By Anis Shivani, whose recent political books include Why Did Trump Win?, Confronting American Fascism, and A Radical Human Rights Solution to the Immigration Problem. He is the author of many critically-acclaimed books of fiction, poetry, and criticism, including, most recently, A History of the Cat in Nine Chapters or Less
Forcing the March 17 primaries in Florida, Arizona and Illinois to go forward, despite reports of exceedingly low turnout throughout the day (which miraculously and quite expectedly turned into higher turnouts than 2016 in both Florida and Arizona by the time the final reporting came in), was the last straw. This farce occurred despite the Ohio governor postponing their primary on the same day. This slap in the face of voters was then compounded by the even worse parody of the April 7 Wisconsin primary being allowed to go ahead at the peak of the pandemic, with polling stations vastly reduced (from 180 to just 5 in Milwaukee alone) and absentee ballots often not received or recorded, while maintaining the pretense that somehow all of this constituted a legitimate election.
In the middle of the pandemic, with the entire nation considering a de facto lockdown and many communities already there, the DNC was hell-bent on driving the final nail in the coffin of the youth movement, even though the Sanders campaign had suspended GOTV efforts, for obvious reasons, and even if Biden never really had a presence in any of the latest round of states.
In Maricopa County, Arizona, where many polling stations were shut down, in-person turnout was reportedly higher by 10,000 people than in 2016! And that’s just one representative example from the March 17 primary states. Furthermore, the DNC threatened the remaining primary states against postponing their elections for health reasons, preempting moves similar to those made by Louisiana, Georgia and others. The stage is being set for a virtual convention, followed by the possible resurgence of the illness in the fall to orchestrate a virtual general election. Social distancing has come in handily as the most convenient antidote to political solidarity. Biden has already made it clear that he’s not the least bit interested in making any real overtures toward bereft progressives, just as Hillary wasn’t after her forceful seizure of the nomination in 2016.
When they stopped counting the vote in Iowa, depriving the leading candidate of essential momentum, it was a clear indication that once again the party establishment would do everything to manipulate results in favor of yet another neoliberal avatar bound to lose to Trump in an ignominious landslide—which is actually what the Democratic party establishment wants, four more years of their demonized opponent rather than the tiniest return toward social decency. Nothing about the coronavirus changes this essential dynamic.
That’s how bad the Democratic party has become, blatantly tipping the scales toward their favored outcome in order to maintain oligarchic control, and they expect us to Vote Blue No Matter Who?
We’re asked to believe that the candidate who supported ordinary people at the grassroots level all across the country, by lending crucial support to strikesand direct action, spawning innumerable viable candidacies at the local and state levels, and regularly summoning many thousands of people to populist rallies calling for basic human decency, was easily defeated by a cognitively challenged Wall Street shill who has backed every economic and foreign policy barbarity of the last 50 years, and who cannot be put in a small gym with a few dozen people without descending into furious spittles of verbal aggression.
We’re supposed to trust that the candidate with a pervasive national presence for the last five years was suddenly, in a matter of 72 hours, annihilated by the geezer who had zero volunteers, staff or advertising in any of the states he miraculously turned around by 20, 30 or 40 points.
It’s time to put an end to this sham, because we can’t accede to this level of duplicity without ourselves becoming complicit in the madness. Trump essentially terminated the neoliberal Republican party in one election cycle, but because the Democratic party establishment is more entrenched and dangerous, the prime carrier of the neoliberal virus to which the Republicans are just accessories, it is the more difficult enemy to beat.
To recap some of what we have seen from the great minds trying to herd us all into submission toward Hillary 2.0, the dementia version:
· Herd 29 Trojan horses into the race, all pretending to be some version of or alternative to the clear ideological victor from 2016, and all of them unmasking themselves at appropriate stages of the race (three of them at the last moment before South Carolina) in order to maximize damage to one candidate alone.
· Insist on a series of parodic debates orchestrating various degrees of hostility toward the lone populist, and focusing outlandish attention on marginal candidates rather than giving the front-runner his due.
· Repeat all the instances of voter suppression in close simulation of all the 2016 states, as if to thumb their noses at any semblance of voting integrity.
· Be part of closely coordinated media campaigns harping on electability, centrism and moderation, to the point where the liberal media (the Times, CNN, MSNBC) become indistinguishable from campaign opponents and the party apparatus. For the first three months of the year, the New York Times turned into a chorus of single-minded “Never Bernie” propaganda, exceeding even their “Never Trump” loathing of four years ago.
· Recruit Barack Obama to save Biden’s hide when he remained the last one standing, with the same ominous figures from 2016 (Jim “there will be no free education” Clyburn, Harry “get the culinary workers to caucus for Hillary” Reid, and others) reprising to the finest detail the same walk-on bits they played last time.
· Keep changing debate rules, by permitting entry to a last-minute white knight in the form of Michael Bloomberg, and the more recent rule change to prevent Tulsi Gabbard the opportunity of taking down Biden.
· Keep the option of cheating the delegate leader at the convention alive throughout the campaign, rather than stamping it out as a no-go in order to preserve the credibility of primary voting.
· Express no displeasure at clear voter suppression in Texas and California, or curiosity about strange exit poll versus final results in Virginia, Massachusetts, Maine and Minnesota, which showed unprecedented swings toward Biden.
Is this enough manipulation for you?
Sanders more than abided by party decorum for the last four years. Ever since he endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016, and later yielded to Chuck Schumer’s request to join the senate leadership, he has been the most faithful of team players, observing every nicety and going along with the party line to the extent that there is no direct contradiction with his principles. The least he could have expected in return was a token amount of fair play, to let his social welfare philosophy compete on equal grounds with neoliberalism, yet this was vehemently denied.
At this point, is he obligated to play by the rules? Are we, if we are to draw obvious conclusions from the evidence at hand?
The Democratic party would much rather see Trump reelected by nominating a flawed neoliberal candidate with as much baggage and who is as associated with the recent Clinton failure as is Biden. Think about it: the party we’re supposed to get behind actually prefers fascism over the mildest concessions to social democracy, in order that the entire power structure might persist unchanged. For the sake of denying the slightest help to poor, debt-burdened, sick and unemployed people, this party would rather have untrammeled white nationalism, immigrants in concentration camps, and accelerated income inequality, as though we could sustain any more of it than we already have.
To defeat a handful of broadly popular proposals to address economic inequality, the Democratic party facilitated the entry of a former Republican mayor who administered the harassment of Muslims and minorities after 9/11, who gave over his city to unaccountable developers and oligarchs, and who happens to be the world’s ninth-richest person—not just a billionaire, of the kind Sanders is railing against, but one 60 times over.
And when that didn’t fly, because of said plutocrat’s manifest misogyny, racism and class privilege, they went back to their original choice, the freewheeling politico Wall Street loves to love, the senator from MBNA, the secret manipulator behind every bad trade deal and Wall Street giveaway and incarceration mania and war of choice of the last 50 years. The party Sanders has chosen to be loyal to knows that either of those candidates, the Manhattan multi-billionaire or the Delaware political enabler, would handily lose to Trump, but the idea is to keep playing the game, to engage us all in a performance that pretends to be even-handed. We wait patiently for health care and public education and a living wage, while we die in the meantime.
The party of death has demonstrated again and again in this primary campaign that its sole objective is to discredit left populism, even if it means abetting the growing dominance of fascist populism. The party we’re supposed to fall behind is the real facilitator, not the Republican party, because it is actively preventing an electable alternative to Trump, as shown in all the polls of the last five years.
The “woke” wing of the Democratic party—which is identical to the neoliberal wing in acting all high-and-mighty toward working-class folks, otherwise known as deplorables—precisely duplicated its machinations from 2016, when Hillary Clinton was said to be the victim of the angry Bernie Bros, a more ridiculous myth than which was never heard in a presidential campaign.
The woke crowd, who universally refused to support Sanders (whose campaign is a sincere homage to the Poor People’s Campaign run by Martin Luther King, Jr., or FDR’s economic bill of rights, or Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society program), got behind a series of identity politics-driven candidates, culminating in the last one to leave the race, who immediately got busy gaslighting the Sanders movement for its alleged misogyny. The woke wing was a fraud all along, they never did care to help actual working people with actual debilities. We knew it in 2016 and we know it even better now.
All the fallacies the Democratic party has exploited over five decades reached an extreme form of hypocrisy in the 2020 campaign. The least electable candidates were professionally sold as the most electable ones. Extremism on behalf of inequality and deprivation of basic human rights was packaged as moderate centrism. Sustained media campaigns were run against anyone questioning these straitjackets of thought, labeling us enemies of the people for wanting to help the people.
Emerging from his year-long sloth, Biden made it his mission to trash every element of Sanders’s “political revolution,” even in its most benign demands for a level playing field, which was the sum of the political gangsterism he so adeptly deployed at the March 15 debate, knowing he had the full backing of the party in shunning any move toward the kind of universal programs young voters demand.
Would Sanders supporters not be justified in abandoning this zombie party once and for all, if we do not end up with a fair electoral outcome, as it looks like we’re not going to while this primary fizzles out to an uncertain close? Are we not morally obligated to look for an alternative beyond, past and around this failed shell of a party?
In 2004 and again in 2016 they ran empty, fake, invisible campaigns once the primaries were over, with John Kerry and Hillary Clinton literally disappearing from the campaign trail for weeks at a time. They’d rather have Bush reelected then, and Trump reelected now, than raise the minimum wage to $15, make public college free again, or do something to save the planet from its runaway environmental crisis. While Sanders was responding like FDR II to address the public health emergency, Biden was nowhere to be seen.
We learned during this campaign that the all-time great woke candidate beloved of the wine cave class, namely the president upon whose nostalgic fumes we wish to resurrect a ghostly figure, is more willing than anyone else to stop the first stirrings of social democracy and do everything he can to maintain the chokehold of neoliberalism or neofascism.
The clarion call issued by the “Democratic” president of surveillance, wars, deportation and budget cuts appealed to the lowest instincts of career politicians in South Carolina and across the country as they forcefully jerked us back to where we were supposed to stay. This former president, like the recent troop of candidates, is explicitly against Medicare for All, and every other basic demand this moment of social distress cries out for. Biden and his cronies in the party are willing to go no further than trying to add a public option to the Affordable Care Act; even after the virus escalation, universal programs of the kind Sanders’s movement calls for are nowhere within range of their consideration.
The Democratic party wants to crush the joy and life out of youth, pretending that they don’t come out to vote, and that the entire machinery of politics should be aimed at keeping the country delicately balanced between one half meritocrats and one half deplorables, appealing to a minute number of antiquated voters in Ohio and Florida in order to maintain policy stasis. They gaslight us into thinking that actual social justice aspirants of diverse races and backgrounds, rather than the fake white woke influencers, are the real problem because of our hostility. They impose “party unity” and discipline in the service of continuing the very power structure that has given us unsustainable debt and unaffordability of basic human conveniences. When confronted by enthusiastic participation in Democratic primaries, mainly the responsibility of one Bernard Sanders of Vermont, they counter with the embodiment of the darkest hells of plutocracy, namely Michael Bloomberg. As expected, they have already used the coronavirus crisis to shut down any remaining trace of political idealism, because in this moment of emergency we cannot expect anything better than to bow down to the former president’s faithful old lapdog.
The Democratic party of 2020, after more than 50 years of succumbing to a murderous form of capitalism, is not just a flawed vehicle for any sort of political renaissance. Why should we legitimize them by leaping around their phantom carousel, wearing colorful costumes and clown hats on the fairgrounds, when they won’t give us a ticket, when they tear it up if we do have one, and when there’s always a guard hanging around to bash our skulls in case we utter a cry of joy at some little win?
They are all but compelling us to leave the party. Will we have the imagination to do so at last in a mass exodus?