Don’t ‘feel the Bern’ if you don’t want to get burnt
The news that Bernie Sanders is going to stand for president again was met with cries of joy by those who should really know better. It’ll all end in tears, as the US system doesn’t allow a genuinely transformative president.
When will they ever learn? Even after the latest reality check, with Donald Trump, the president who was going to ‘drain the swamp‘ and sideline the neocons, appointing a whole host of swamp dwellers to his team – and hardline pro-Iraq War hawk John Bolton to be his National Security Advisor – there are still, quite incredibly, a lot of people who are getting very excited about the 2020 presidential race.
This time, Bernie will do it, we’re told. And what a difference this true ‘Man of the People’ will make! Then there’s Tulsi, who’s pledged to oppose ‘regime change’ wars. She’ll stick it to the neocons, all right.Also on rt.com Solid figures: Bernie Sanders’ campaign already has 1 million volunteers after 6 days
But going by past history, it ain’t going to happen. Neither Sanders or Gabbard are likely to make it to the White House. Even if they did, the odds are they’d follow much the same policies as their predecessors – as Obama did after Bush, and Trump after Obama.
One loses count of the number of presidential candidates who were billed as ’game changers’. People who were going to shake the system up. Take on Wall Street and the special interest groups. Give ‘the little people’ a voice in the White House. Stop the Wars. But it never happened.
The system was simply too strong.
Anyone remember when Howard Dean threw his hat into the ring? The governor of Vermont was one of the front-runners for the Democratic nomination in 2004. He opposed the Iraq War. Yipee! He built a grassroots campaign based on small donations . Yipee! But it all ended in tears. We can blame that ‘scream’ if we like, but there were powerful forces in the Democratic establishment against him and his campaign fizzled out like Bernie’s did twelve years later. But would President Dean have made much of a difference? Seeing how he morphed into a foreign policy hawk afterwards, the answer is not very likely. In 2016, Dean, the ‘insurgent‘ of 2003 backed Hillary Clinton over Bernie.
The system has various mechanisms for (a) preventing candidates who want to change the status quo from becoming president and (b) making them toe the line if they are elected.Also on rt.com Sanders says DNC bias in favor of Clinton open secret now, hopes to be treated fairly in 2020
First and foremost there’s money. As Danielle Ryan detailed in a previous OpEd, it’s not Russia that’s damaging American ‘democracy’– it’s the billions of dollars that have to be raised.
It sounds so thrilling to build a presidential campaign on small donations, but the sad truth is that the big donors will always hold a sizeable advantage. America really is the best ‘democracy’ money can buy.
Linked to this there are the very powerful lobby groups, the most powerful of which in foreign policy, is the pro-Israel lobby which expects – and indeed demands – loyalty towards Israel and hostility towards foreign actors Israel doesn't like.
Then there’s the role of the corporate media, ownership of which is highly concentrated in enforcing pro-Establishment narratives.
Consider the way the ‘anti-war’ candidate Tulsi Gabbard went on the back-foot when being aggressively questioned on Syria on ABC’s the View by the daughter of the late neocon Senator John McCain.
“You have said that the Syrian president, Assad, is not the enemy of the United States yet he’s used chemical weapons against his own people 300 times,” McCain said.
Instead of responding to this by asking for McCain’s sources for the ‘300 times claim’ and reiterating that Assad was not an enemy of the US, which he clearly isn’t, Gabbard said there was “no disputing the fact that Bashar Assad and Syria is a brutal dictator” who has “used chemical weapons and other weapons against his people.”
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard says "there's no disputing the fact" that Bashar Al-Assad is a "brutal dictator" who "has used chemical weapons" against his people, but adds that amid the US's "regime-change war," the "lives of the Syrian people have not been improved" https://t.co/Y6QetT9YO3pic.twitter.com/5p3fWKtncW— The View (@TheView) February 20, 2019
In other words she caved in. The system 1 Tulsi Gabbard 0.
On foreign policy, Bernie surrendered a long time ago. He’s the classic example of a ‘licensed radical’, namely he’s allowed some leeway to slam the gross iniquities of American turbo-capitalism, but knows the score when there’s an external ’official enemy‘ to be demonised.
The system needs someone like him to give it a ‘democratic’ veneer, but again appearances can be very deceptive. As ever, Venezuela is a good litmus test.
The self-declared ’democratic socialist’ Bernie, the man so many leftists in America and worldwide are pinning their hopes on, in 2015 referred to democratic socialist Hugo Chavez, probably the most elected man in the world, “a dead communist dictator”– having praised Venezuela and its greater income equality, years earlier.
While he hasn’t called Nicolas Maduro a ‘dictator’ yet, he did parrot a ruling class trope by saying that the last Venezuelan election “was not free or fair.”
He also called on the Venezuelan government not to use violence against protesters. That sounds reasonable enough, but what if protesters themselves use violence against government supporters, as when a black man was burnt alive in Caracas? Is the government still not allowed to respond forcefully to protect people?
The US has a Regime. Wall St, the military-industrial complex & the richest & most powerful lobby groups call the shots. Everything else is just a sideshow. A charade to give voters the illusion of ‘democracy’. If elections changed anything important, they’d be abolished. https://t.co/J1OGR3gPBo— Neil Clark (@NeilClark66) November 7, 2018
On foreign policy Bernie is the ’good cop’, to John Bolton’s ‘bad cop’. He won‘t support direct military action against the target state, but he’ll undermine its legitimacy all the same. Look at how since 2016 he’s indulged in evidence-free Russophobia like the most rabid neocon.
Only last July Bernie introduced a ‘Resolution to protect American Democracy from Russian Meddling’.
“If President Trump won't confront Putin about interference in our elections and his destabilizing policies, Congress must act. Tweets and speeches are fine, but we need more from Republican senators now,” Sanders said.
Senator Joe McCarthy would have been proud of him.
Bernie supporters will argue that toeing the line on foreign policy means their man can prioritise on domestic reforms, but how can he really change things at home if military budgets are not significantly cut and the wars continue?
The idea that any meaningful change comes through the present system in America is at best over-optimistic and at worst, hopefully naive. Only when we accept that the US is not a ’democracy’ but a regime, when everyone who stands for high office – however well-intentioned – is pulled towards promoting pro-imperialist, pro-neoliberal, elite-friendly policies, then we can make some real progress. Continuing to participate in the ’elections are so very important’ charade only prolongs the agony. And in case anyone thinks this is just an American problem, it most certainly isn’t.
Look at Britain and how Jeremy Corbyn, who did promise something really different when first elected as Labour leader in 2015, has been brought into line. Corbyn’s main problem was that he was taking over as leader of a party whose parliamentary representatives were overwhelmingly opposed to any real change. But rather than move against them Corbyn chose to compromise and his party is down to 30 percent in the polls. The one-time anti-war radical, who was going to transform Britain ’for the many not the few’ now looks a shadow of his former self.
If voting changed anything they’d abolish it. That might sound glib, but as we look at how the system operates, we can see that there’s so much truth in it.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.