Open Letter to the “Sandernistas”: Bernie Caves Again 2020

History Repeats Itself, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

I wrote this article almost four years ago right after the Democratic primaries in 2016. I am reposting it because it demonstrates how, while history changes, the machinations of the Democratic Party are the same, or in this case, worse. What is not relevant in this article is that there are no gender identity politics as there were with Hillary. What is new about Bernie dropping out today is that:

  1. Bernie has conceded four months before the Democratic convention;
  2. Capitalism has gotten worse in the U.S. because of a combination of the trade wars with China, more bad debt pile-ups and now the coronavirus.
  3. In spite of these worsening conditions the Democratic Party has chosen a far weaker candidate than Hillary to run – Joe Biden.

These conditions must make it even more exasperating for the Sandernistas when Bernie does not step up to the plate and disappoints his followers by again caving into the DNC.

Read below what I wrote in June, 2016

*****

Even more power to ya, Sandernistas!

As someone who has been a radical socialist for 45 years, I can’t tell you how happy I am to see so many people under 30 in my college classes and on the streets who declare themselves socialists.

Secondly, I respect how critical your presence has been during this political campaign by showing up at Trump rallies, despite being in the vast minority: arguing, screaming and in some cases fighting with his supporters.

Thirdly, I respect you for fighting at the Democratic primaries in Nevada, causing a ruckus. I am delighted you saw through the mass media’s attempt to keep you away from the polls on the day of the California primary and came out to vote anyway. I admire your willingness to stand in lines and vote and deal with both real official incompetence and planned “irregularities” in vote counting, voting machines that don’t work, as well as many obstacles put in your path. About a month ago I read a political report from the United Nations comparing democratic processes across nations. It stated that the US voting process was ranked 29th in the world in democratic processes. Not so hot for a declining empire that fancies itself the home of democracy. By world democratic standards, future elections in the US should be monitored by representatives of countries that have proven themselves to be ranked in the top ten.

Lastly I am so proud of you for co-creating a political revolution. I have rarely voted in my life because electoral politics is part of a capitalist machine. The two or three times I have voted I’ve been embarrassed about it. During most election cycles I cannot wait for them to end because the air waves are filled with professional windbags, embalmed, hair-dyed, Botox-injected, toupee-wearing mummies and stuffed pheasants jingling with the trappings of Divine Honors. But these last six months have been more exciting for me because of all the rotten centrist candidates: the nobles, the barons, the dukes, the earls and the duchesses have had their royal ball ruined by you and by the Trumpsters. You may not like the Trumpsters and you might not like their motives, but because of their rallies they have driven even worse plutocrats to the margins.  Jeb Bush, fancying himself as being installed as Bush III to the presidency, must have been quite insulted when the Trumpsters blew him, Ted Cruz and the rest of the Republican lizards to the political periphery.

But now you are at a crossroads. After six months of a political revolution the Democratic power elite has heaved its harried, painted, disheveled, roughed-up Queen in a buckboard to the top of a small mountain with its media mafioso, lobbyists, police and military escorts declaring herself to be Queen. Now comes the heavy-duty propaganda.

Here comes Hyper-Identity Politics

– Identity politics softball

The Democratic plutocrats are not worried about winning over the upper middle class women who will take any woman who had been crowned and claim her as a feminist. My partner was invited to appear on a panel today on a supposedly “radical” radio station titled “Feminism is Not a Dirty Word”. On this station they had a rabid supporter of Hillary Clinton and I thought we would share the words from her website. This is only the beginning of what you’re going to be listening to for the next 5 months:

I guess you could call me a sentimental sap. My eyes welled as I sat riveted by the television image of Hillary Clinton claiming the Democratic presidential nomination on Tuesday night as the primary contests results rolled in—the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major party in the United States of America. OK, so maybe even a sob happened.

Call me a sentimental sap, but forgive my tears. A woman has just won the presidential nomination of one of our two major political parties. An accomplished woman. A woman who can throw a rhetorical punch. A woman who’s made tough choices. And for the sake of all of the women who come after her, that’s a righteously good thing. We’ve been waiting a long time.

— Adele M. Stan, The American Prospect

This is a warmed over version of what was trotted out as a victory for African Americans in 2004 when Obama was elected. Obama went on to be the most intelligent sounding Republican in many year – a surveillance-crazed, drone-flying, protectionist, war-mongering monster. But he did it with more grace, charm and optimism than any of the usual bible thumping conservatives. And – after all – he is good at basketball.

Let’s face our nightmares. Hillary on stage being crowned and kissed by the first African American president and the First African American Lady, Michelle Obama. Together they stand waving to adoring crowds. We get to watch racial identity politics standing together with gender identity politics. The fact that both have been selected by the one percent in the Council of Foreign Relations doesn’t matter. Class dismissed. The audience goes wild, tears in their eyes. Diversity wins again. We don’t need the Trumpsters to tell us “Make America Great Again”. We have it right here in our beloved Democratic Party. Except the gender and identify political elites do it in a civilized way. They don’t threaten to build walls and kick ass.

What does Bernie Do?

But the worst is yet to come. Bernie Sanders, your hero, is trotted onto the stage. Obama, Michelle and even Hillary embrace him politely. All praise his fire, his bringing “important issues to the table”. They thank him for attracting so many young people like y’all to the Democratic Party. Then it is Bernie’s turn. What will he say? He will thank everyone, and especially you. You fought the good fight. But now it is time to fold up your little tents and join the bigger tent of Hillary and fight against the evil Trump. Some of you will buy this propaganda and believe that the Democratic Party can “find its soul” and be reborn with a born-again Bernie along with all your youthful energy. Many of you will be intimated by hardball identity politics, which I’ll discuss shortly, and give in. If you think this might be the case for you, you can stop reading.

– Identity politics hardball

This is also a delicate political moment since most of you are white, you are in the audiences everywhere and on the stage will be the kings and queens of identity politics: rich, trim, well-spoken and in control of the microphone with the mass media at its beck and call.  As white, male Sandernistas you will be hammered with insinuations that you are a sexist for not voting for Hillary and a racist for not listening to the wise African American heads of state who are much older and smarter than you. White Sandernista women will be told they have betrayed feminism by not supporting Hillary. Black men for Bernie will be chastised for not listening to Obama and other black leaders who have made their nests in the middle rungs of the Democratic Party. For black women it will be insinuated that you don’t know enough not to have the nerve to hesitate, or even turn your back and walk away when such a well-spoken, fit African American lady like Michelle invites you into the Democratic tent. For those of you who are Mexican immigrants you will be ordered to get into Hillary’s tent quickly, because she is the only one standing between you, Trump, the howling Trumpsters and the wall.

Dire straits for radical Sandernistas

For those of you who will not come into Hillary’s tent, you will be in great pain. Bernie is telling you, “you have lost fair and square and you should shake hands and be friends with the illustrious Democratic notables, especially Barbara Boxer, who graciously gave you the finger in Nevada.” And since you are so good at waiting in line at polling booths, if you get into a neat line and be quiet, the great feminist leader Gloria Steinem might sign autographs for you. Many of you will feel angry and betrayed and not know where to turn. You are at a crossroads.

The red (and black) flag is still flying

Since the heyday of the 1960’s, before most of you were born, the real socialist left in the United States has been torn apart by factions. Social Democrats, various types of Marxist Leninists, council communists and anarchists have fought bitterly against each other before, during and after revolutions, in some cases for over 150 years, over the kind of socialism we wanted to bring to the world.  All these groups have also been infiltrated and almost destroyed by the Secret Service.  Since the 1970’s, many of us hung on, isolated, dispirited, and in some cases broken. Some got religion, some became New Age junkies, some were reduced to paranoid conspiracy addicts and others simply gave up. Many of us, however, have never given up. We have hung on as writers, artists, and theatre producers. Others joined unions and stayed in them, continuing to believe that the unions were still the best breeding grounds for socialism. Some, like me, have worked as college teachers, smuggling in socialist ideas under the radar of official course syllabi, and sometimes in private conversations or even open discussions.

Almost five years ago the anarchist inspired Occupy movement gave hope to many of us. At its high point in 2011 the Occupy movement blockaded downtown public space in 150 cities and shut down some of the busiest ports on the West Coast. This, combined with the economic crash of 2008, made things suddenly uncomfortable for the increasingly maniacally, speculating and very nervous capitalist class.

Many of us were amazed to discover, thanks to the catalyst of Bernie Sanders, that more than half of the people your age have declared themselves interested in socialism. But Bernie has taken you as far as he wants to go. You can either find your way yourselves or you can join us.

Many of us have been around long enough politically to understand how the Democratic Party works and have anticipated how they want to use you and trick you into following them. At the Democratic National Convention, the Democratic Party will show its true capitalist colors. We have other hopes and plans for you. We also know that you represent the possibility of a real socialist movement, which can only happen outside the Democratic Party. As socialists we haven’t seen this opportunity in the United States in 45 years. We are going to insist you deal with us.

In June and July of this year there will be socialist conferences. There is one happening at the same time as the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. The day will be a traumatic ride for you: demonstrating in the streets, fighting on the floor of the Democratic Convention and then losing. Yet alongside this bitter disappointment, we long-term socialists are hoping to win you over. We are not easy to get along with. Many of us are angry just from the wear-and-tear of putting up with a declining capitalist system for 45 years. Others do not have good social skills. In fact, I can say I’ve never met so many unsociable socialists as exist in this country. Yet some of us have a great deal of organizational skills. We think strategically and tactically. We are largely self-educated, sometimes fanatical, but we have a great deal of heart, though many are too crabby to show it. We have a great deal of persistence and don’t give up easily. Like you, many of us will come to this convention, paying for it with money out of our own pockets because we have hope that together we can form a national political movement

If you join with us, expect the meetings to be chaotic, slow moving, accusatory and long. Social Democrats, Leninists, council communists and anarchists are like brothers and sisters in a family. We have so much in common but the differences are real and bitter. As your parents, you will see we are not afraid to fight in front of you. Be patient. We are trying. Come make history with us in the next six months. Not the history of queens. But real history, socialist history, 21st century socialism. We are waiting for you.

Bruce Lerro has taught for 25 years as an adjunct college professor of psychology at Golden Gate University, Dominican University and Diablo Valley College in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has applied a Vygotskian socio-historical perspective to his three books found on Amazon. Read other articles by Bruce, or visit Bruce's website.