’s the “purity test” analysis of his nuttier critics — he stands perpetually condemned for both allegedly having a purity test then, in that case, for allegedly not having a stringent enough one. You can’t have it both ways. Heath Mello, the candidate in question, has an anti-abortion past but appears to be otherwise progressive. He’s sworn he won’t legally interfere with abortion rights. Take that for what it’s worth but he’s running for mayor, which means he won’t be in any position to affect them anyway. His Republican opponent, on the other hand, is a conservative and strictly anti-abortion. One of them will be mayor.
Of what Sanders is preaching, you conclude, “The message itself is great, but the delivery is horrendous. Attacking the only party attempting to fight for the middle class, the environment, health care, and many of Sanders’ other pet projects defies reason.” To note what should be obvious, no party can do that if it’s out of power and at present, the Democratic party is, in that regard, at one of the lowest points in its history — prostrate, decimated and entirely incapable of offering any resistance to Trump. Unless Trump suddenly decides to start talking to Democrats, Republicans will, for at least the next two years, decide the fate of the American government without any Democratic input at all. Sanders, the most popular pol in the U.S., is making the case for rebuilding the party. He’s already shown the way with his small-donor-financed presidential campaign. As I’ve already covered, he’s been working with other Democrats in the Senate to advance a progressive agenda, one on which that born-again party could be built. Those in the bribery-and-donor-service “neoliberal” Clintonite wing of it, who have brought it to such ruin, made sure to keep themselves in their cushy jobs in its leadership. The things that set them apart from actual liberals/progressives are incredibly destructive policies that have no popular support within the party. They’re going to have to go. And in a sense, they already are. The young are with Sanders. They’re the future.
It isn’t as simple as that, of course. The Clintonites have massive backing from Big Money interests — they can put up a hell of a fight and will. Someone’s going to win though. “This fight is simple,” you incorrectly write, “Democrats are attempting to do the right thing for the country.” Some are. They’re Sanders’ supporters and the people working with them — the progressives. They’re not undermining the party; they’re rebuilding it. If, on the other hand, you’re a Democrat and you’re sitting around writing utterly pointless slanders aimed at undermining them, you’re part of the problem and certainly have no claim on any concern for doing “the right thing for the country.”
— j. (who doesn’t even believe liberal democracy is “the right thing for the country” but can see this)