Gaius Publius: What Sanders Can Accomplish by Not Acting

By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. This piece first appeared at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.

“The game is rigged.” Doesn’t sound much like a “market” to me. And “capitalism” isn’t the word you’re looking for either.

by Gaius Publius

(This is part one of several pieces on what Bernie Sanders can accomplish if elected president. At the end I offer an example of a Sanders-like “What I will never do” speech. Scroll down or click the link to go directly to the speech.)

I recently wrote about British politician Tony Benn’s speech, a “ten-minute history of neoliberalism.” Near the beginning Benn says, “This country and the world have been run by rich and powerful men from the beginning of time.” If the “beginning of time” means the start of humanity’s post-Stone Age history, that’s a period more than 5,000 years long. A brief window opened in the mid-1800s, with the beginning of trade unionism and, in the U.S., the New Deal, when “rich and powerful men” were no longer as in charge as they have always been. That brief window, the blink of an eye compared to the rest of human history, is now closing.

Then we looked at a recent Noam Chomsky interview and noted as he does that the “economic system” being evolved in that closing window, what I’ve called “modern capitalism” — “capitalism” as practiced today — isn’t capitalism at all, but merely theft, the adult equivalent of bullies taking lunch money, or the Roman ruling class enslaving most of Europe to work the land, which only the ruling class owns.

Nor is “modern capitalism” a market in any sense that matters. Is a monopoly on all essential products a market? Only in the most reduced sense; only in the sense that “0” is a number. Only in the sense that one person, living alone, is a family. Only in the sense that a man in a meadow talking to silent birds is a conversation.

In other words, that closing window brings us back to Tony Benn’s original description, a world “run by rich and powerful men.” Period. Those pieces are here and here, and they set up the following.

Can Sanders Reopen that Closing Window?

In his speech, Tony Benn said not to despair:

It’s very important to keep optimism. … Progress has always been made by two flames burning in the human heart. The flame of anger at injustice. And the flame of hope you can build a better world.

In his own piece, though, Noam Chomsky is less optimistic, at least when it comes to the “Bernie Sanders” electoral solution (my emphasis in italics):

[Q] Let’s imagine for example that Bernie Sanders won the 2016 presidential elections. What do you think would happen? Could he bring radical change in the structures of power of the capitalist system?

[Chomsky] Suppose that Sanders won, which is pretty unlikely in a system of bought elections. He would be alone: he doesn’t have congressional representatives, he doesn’t have governors, he doesn’t have support in the bureaucracy, he doesn’t have state legislators; and standing alone in this system, he couldn’t do very much. A real political alternative would be across the board, not just a figure in the White House.

It would have to be a broad political movement. In fact, the Sanders campaign I think is valuable — it’s opening up issues, it’s maybe pressing the mainstream Democrats a little bit in a progressive direction, and it is mobilizing a lot of popular forces, and the most positive outcome would be if they remain after the election.

It’s a serious mistake to just to be geared to the quadrennial electoral extravaganza and then go home. That’s not the way changes take place. The mobilization could lead to a continuing popular organization which could maybe have an effect in the long run.

While I agree that a broad movement is needed and helpful, I disagree with Chomsky on these three points:

  • The electoral majority that puts Sanders in the White House, if it does, would represent a mobilizing of popular forces.
  • If Sanders carries through (unlike Barack Obama in 2009) on the opportunity he would have, his election would represent much more than a “quadrennial electoral extravaganza.” He could, in fact, lead the ongoing political revolution he says he wants.
  • Bernie Sanders could accomplish an enormous amount without Congress. He wouldn’t be acting alone; he’d have control of the whole of the Executive Branch — or most of it (more on that last later).

Let’s look at what Sanders could accomplish without Congress. I want to divide these accomplishments into two groups — “What I will never do” and “What I will absolutely do, starting day one.” This piece is about the first list, some of the “actions” you will never see from a successful Bernie Sanders. I’ll offer the second list, “I’ll do this on day one” actions, another time.

A “What I Will Never Do” Presidential Speech

Consider how much time and energy was drained from the progressive community in fighting against Barack Obama’s wrong-headed neo-liberal initiatives. Think of the enormous effort to stop Fast Track (which failed). The long effort to stop the Keystone Pipeline (which may succeed, but with a huge expenditure of energy). The effort to constantly, year after year after year, block cuts to Social Security and Medicare (which have so far succeeded, but the fight is far from over).

And on and on, going all the way back to the beginning, 2009, when the progressive community (and progressives in Congress) got stiffed by the Affordable Care Act and its lack of a public option, which our community fought and fought to retain (a fight that failed).

In fact, the progressive community has been in constant battle with “our” Executive Branch on what I’ve called Obama’s four big “legacy” items, his want-list:

  1. Health care “reform” — a privatized alternative to Medicare expansion
  2. A “grand bargain” in which social insurance benefits are rolled back
  3. Plentiful oil & gas (burnable carbon), and passage of the Keystone Pipeline
  4. Passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement

Obama has been very good on many things, including peace with Iran, but not on these. Thousands of capable progressives have used hundreds of thousands of uphill hours resisting Obama’s constant attempts to roll neo-liberal boulders down the hill at them.

What could be done if we could have those hours back, hours we could use in a different way, use on proactive goals, instead of constantly playing defense against “our” president? This is not a trivial problem. Under a real progressive president — a President Sanders who kept his word, for example — you would never have to fight those things. Would that please you? Would it feel like a gift to be handed that freed-up time? Would if feel like a Sanders accomplishment if he gave it to you?

Here’s the first part of my imagined, Sanders-like “what I will accomplish” speech. It’s entitled “What I Will Never Do.” Keep in mind, this is me and my imagined progressive talking. But also keep in mind how relieved you would feel to hear these words from someone who meant them.

If you elect me president, here’s what I will never do

    ▪ You can count on me never to push a plan to cut Social Security and Medicare. Not one person outside of government will have to spend one minute trying to prevent me from privatizing — or cutting in any way — these vital programs. Not one minute. And if Congress proposes these cuts and it reaches my desk, you won’t have to spend one minute asking me to veto that proposal. It’s vetoed the minute it arrives.

    ▪ I will never negotiate a so-called “trade” deal that sends American jobs across our borders. No one will have to spend one minute asking me to stop a deal that hurts American workers. I will support only trade deals that increase American jobs, that create new workers in this country, that increase our balance of payments, and nothing less.

    ▪ No one will have to spend one minute stopping me from granting coal, oil and gas leases on lands or in waters controlled by the Department of the Interior. Not one minute. Drilling in the Arctic? You won’t even have to ask. The answer is already No. New coal leases? Not one. Dangerous and deadly-to-the-climate offshore drilling leases? Those days are over.

    Soon I will tell you what I will do to aggressively bring down carbon emissions. But if I don’t start here, with what I won’t do, how will you know I’m serious?

    ▪ You will never see me even contemplate extending tax breaks for the very rich, as we saw all too often in our recent past — for example, during the negotiations to extend the Bush tax cuts, or negotiations at the end of the last fiscal year. Any such deal that reaches my desk will go straight back to Congress for renegotiation.

    If Congress wants a bill, they can give me one I can sign. If they want to shut down the government over tax breaks for the very very wealthy, they will shut it down, and I will explain it that way to the American people. If they want me to sign a bill, any bill, they need to understand — tax breaks for the rich can never be a part of it.

In other words, you’ll never have to lobby me to not do what I said I would never do. You can spend your precious time, your precious energy, in other ways. There are many things I will do as well. Some I will do alone, using the power of the Executive Branch. And some I will ask your help to do because we need help from others. But the things I listed above, and many more besides, will never be contemplated.

I hope you agree that sparing you the constant effort to stop these wrong acts is indeed an accomplishment, and one you’ll be glad, even eager, to have. It’s one I’ll certainly be glad and eager to give you.

Thank you.

Yes, there’s much a president like Sanders, if he really carries through, can refuse to do, acting completely alone. This list shows just a few of the “wrong acts” you would be spared from resisting. I’m sure you can add others of your own. Soon I’ll list some of what a president like Sanders can proactively do, deeds that can be done, even acting totally alone.

Stay tuned. Supporting a president like Sanders is by no means a waste of your time. (If you like, you can help Sanders here; adjust the split any way you wish at the link.)

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  1. jgordon

    I have been listening to the history of Rome podcast, and it should be said here: The Roman empire had a whole laundry list of “intractable” political issues that were eerily similar to the ones the American empire is facing today. “Intractable” is in scare quotes because none of Rome’s troubles were intractable at all in fact. Eventually they all went away. America’s troubles will be solved in a similar fashion.

    Bernie Sanders so far hasn’t shown any inclination that he’s willing to talk about or do things that will salvage some semblance of civilization for North Americans in the years to come, so I don’t view him as a whole lot different from Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Although in contrast to those other candidates he does not give off the impression of being demented or a lying criminal. So in that respect I suppose he’s worth some tepid support.

    Incidentally even though it’s against NC rules I have offered my wholehearted support to the candidate Deez Nuts. If NC is changing its stance to allow pro candidate pieces airtime henceforth, then perhaps I won’t have to feel so much shame when sharing my enthusiasm for Deez Nuts in the future.

    1. Scott Garren

      You say Sanders has not talked about things necessary to salvage North American civilization. That’s very vague. What sort of things do you have in mind?

      1. jgordon

        A good start would be admitting the unsustainability of industrialism. Another would be to admit that everyone’s living standards will be going down from here on out no matter how equitable the wealth of our society is distributed–due to resource depletion, ecological collapse, pollution, etc. These are realities that must be acknowledged and grappled with in order for our society to survive in any form in the future. The alternative, which we are heading for full-bore, is to have a continent of disconnected isolated communities, only a few of which will manage to survive with some remnant quality of life benefits from the age of industrialism that humanity briefly enjoyed/was cursed with .

        1. anon de plume

          “Another would be to admit that everyone’s living standards will be going down from here on out no matter how equitable the wealth of our society is distributed–due to resource depletion, ecological collapse, pollution, etc. “ jgorden

          Oh dear, Jimmy Carter II. Knit us all a sweater, will you? You know that such pessisim led to the election of Ronald Reagan? Do you have any kind of science background to make such a sweeping statement?

          1) Given enough energy, matter is infinitely recyclable. That’s just a fact, Jack.

          2) The energy problem is close to a solution via fusion or at least fission reactors till we have fusion reactors. Or if you prefer solar energy, progress is being made there too wrt economic feasibility.

          3) With nanotechnology and meta-materials, we are learning to do more and more with less raw material and energy.

          4) Photosynthesis itself can be greatly improved via genetic engineering.

          5) etc, etc, etc.

          So how about holding off on living standards must decline? I’m sure the planet can stand all of us having a decent home and garden, for example. But you’ll win no supporters by telling people in the 3rd world that a mud hut must suffice them.

          And besides, the banks managed to create World War II when untapped resources were far more abundant than they are now.

          1. Ignacio

            1) Improve energy efficiency: there is ample room to improve energy efficiency at all levels (home, company, city, country, world).

            This of course would also facilitate a transition to non-fossil energy sources.

            1. anon de plume

              Yes, though there are limits to efficiency (100%, if I recall my thermo course correctly) and much low hanging fruit has already been picked in that regard.

          2. jgordon

            If you analyze everything you’ve written closely, you’ll realize that everything there has a very large component of faith–faith in the secular religion of endless progress and science. “Well they’re working on it. They’ll find something.”

            The second unspoken component of your thoughts is a pervasive unfamiliarity with the technologies you propose as solutions to our problems, and the extremely difficult–and not at all likely they’ll be solved–technical problem that have to be overcome before they’ll be useful to society on a wide scale.

            Not that your thinking is unusual at all; I used to think exactly the some sorts of thoughts, so I’m very familiar with it. However, it’s an expression of the religious fabric/myths that make up our society. It should acknowledge that these are ideas that are based on wishful thinking and faith, not reality. In reality, there is no God who guarantees unremitting progress or that our civilization, or humanity itself, will even continue to exist past the next few years. Life is tragic–if we do screw up and do stupid stuff–even if our religious beliefs tell us that such a thing isn’t possible–there could very well be permanent and existential consequences.

          3. tejanojim

            jogordon is probably right though. See John Michael Greer or Richard Heinberg. Fusion isn’t riding to the rescue anytime soon, fission is still expensive and has serious risks. And neither of them provides liquid fuels. Energy sources are mostly not fungible. Living standards and population are highly likely to decline over the course of this century.

            1. anon de plume

              “And neither of them provides liquid fuels. Energy sources are mostly not fungible. ”

              I don’t think you understand energy to say that. Yes, there are conversion losses but electricity, for example, can be converted to liquid fuel (along with water and CO2) and vice versa of course.

              So with sufficient energy of ANY kind we can make sufficient liquid fuel.

        2. Vatch

          What’s unsustainable is our large (and growing) population. Industrialism has temporarily provided the illusion that we can sustain billions of people. Eventually, civilization will collapse, simply because people are trying to use more resources than are available.

          Until a significant number of Americans recognize this fact, there’s no point for any Presidential candidate to sabotage his campaign by engaging in a jeremiad. Sanders is going farther than any of the other candidates, and he retains a chance of winning. If he goes too far, he will be perceived by many as a crank, and he will lose any chance of winning.

            1. Vatch

              Unfortunately, that article makes some elementary mistakes. A reduction in the rate of population growth doesn’t mean that there no longer any growth. It just means that the growth is occurring more slowly. Sometimes it doesn’t even mean that.

              For example, suppose there’s a population of 1 million people with a growth rate of 2% per year. That means that 20,000 people will be added to the population in a year. Suppose that years later, the population is 2 million people, and the growth rate is only 1% per year. 20,000 people will still be added to the population in one year!

              Separate from the growth rate is the Total Fertility Rate (TFR). This is the number of children the average woman will have in her lifetime. A TFR of 2.1 is usually considered the value that will keep the population stable. Anything lower than that, and the population will decline. But there’s a phenomenon known as population momentum. After a population has been growing for a long time, there will tend to be a disproportionate number of younger people who are in the prime childbearing years. So even if the TFR drops below 2.1, the population will continue growing for up to 2 generations!

              All of the reputable projections show the world’s population growing from the current 7.3 billion to anywhere from 9 billion to 11 billion people later in the century. Naturally, that assumes that there will be enough food and water, and that there won’t be pandemics or widespread war.

        3. cyclist

          Our living standards will not necessarily be going down, but the type of life we live will need to change. Sacrifices will be needed, but if the end result is livable cities, consuming less crap, less war, more time to live: these are positives.

          1. jgordon

            Well–you are exactly right in way. Personally I think our quality of life can/will go up tremendously once all this access to nigh unlimited energy and resources is cut off, much like how the quality of life of an obese diabetic will improve greatly if he is cut off from all sugary/fatty foods and is forced to do hard exercise constantly.

            I think most America would consider having to give up television, smart phones, cheese doodle, and personal passenger vehicles and endlessly horrible however.

            1. jrs

              Yea you offer people nothing and wonder why noone is on board. “People should get used to doing with less” yet people might confuse this with their present reality where they are increasingly unable to pay the rent(s), while the rentiers get richer and richer. Are we sustainable yet? Because the homeless population is growing. Is this the less you mean? Even though the homeless may use less, it’s not like anyone is even setting aside land for the homeless to legally put their tent cities, their less is illegal. Or is that less partly optional? Homeless while homes go empty or are used for a few months by rich people.

              People might confuse whatever you do mean for a game that is played not for any ecological purpose at all, but for the benefit of the 1s (if it has an ecological purpose it’s a secondary goal, not primary). You should deal with less goods but you’ll still have a BS job with ever increasing hours, doing pointless things, under ever more abusive management and working conditions, because they can. Is that the less you mean?

              I think any decent less requires a complete repudiation (and overthrow?) of the status quo and the powers that be.

              1. jrs

                And what would I offer them in utopia? More equal distribution of resources, I would say more leisure but it may be too late for that (too much needed to fix the damage done by the present workaholic insanity that worked Only at destroying the world), maybe more purposeful work (though this is subjective), more say over their society, their working conditions etc.. True none of that is an option in the current system. In the current system it’s just bad and worse, take your choice. So if we assume there is no conceivable way to change the present system … then even IF the 99s get used to less and less every year, and are good and quiet and accepting of it (“it’s how it must be … ecology see …”), the polices of the elites (pentagon is the biggest user of petroleum of all isn’t it?) means it’s still doomed!

              2. jgordon

                Plenty of people are on board. Just not people who are obsessed with things like financial wealth and status. Most in our society value the wrong things and so anything positive I could offer them will simply go unappreciated.

                Anyway, I’m just throwing out ideas for people to consider. Ultimately these problems have a way of taking care of themselves. If at the end of the day there are a lot less people in the world thanks to how all these problems were resolved, well that’s not necessarily a bad thing from an ecological perspective.

          2. lord koos

            “Quality of life” of course is subjective, many Americans’ quality of life is not that good IMO, even though they have so many material things. If this is “the greatest nation in the world” why are there so many angry, pissed off people? In my travels I see brighter smiles and more laughter in the developing world than in the USA.

            We will not have cheaper, cleaner energy until there is no profit left to be made from fossil fuels.

  2. Eric Patton

    Okay, when Sanders says — over and over and over again — that he won’t be able to do anything without a mass of organized people behind him — what part of that is so fucking complicated?

    When Sanders takes office, if everyone else goes home and stays there, then yes — NOTHING WILL CHANGE. And he fucking says that ALL THE TIME.

    Criticize the man if you want. But for fuck’s sake, at least criticize him ACCURATELY.

    This really is not rocket science.

    1. Gaius Publius


      Sanders is building that mass of organized people through his campaign. Just like Obama did in 2008, before he betrayed them and walked away from them. Unless Sanders walks away from the voters he will have inspired, he’ll have that “mass” almost by definition, since they will have carried him to the WH.

      I tried to make that point in the piece:

      • The electoral majority that puts Sanders in the White House, if it does, would represent a mobilizing of popular forces.

      • If Sanders carries through (unlike Barack Obama in 2009) on the opportunity he would have, his election would represent much more than a “quadrennial electoral extravaganza.” He could, in fact, lead the ongoing political revolution he says he wants.

      Hope this helps. I’m a Chomsky fan, as many here have gathered. Just have this one quibble with that one statement.


      1. Left in Wisconsin

        I think Chomsky’s concern, and mine, is that there is no organizational infrastructure by which Sanders voters can continue to influence politics beyond voting. There are many places in the US (I live in such a state) where the majority of population is dead-set against the rightwing agenda being foisted upon us. Yet the minority that has hijacked our politics could care less – they have control of the apparatus and will “wreak havoc” until they are stopped. It isn’t immediately obvious how atomized “voters” are able to stop this from happening.

  3. wbgonne

    Yes, one of the many pernicious aspects of Obama’s betrayal is the demoralization of the Left, just as it had begun to mobilize after Bush proved the failure of Right Wing conservatism. Obama is the Great Confounder. Progressives were stunned and never recovered as Obama — as you say — rolled one neoliberal boulder after another down the hill. The opportunity costs of Obama’s deceit were enormous. The Left was sent into disarray by Obama’s treachery and was exhausted trying to defend against his relentless attacks. This “friendly fire” is the most devastating kind because it sowed dissension and made Progressives waste energy fighting among themselves. If Sanders runs an honest and Progressive White House, that will energize the Left and free us to work in other areas, which will put the Right on the defensive. With that reforumulated dynamic, things could change rapidly.

    1. Steven D.

      Demoralization of the left is a feature, not a bug, of the Obama administration. I used to think Obama’s mystifying kumbaya, bipartisan rigamerole was a sign of his incredible, naive delusion. Now I think it was just a smokescreen for his neoliberal agenda. Obama serves the powerful; end of story. He craves their approval and acceptance and will lie and betray to get it.

      1. wbgonne

        I actually have come to believe this was the plan all along. Obviously, Big Money knew what it was getting with Obama: someone to siphon off the populist outrage and hopefully squelch it through demoralization. OK, they said, you reject Conservatism and you don’t want Clinton, then we’ll give you Mr. Hope and Change, who will prove that there is no Hope and there will be no Change. Are you Ready for Hillary now?

      2. anon de plume

        I think the Left had its big chance with the Soviet Union and failed to deliver the goods except to the Nomenclature.

        And the reason? The love of elitism. Instead of just equally dividing the land and other divisible assets to the oppressed population, the Party had to be in charge of everything. So how was that different from the rich being in charge of everything? “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?”

        Live and learn unless one insists on being a fool. I suggest the Left embrace populism and what’s popular is justice, individual autonomy, and prosperity.

        1. Massinissa

          I don’t see how you can blame the global left for the Soviet Union. That seems disingenuous. I mean, say, the Anarchists had nothing to do with it. Left Populists didn’t have anything to do with it. Most socialists didn’t have anything to do with it.

          And for gods sake, by most accounts Trotsky was to the left of Stalin and he was the one kicked out of Russia.

          Accusing the global left of somehow creating communism is entirely disingenuous man. If you were to blame the global right for Hitler that wouldn’t make any sense either. Germany’s traditional right tried to stop Hitler, or at least sections of it did. You cant even blame the entirety of Germany’s right wing on Hitler, much less the worlds right wing.

          I don’t see how bringing up Communism when talking about the modern American left is helpful in any way.

          1. hunkerdown

            I think anon’s just saying that sensibilities live in the culture and its people. It’s how miserable thugs can turn a religion of peace and populism into a title to empire and a license to get jiggy wit children and pigs. Imperialists gotta imperialize, you dig?

            To breed pecking-order out of the chickens entails a long process, especially after 100 generations of breeding it in.

            1. anon de plume

              What I’m saying is we need a better Left. For example, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Marx a gold-bug?

              And if the Left is about liberation, then let’s have liberation, not a different set of masters with THEIR pet priorities.

              1. jrs

                An anarchist are ya? I believe with the USSR that the less elitist strands within the USSR were defeated in the initial fight for power. So it’s not really the accomplishment of some monolithic “left” or even a much more limited group such as “the left in Russia during that time”, but rather the dominance of certain forces among many in the left in Russia during that time that ended up winning. And yes far removed from the USSR the left did apologize for the USSR for too long, long after it was a disaster. I’m not sure how much that influences things in the present though.

                I agree we need a better Left. I’m not sure my definition is yours though. I think we need a left that’s ecological. That’s what we need.

                1. anon de plume

                  “An anarchist are ya? “

                  Not at all. But true anarchy would be impossible anyway without an equal redistribution of assets first.

                  What I’m for is justice and I’m pretty sure that’s easy on the environment if for no other reason than it avoids a lot of waste such as WWII, the Cold War and our current military Keynesianism, not to mention the government-subsidized usury cartel which requires perpetual growth just so the interest can be paid to them.

        2. ambrit

          Remember that Marx and Engels thought the Revolution would come about in the highly industrializes countries. The Russian Revolution was, by most accounts, an anomaly. Russia basically tried to jump from an agrarian feudal state to the Workers Paradise. Soon enough, the old authoritarian State model reasserted itself, culminating in Stalin.
          The strength of authoritarian states everywhere is the harnessing of the popular values of: not starving to death, not being murdered by ‘out groups’, not being an ‘outsider.’
          A viewing of Bertolucci’s “The Conformist” would help.

      3. MaroonBulldog

        We, the collective people, elected Obama to the presidency for sentimental reasons. In the first place. And reelected him, in the second place, in preference to an even sillier alternative. We did not get or choose a leader: how could anyone reasonably expect that a man who had never led anything in his life would rise to the demands of the office of the presidency, and meet them?.

        Demoralization of the left? Demoralization here is just the reality that sentiment wakes up to, when its transient dream of a better world is over.

    2. nippersdad

      Not to mention how he muddied the waters wrt Republicans. I have spent years pointing out that the bailouts, privatization of schools and O’care are conservative ideas; that this is not a “liberal” Administration. It is exhausting to have to point out constantly that the problems in the ME were started by Republicans, and have been continued by this Administration by using the same advisors from the Bush Administration that screwed up everything in the first place.

      They want their cake, and it is a never ending frustration for me that O gave them the opportunity to eat is as well.

      1. Steven D.

        Obama would point with pride to you saying his program is conservative. “Look how non-ideological I am!” But it is ideological. It’s neoliberal.

        1. nippersdad

          Not forgetting that at all! I once asked my Bircher Dad why he was for it when Mr. little blue pill was pushing it during the Clinton Administration, and why he now calls it communism.

          “Daddy, why did you love communism?” That went over real well. :)

    3. Gil Gamseh

      It’s in the charter: the DNC is where left movements go to die. I detest Obama’s policies and mo, but it ain’t his betrayal. O is just a real good Dem.

    4. washunate

      I find that question very interesting. But I don’t think it was so much that “the left” was sent into disarray as actual leftists are having to grapple with the uncomfortable situation that many educated people who claim the banner of justice and equality and transparency and mercy and so forth don’t actually support those things. It’s a con, and no one likes admitting they’ve been conned. Especially when it involves such core beliefs as higher education and courts and media.

      For my vote, I don’t view it as friendly fire at all. I view it as a civil war. What is demoralizing is how long it is taking more comfortable and educated liberals to wake up to what is happening.

      But what I think is exciting is how close we are now to a critical mass of awareness. Significant change is coming one way or another. Young people especially are increasingly restless and losing patience having to pretend to be polite amidst the absurdity of systemic inequality and the police state and so forth.

  4. Carla

    I’m with Noam Chomsky: our situation demands systemic change. The right has been disciplined about this; the left wouldn’t know discipline if it bit us in the ass–which in fact, coming from the right, it continues to do.

    Re: Bernie. In my book, one of his top qualifications is that after more than 3 decades in elective office, he has a net worth of $700,000.

    But he’s running as a Democrat. Too bad.

  5. Eureka Springs

    I find it sadly telling that at a time like this G.P. is penning hopiate posts about Sanders probably because there is no there there from Sanders camp. I mean even our most resourceful Lambert can hardly find a link on/from Sanders camp for his daily policy category in water cooler.

    We live in systemic fraud, corruption, criminality… in a clear week of streaming lies perpetuating streaming war crimes…. and nothing! Less than crickets in a vacuum. I know more about what John McCain says than Sanders and I don’t watch TV, listen to radio or read right wing web sites.

    Sanders and G.P. could do a lot of things… like NOT be an ongoing criminal Democrat. You lie down with neoliberals…..

  6. weinerdog43

    “…I think it was just a smokescreen for his neoliberal agenda.” Absolutely correct. It makes the defeat of the TPP even sweeter. If he had put even half as much effort for Medicare for all or the public option, perhaps we would even have some semblance of a decent healthcare system. But as you accurately say, that was a feature, not a bug.

    1. Carla

      Excuse me. The entire “left” abandoned single payer as “too hard” and seized on the idea of a “public option.” The battle for actual health care ended right there.

      You don’t start negotiating with a compromise. You start with what you want, and then maybe AFTER the negotiation you get the compromise in the form of a “public option.”

      Or maybe the “left” didn’t really want health care for all to begin with. Democrat lemmings.

      1. nippersdad

        I don’t recall events playing out that way. I seem to remember seventy percent majorities in favor of single payer, and they were only derailed by a Democratic leadership which said that it would be too hard a slog. That same leadership then replaced single payer with a public option, that they then deep sixed in a smoke filled back room in favor of insurance company funding of a PR campaign for O’care.

        It was not the rank and file which rejected single payer, it was the leadership of the Party.

        1. Carla

          Yes. I agree. The problem is with the Democrat party and everyone who continues to follow them over the cliff.

          1. nippersdad

            We may now be seeing the final results of a fracture first witnessed after impeachment was taken off of the table. They lost the state houses and majorities in Congress, all they have left is the Presidency. We are about to find out just how strong the iron law of institutions really is if the establishment will allow the Democratic Party to lose the Presidency as well in favor of an alternative that is so crazy the nation, itself, might not survive it.

        2. hunkerdown

          And it is absolutely important to always, always draw distinctions between the Party and its flock. The conventional depiction of the relationship between the two groups doesn’t play out in practice, at all, in part because the reification of ideals and norms that serve to keep the USA economically vibrant and socially morbid, such as the erasure of class in “middle-class society”, doesn’t admit of any distinction between the two.

          Yet, the anti-democratic structure of the parties is as suggestive of their intent as anything. Perhaps mapping the language of Catholicism onto another organization with similar core processes and patterns might be useful in understanding the relationships inside Party walls. If it awakens the hipster creative none-dare-call-it-class revulsion to anything that smells like sky god, even better. And as a bonus, grouping them together as “Democrats” suddenly makes the same sort of sense as it does with other organizations dutifully rendering service unto their lords and lesser apparatchiks while exploiting and tormenting outsiders for fun and profit.

    1. Massinissa

      John Mccain was 72 when he last ran for office 7 years ago. People kept saying he was too old and would die in office if elected. Now hes not only still alive but still one of the most active people in the Senate. So far Sanders has been keeping very active in his campaign, so I don’t see the problem.

    2. jrs

      Yea he’ll probably be good for one term but two and you probably have a repeat of Reagan (senility etc.).

      1. ambrit

        A repeat of Reagan wouldn’t be too bad an outcome. Even with an Alzheimers incapacitated zombie in the White House, the Right Wing managed to pull down much of the New Deal edifice.

  7. mad as hell.

    When I first heard Sanders linked to the sheep dog analogy, I thought that is interesting and seems to have some validity to it. As time passes the theory becomes more probable with an answer just a few months away.

    1. nippersdad

      The only problem that I see with the sheepdog rationale is that one does not garner support for an establishment by running on a platform which trashes it. One need only go onto the Sanders Facebook pages and read the comments to know that his voters are not fungible; they are aware of what they are against and it will be difficult to change attitudes so long cherished in hope of a Sanders presidency.

      If he drops out of the race and endorses Hillary the undervote will be massive.

      1. Martin Finnucane

        If Obama could deliver the black vote to Wall Street, then Sanders should be able to deliver the disgruntled white young progressive vote. The latter types tend to have a very high regard for their own ability to distinguish the “real deal” from the fakers, but I don’t see the objective basis for that self-assessment.

        Sanders will drop out, and he will endorse Hillary (or Biden or whoever). The bulk of his voting base will do their duty and pull the D switch. We’ll be hearing alot about Supreme Court appointments and other horror stories, which will be enough to move enough product to make this “insurgency” yet another successful Hope-and-Change scam.

        Perhaps I’m wrong, but please don’t tell me my opinion is baseless, nonsense, etc. History is my guide.

        1. jrs

          With the Supreme court I really think ALL they have is abortion (or birth control or gay marriage etc.) booga booga. Because historically the Supreme court is ALWAYS corporatist except for very rare exceptions like the Warren court. The Supreme court by nature is a corporate status quo force defending that corporate personhood.

          Sure in publik skool one is taught the Supreme court is the last defense of our liberties. In reality they wouldn’t even take the Hedges NDAA case! They are perhaps better seen as the last defense of Capital.

        2. washunate

          I hear that line of thinking, but I’d offer a view that things have changed over the past couple decades as the children of the police state are now themselves part of the electorate. Here’s the case the other way:

          First, electing a black president was a legitimate BFD in our nation’s history. I have no problem with feeling a sense of pride and relief in that accomplishment even if that is entirely separate from actual policies. However, that’s a one-shot deal. It’s been done. Sanders does not represent any identity politics on that kind of scale, either specifically in defense of Wall Street or more generally in defense of the whole looting class.

          Second, the Democrats were given their chance in Congress and the Presidency to change things. They have blown that. This is what is unknown about where we are headed. The history leading us to this point is a new trajectory, not a stable equilibrium. People – especially younger people – are fed up not simply with the GOP (that’s so 1990s) but with the whole political establishment. All the big social events of the past few years (from Occupy to Ferguson to Baltimore) have occurred in heavily Democratic strongholds with educated Democrats in positions of power and responsibility.

            1. washunate

              Yeah, I’m curious where you think we are on that front as a rough historical analogy? Those realignments seem about the scale of what we’re approaching, yet at the same time it seems hard to actually imagine either the GOP or the Dems disappearing or merging with something else.

        3. nippersdad

          I’m not arguing your historically based rationale, I am arguing with your view of the candidate and the existing electorate. He is explicitly, and successfully, running against the establishment as it presently exists.

          Typical Bernie Sanders quote: “If you think establishment politics and establishment economics is the answer to our problems, fine, there are good candidates out there….But if you think it is time for…involving millions of people…in a way that hasn’t been the case before, then I think I am your candidate.”

          His message is reverberating amongst a middle and working class that has not seen the benefits of economic expansion in thirty years. Why would he toss away that advantage?

          1. hunkerdown

            He’s not the only actor in this charade. The Party Inc. is the principal to which he is subordinate, the Party Inc.’s interests (and no mistake, it has them) are hurt by his actions, and the Party Inc. will respond as necessary to extract a favorable result from the affair, even if that means Trump 2016. To those whose salaries are dependent on struggle and neoliberalism, the Bad Guys™ prevailing is cause for muted jubilance and plenty of walking-around money. On the other hand, for those Lucies, letting Sanders win is like letting Charlie Brown kick them.

            1. nippersdad

              Saw something really interesting this morning:


              With everyone trying to claim outsider status these days, it may not matter what the Lucies do or say; the candidates are getting increasingly bold about the deficits inherent to their own respective establishments. They are actively delegitimizing their own political vehicles. If Carson can convince the R’s rump caucus that they have Hitlers in their midst it shouldn’t be such a high bar for Sanders to point out that virtually no one is benefitting from the status quo within the Democratic Party.

              The fun of this exercise is there is no way to attack him that does not redound to their detriment, and they know it.

              1. hunkerdown

                Carson is competing, just like he’s supposed to when the cameras are on. If Carson were to disparage the Party he seeks to represent in the Executive as a whole, that’s a whole new level. I’d be very surprised if Party bylaws or side deals forbade Sanders from disparaging the Party as a whole. The media’s already trying to keep him in a close second place (see Milbank in WaPo yesterday) presumably so as to not cheese off the bookmakers.

      2. jrs

        Maybe more plausible than his voters can all be transferred to Hillary is: he gets people to spend more months of their life working within the system and thinking it can change rather than doing anything else (including even petitioning city hall!), so on some level he teaches them to believe in the system and he wastes their time probably (and Presidential politics really is the most unlikely place to make change). Which people? Certainly not those who just think: hmm Bernie yea maybe I’ll vote for him if he’s on the ballot, it will take two minutes. But maybe a bit those making donations as they put more on the line. But the most: those who are going full in to dedicating their free time to the Sander’s campaign (if they are retired this may be almost all their time).

        He also gets some people to register Democratic who were not registered to vote at all or may have been independent or 3rd party or even Republican in a few cases I guess which possibly does slightly increase votes for Hillary.

        This is anecdotal: I notice an age break down: there are some generation X and down you couldn’t even convince to vote for Bernie it’s just “no I won’t get fooled again, I got fooled with Obama …” And there are those more reluctant: “i’ll vote for him, I sent him $20, I hope I don’t get fooled again I’m pretty skeptical …”. But those who I noticed actually wanting to volunteer for the Bernie campaign (locally) were all Boomers.

        1. jrs

          Maybe it is Gen X that is most skeptical of it all (hey well they always were called cynics). Some of the millennials are too young to have voted Obama (though those old enough to vote probably feel the same way!). And Boomers I don’t know, they really don’t seem the sort to totally reject the entire democratic facade so entirely rather than somehow believe in can be salvaged (I mean now not in the 60s). Maybe it’s all that cold war propaganda, maybe it’s nothing more than being on average more economically successful! I engage in generational speculation sometimes.

      1. Vatch

        That is a very good point! It’s hard for the dog to herd the sheep if they don’t even know that it is in the pasture with them!

    2. Lambert Strether

      “As time passes the theory becomes more probable”

      Based on anything in this post? Feelings? What? How, for example, does Sanders reliance on small donors only, and his great success with that strategy, fit into this picture? He’s developing an independent power base, parallel to the Democratic pary, not inside it.

      NOTE The sheepdog metaphor implies conscious collusion. I’d like some evidence that Sanders is consciously herding voters do Hillary. (Saying he’ll support Hillary in the general isn’t the same, since (1) support could mean anything, and (2) he’ll never get a hearing if he says anything else. To put this another way, I’m happy that Sanders is doing something that will help him win. The Greens, who invented and propagated the “sheepdog” meme, aren’t happy about that, but then they wouldn’t be, would they?

      1. Gaius Publius

        Just want to add to what Lambert said. Yes, to that, and also, as nippersdad wisely wrote above:

        his [Sanders’] voters are not fungible; they are aware of what they are against and it will be difficult to change attitudes so long cherished in hope of a Sanders presidency.

        If he drops out of the race and endorses Hillary the undervote will be massive.

        Sanders’ core message is so strongly anti-Establishment that Hillary progressives are freaked (behind the scenes) that Sanders will poison her well in the primary, making her much less electable. Just reporting it…


        1. nippersdad

          Excellent point! This may just be anecdotal, but I have been seeing a general effort amongst pro-Hillary/Biden cliques to run against Sanders supporters in social media, not Sanders himself!

          He appears to be untouchable online, but an effort to demonize his supporters is underway, and the scrum can get messy. This is not having the homogenizing effect that they may be hoping(?) for.

        2. skippy

          The Hillary machine has come out of the starting blocks in social media with more focus on Bernie’s advocates than on the Republican candidates, pure fear based.

          Skippy… at this juncture Hillary past stances, long and near term, with her shifting sands and goal posts is not helping – serving, her or her advocates well imo.

      2. mad as hell.

        Lambert I know you think that Sanders is not the sheep dog. However he disguises himself well to many.

        ‘Based on anything in this post? Feelings? What? How, for example, does Sanders reliance on small donors only, and his great success with that strategy, fit into this picture? He’s developing an independent power base, parallel to the Democratic pary, not inside it.”

        If he is developing an independent power base who is going to lead it? He won’t start a independent party if he doesn’t get the nomination.

        STEPHANOPOULOS: So if you lose in this nomination fight, will you support the Democratic nominee?
        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.

        So you are assuming that some one else will pick up the Sanders flag and charge forward?
        I wonder how far that party will get running “parallel to the democratic party”? Especially with the the engine that drove it is missing.

        “The sheepdog metaphor implies conscious collusion. I’d like some evidence that Sanders is consciously herding voters do Hillary. (Saying he’ll support Hillary in the general isn’t the same, since (1) support could mean anything, and (2) he’ll never get a hearing if he says anything else.”

        Who says it has to be “conscious collusion”? It could be sub-conscious. Was Jesse Jackson conscious collusion? Jerry Brown in 92 ? Sharpton and Kucinich? You are asking me to prove a conspiracy theory. I’ll leave that to Ventura. What I do know is that a pattern has developed where the once opposing democrat finds his way back into the fold and holding raised hands in the air signifying unity much to the chagrin of the hordes that campaigned for him up to that point.

        I was not aware the Greens first floated the sheep dog theory. I thought it came from Glenn Ford and his Black Agenda Report. Does it matter? Personally I love the spirit and the grit of BAR commentary.

        Nippersdad may have valid point on the undervote if Sanders loses. However the undervote seems to be growing because of the disgust of the two parties. Sanders loss will only accelerate it.

        Finally as a famous American president said, “fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

        1. Lambert Strether

          On the sheepdog metaphor: Of course it’s conscious. You think sheepdogs and shepherds herd sheep by accident? And now, I’m not asking you to prove CT; you could give some evidence on past examples from campaign literature, for example.

          On the Greens: Bruce Dixon, at least, is a Green; and that’s where I saw the term erupt and propagate from.

          1. Oregoncharles

            While the sheepdog metaphor implies intention, and Dixon probably thinks that, it does not DEPEND on intention. In fact, personal thoughts are irrelevant. That is the EFFECT of Sanders’ present strategy, as it was of Kucinich’s. Personal intentions don’t matter, nor are they knowable; effects do, and they are ultimately knowable.

            I don’t think the “sheepdog” meme is Green Party policy (I think I’d know); but if Greens didn’t point out the effect of running as a Democrat, they wouldn’t be doing their job.

            At this point (to repeat), the strategy is to ask a couple of questions: “what do you do if (when) Sanders isn’t nominated?” (He’s made promises, but they don’t bind his supporters.) And: “Where is the movement to replace Congress? Who is going to primary all those conservative Democrats?”

            At this point, Sanders looks a lot like Eugene McCarthy in 1968, to say nothing of Bobby Kennedy – who was assassinated at the very moment of success. After 1972, the party put safeguards in place; Jill Stein mentioned them in her interview. It will be interesting to see how those play out.

            1. Lambert Strether

              “They p*ss on me, then tell me it’s raining.” But you would argue that since the effect is the same, regardless of the intent, that being p*ssed on and being rained on are the same? The metaphor assumes exactly what it is supposed to prove.

              1. Oregoncharles

                Your metaphor, not mine.

                I’ll be more specific, based on electoral experience in Oregon: each election year that a liberal Dem like Sanders (or even Obama – the illusion was that strong) runs, the Green Party loses thousands of registrations because we have closed primaries. People change in order to vote in the Dem primary – and neglect to change back.

                That’s important because we need a certain percentage of registrations to qualify for the ballot. The process has gone through enough iterations to endanger our ballot status. In other words, in this state, it’s very effective sabotage of, at this point, the only real alternative on the left. Then, of course, there’s the resource issue. On the left, resources really are very limited.

                Sanders has been in politics for a long time, as an independent. He knows about this stuff. I assume he thinks it’s worth it – but I suspect personal ambition is distorting his principles. He’s human.

                But the reality is that his motives don’t matter a bit; his actions do. There is a difference, and no metaphor will hide it.

                1. Lambert Strether

                  Really? I brought up “sheepdog” as a metaphor? I don’t think so.

                  As for the rest of it, sure, when you put it like that. Politics ain’t beanbag. When I hear about the GP having a registration table outside every Sanders rally, I’ll take all this a bit more seriously.

                  NOTE Adding, “no metaphor will hide it” is a neat reversal, since Sanders isn’t attempting to hide anything — or assume what he wishes to prove with it; its users are. Corrupt language matters to me; it’s always a sign of problems.

  8. TedWa

    People want definitive statements from Bernie, but do keep in mind that the elections are over a year away! Bernie has to get known first and he would not get known running as an independent – fact. When Bernie becomes the only choice the democrats have because he’s leading in the polls, THEN the democratic party will have to pay attention to him and support him. He’s not taking money from pacs or super-pacs ! Refuses. What do you people want?? I know you’re all as disappointed as I am with Obama and his lies and betrayals (he should be in jail for war crimes and more), but not everyone that runs for office is going to lie just to get elected. I look forward to the face to face with HRC on the 13th – then we should know much more. Till then I’m contributing monthly to his campaign and will continue to do so. Biden is 73, HRC 68, and Bernie 74. His mind is much more alert and sharper than theirs. Ask yourself, if he doesn’t say he’ll support Hillary if he loses, would he get any democratic support? Politics is a game of chess. 1 carefully planned move after the other.

    1. Martin Finnucane

      Premise one: When Bernie becomes the only choice the democrats have because he’s leading in the polls, THEN the democratic party will have to pay attention to him and support him.

      Premise two (in the form of a rhetorical question): Ask yourself, if he doesn’t say he’ll support Hillary if he loses, would he get any democratic support?

      So Sanders has to “pre-back” Clinton (or whoever) to get democratic support, and he gets no democratic support. Isn’t that a contradictio in adjecto?

      On the other hand, if by “democratic support” you mean support from his voting base, then why would these insurgent voters who are sure not to back the crooked Clintons, Bidens, etc. care? In fact, the refusal to “pre-back” Clinton (or whoever) would seem to boost Sanders’ support, to the extent that that support supposedly comes from folks that won’t accept the Democratic powers-that-be.

      And on the other-other hand, if by “democratic support” you mean support from non-Sanderista rank-and-file Democrats, then wouldn’t those people all be voting for Clinton (or whoever) anyway?

      As for this “what do you want?” trope: I find it amusing that Sanders can talk up “political revolution” and even perhaps “Socialism,” and that’s ok. But stating unambiguously that he will not support Clinton or Biden is somehow a bridge too far. I am afraid that time will prove that the Sanders campaign has the same relation to actual revolution that a tatoo of a firearm has to the real thing.

    2. washunate

      People want definitive statements from Bernie, but do keep in mind that the elections are over a year away!

      That standard doesn’t make sense, though. Bernie isn’t some random guy running to see if we’re still a democracy. He’s a United States Senator.

      not everyone that runs for office is going to lie just to get elected

      That’s why specific, definitive statements are important. They allow for accountability down the road. The vague, nondefinitive statement is a telltale sign of deception. A genuine candidate is aware of this and thus makes a concerted effort to proffer concrete commitments.

      1. Steven D.

        Bernie should talk about what he wants to talk about and not get in a pissing match over whether or not he’s a loyal Democrat. That’s fighting on Hillary’s and Biden’s turf. It also would guarantee that Sanders finally gets media coverage, but the kind that would bury him. So I think people need to put away their narcissism and not subject Sanders to pointless purity tests. Right now, he’s the only game in town and seems to be making the right choices, judging by the crowds, the polls and the fundraising.

        1. washunate

          Yes, but…the original comment lambasted the notion of asking a sitting US Senator for definitive statements.

          Are you aware how similar that sounds to how every establishment Democrat of the past couple decades has been defended? Purity test? Narcissism? What exactly is your concern, because I don’t think it stems from this particular comment thread?

          The attitude that our Dear Leaders are not even to be questioned, let alone challenged, is one of the major problems with the authoritarian drift of the Democratic Party.

      2. Left in Wisconsin

        I don’t know – I find Sanders to be way more specific policy-wise than any of the other major candidates.

    3. cwaltz

      I’m a Bernie fan. That being said, People might be careful about underestimating the party elites of the Democratic Party though. They have undercut the candidates that were in their own party before when it was to their advantage to do so. King(I -ME) was given support even though the activists put a Democrat in the race. The party establishment supported Lieberman after the activists tossed him out in the primary.

      They, unlike many of their activists, are loyal only to their own self interest.

  9. washunate

    He would be alone

    This is a time when I find Chomsky to be fundamentally misreading the situation. The President isn’t alone. Obama in fact had to spend a considerable amount of energy to demobilize supporters from actually getting stuff done once he was elected.

    There was an abundance of a “broad political movement” to do things like implement universal healthcare, end the drug war, improve the power of workers in the workplace, protect the environment, make government more transparent, reign in the banksters, and so forth. It took a tremendous effort by the political establishment to calm that down to a manageable level. Something like half a million people alone applied for jobs through the transition team. On OFA bus tours long after Obama eliminated single payer’s seat from the table, individual people were still calling for national health insurance. FDL practically single-handedly embarrassed the establishment Dems on the intertubes.

    I’m not sure what Chomsky is getting at here. A different president could have embarked on a remarkably different course of action. It was an active choice, not a constraint imposed on Obama by outside forces.

    If Bernie Sanders is the real deal, he could radically change the authoritarian trajectory of our nation. The elites are not currently that strong.

      1. washunate

        Thanks Lambert, I think that’s an area where people can get discouraged by how easy the elites make it look, but realizing it’s actually quite a bit of effort is rather refreshing.

  10. TG

    An interesting post as usual. But to sum up: Congress and the Judiciary have increasingly given the executive vast power. A president Sanders (or even Trump) could basically ignore the Congress. For example: love it or hate it, but Obama has largely revamped American immigration law by executive order. He is not only largely refusing to enforce the laws against illegal immigration, he has actively given green cards to many millions of foreign nationals who were not legally entitled to them. He just did it! Another president could expand this, or stop it altogether, no Congress needed.

    Ditto with Obama refusing to prosecute criminal bankers. A president Sanders would not need Congress to reverse this.

    All of these monster multi-thousand page bills that Congress has been passing, on things like the Wall Street bailout etc., give the executive enormous discretionary power. Whenever it says “The president may spend money to do X if the president deems it to be needed to do Y”, that translates into “The president may spend money to do X with no limits or oversight”. And the judiciary has increasingly set precedent that the executive can do anything if national security or administrative convenience are invoked.

    I mean, the executive can simply deem that an American citizen cannot fly on an airplane, just because, with no reason or due process. Recently Obama selectively blocked several Russian citizens from the western banking and credit card systems, just because he personally didn’t like them. We spent like $5 billion dollars funding anti-Russian political groups in the Ukraine – did anyone in Congress have any real knowledge or oversight of this? I doubt it. And the list goes on. Bottom line: the president now has astonishing discretionary power.

    So having built up the executive, the elites must live in fear of a traitor to their class getting their hands on all that unchecked power. They will do whatever it takes to prevent that. With Trump they are going to play the usual game of screaming ‘racist’ continuously until he becomes unelectable. Sanders I am not so sure. Unless he has secretly pulled an Obama and sold out in advance (I can’t read minds but it doesn’t seem to fit his record), there is no way the elites will let him anywhere near the oval office.

    If Sanders looks like he might actually go all the way, look for a storm of mudslinging the likes of which has never been seen before.

    1. nippersdad

      When told about presidential excesses these days by Republicans, it it always fun to ask why they thought that the creation of an imperial presidency was a good thing under Bush? “You made your bed, now you must lie in it”, “be careful what you ask for…”, etc.,etc.

      The problem with TPTB slinging mud at Sanders, though, is that it will only have the effect of stiffening the resolve of those intent upon voting for him; you will hear a rousing refrain of “consider the source” which will only further delegitimize them (as with McCaskill). If they don’t have pictures of him in bed strangling a kitten they are sunk, because mere rhetoric will not get it anymore.

  11. Jim

    Gauis Publius states “Bernie Sanders could accomplish an enormous amount without Congress. He wouldn’t be acting alone, he would have control of the Executive Branch or much of it.”

    Michael J. Glennon has stated: “US national security policy is defined by the network of executive officials who manage the departments and agencies responsible for protecting U.S. national security and who in response to structural incentives embedded in the U.S. political system, operate largely removed from public view and from constitutional constraints–presidential control is nominal.”

    Beyond US national security policy is American foreign policy in general. These foreign policy elites seem centered across the political bureaucracy, academy, think-tanks and the media and tend to speak using the same assumptions, as they move back and forth between university positions or think tanks and government offices, regardless of the party in control of the American State. These foreign policy elites also seem to collectively spend their time attempting to persuade the public to authorize expenditures for one foreign policy failure after another–all in the pursuit of American supremacy.

    Would a Bernie Sanders, in control of the Executive Branch, threaten such networks?

    1. nippersdad

      Would Sanders threaten such networks? THAT is the sixty four million dollar question. Looking at all of the other candidates, though, one can rest assured that they would not.

      1. nippersdad

        Is that a good example, though? Bringing home the bacon from a boondoggle he has no power to prevent just sounds like the process for making lemonade to a lot of people. There are other constructions that one could put on such a move than one of support for the program itself.

    2. washunate

      I second nippersdad that the would is the question, not the could.

      presidential control is nominal

      I’m curious about that management philosophy. Are you pointing out that a chief executive doesn’t personally do the grunt work? Or are you saying that the elites are in such control at this point that even if a President hired different people under him, the establishment would just assassinate and/or ignore those individuals?

      I acknowledge the latter is not impossible, but if true, then things are much, much worse than generally understood and thus we need a radically different framework for approaching what is in effect a need for a revolution and new government.

      1. Jim

        I’m suggesting that Perry Anderson in his new book “American Foreign Policy and It’s Thinkers” may be essentially accurate when he argues that today the modern American State is significantly more powerful than American capital.

        If this is accurate (and this assumption should be intensely debated) than those who run the American State (career bureaucrats, along with the in and outers from the academic community, investment banking, law firms multinationals, and the intelligence agencies/military) have nothing to fear from the Presidency of a Bernie Sanders and his appointees.–continuity will be maintained as it was under the Obama presidency.

        Only when the Left and the populist Right join together to begin to seriously consider how to dismantle the modern networks of the American State, and also how to dismantle Big Capital’s control over private property–as well as the dismantling of their own respective beliefs in the necessity of centralized power–will political opposition become a threat to the modern structure of US public/private hegemony.

        Until these types of dismantling options begin to be seriously considered–offering hope for progress through the Presidency (whether it be a Sanders or a Trump)–becomes largely an endorsement of the status quo–because the true networks of control remain untouched.

        1. washunate

          Personally, I’d say the state should be more powerful than capital. I’m not even sure what that comparison means as a general statement, and I haven’t read that particular book so I don’t know if Anderson is making a narrow technical argument based upon his preferred definitions of state and capital. Corporations are literally creations of the state. What makes private property work is that government courts recognize claims upon them.

          More specifically on the Presidency, I’m way more optimistic on that front. I don’t see the challenges as structural. I see them as management failure. Career bureaucrats/military (same thing in my book) report to the President, not the other way around, and the only reason that academics/banksters/corporate execs/etc. are involved at all is if that’s who the President brings on board. Yes there are some checks on things like Senate confirmed appointments, but there is much the President is responsible for strictly within the Executive Branch. This is one of the problems of the mechanisms of our present system – the President is too powerful, not too weak.

          I agree it is more likely than not that Sanders essentially maintains our systems of national security and law enforcement, while some changes in healthcare and a few other areas obviously require legislative changes in concert with Congress, but I do not agree that foreign policy especially is forced by the “modern American state” as some kind of actor independent of the political leadership itself.

          If Sanders wins, and if he hires the same ‘ole neoliberals to run things (or new ones, for that matter), then that is his personal responsibility.

    3. Gaius Publius

      Great question, and I’ll offer a different answer than the ones so far.

      One battle at a time. That is, Sanders will take on Money. I agree that he’s unlikely to take on Deep State as well, at least as it touches international relations, though he is generally (but maybe not totally) a peacenik. (I know, Deep State touches the Money State in ways we can’t see; a subject for another time.)

      As for other Dems, Hillary is pretty hawkish (or very hawkish, depending which tea leaves you read). So not much choice in that realm.

      IOW, back to my answer — one battle at a time. And if I had to pick which one that would be, it would be Money.

      Mes centimes,


  12. downunderer

    To do all those good things – which I passionately hope he will – Bernie Sanders will need to do more than get elected. He will need to survive, physically.

    As the best possible life insurance for President Sanders, I strongly recommend either Elizabeth Warren or Alan Grayson as his VP.

    1. lord koos

      Bernie and whoever his VP will be need to make sure that they don’t travel together in the same conveyance.

    2. Romancing the Loan

      If you look at Sanders’s views, foreign policy is the one area where he’s entirely in line with the establishment. No one’s going to kill him if he gets elected. Wall St. couldn’t pull off a presidential assassination on their best day.

      Count me in the camp of Bernie being another Obama who’d be very, very disappointing if he ever got elected. There’s a reason he’s managed to survive in the Senate this long and it’s not because people fear him.

      Now Trump they’d have to kill. I’m almost tempted to vote for him just because his presidency would be a short but glorious bonfire of ridiculous fuckery. Plus he’s for single payer and repealing NAFTA so it would be nice to get those out there under the banner of right wing (really neglected center) opinions.

  13. ekstase

    The idea of people valuing their time is an important point. We tend to forget that this is one of our resources, maybe our most valuable one, and spending it fighting against wrong things robs time from us. When we learn about the three branches of government we are given this idea that the Executive Branch is supposed to feature someone who can and will stand up to the other two branches, for the people. I think that people are responding to a sense that Sanders wants to actually do that. We need optimism and hope, and not to squash it out in each other. That takes strength and courage too.

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