by Keaton Weiss
In 2016, I was more or less Bernie or Bust. I registered as a Democrat for the first time in my life in order to vote for Bernie Sanders in the closed primary state of New York. That summer, after the primary, I DemExited and did not cast a vote in the general election.
This cycle, because I felt that progressives had built considerable momentum within the Democratic Party since 2016, and because I felt a second Trump term would be far more dangerous than a first, I was, in the beginning, explicitly anti-Bernie or Bust. I still supported Sanders from the day he launched his campaign, but I also thought that in the event he didn’t win the nomination, it would still be worth electing another Democrat, even a horrible one, if for no other reasons than to avert a second Trump term in which he would appoint at least one, probably two, maybe even three SCOTUS justices, and to see our newly elected progressives in the “Squad” and elsewhere try and push our legislative agenda to the new president’s desk in the hopes we could apply enough pressure that he or she would sign off on it. For these reasons, Bernie or Bust seemed strategically dubious in the early days of this campaign.
But not anymore. I could say that circumstances have changed, but the Bernie-or-Busters would insist that they haven’t, and that I should have been on board with them all along. And they’d have a point. Because my analysis in the spring and summer of last year failed to consider the lengths to which the Democratic establishment would go to sabotage the Sanders campaign and the movement it has become. I certainly expected a bitter, brutal fight, just as we endured last time around, but I wasn’t sure it would get to such an ugly place in 2020. Unlike in 2016, there was no one anointed candidate for the establishment to coalesce behind, and so I thought an anti-Bernie campaign would be harder to pull off, because it couldn’t be disguised as a “pro-Someone Else” campaign, if you will. I also thought there was a decent possibility that Bernie might have gotten lost in the shuffle of 20+ candidates, and, had he never gained traction, such a Stop Sanders effort may not have been necessary in the first place.
Alas, I was wrong. Because Bernie not only caught traction, he caught fire. He gained such momentum that the Democratic establishment and their media allies were forced into action to try and stop him much earlier than even they could have anticipated. I did predict correctly that because there was no Clinton-like figure in this race for the party hacks to rally around, a “Never Bernie” push would be rather obvious in its intention (which is probably why it thankfully hasn’t worked very well), but I was wrong in thinking that such a dynamic might deter them from trying.
The CNN/Elizabeth Warren smear job against Bernie was my first real reminder of how awful things could become overnight. Such a clearly coordinated hit was a loud wake-up call, but thankfully, that’s all it was, because Bernie not only survived the attack, he came out of it even stronger.
Then came the Iowa Caucuses, which Bernie was poised to win, only to have app malfunctions, communication breakdowns, and reporting discrepancies, totally derail the entire affair. This was either a second coordinated hit against Bernie’s movement, or it was negligence to the point that it may as well have been. Either way, it was obvious that the Democratic Party could not be trusted to administer free and fair elections in such a manner that the public could have confidence in the results. A party that can’t be trusted in this way has no reason to exist. That night it became clear that they were an illegitimate party, and a party I could no longer pledge my support to in this election. I believe very much in Bernie and the movement he has nurtured over these past five years, and so I’m still willing to stick it out for him and for us, but there was no way I could actively support anyone else at that point, even in a general election against Donald Trump.
So I was back on the Bernie or Bust bandwagon. However, even in my recent appearance on the Bernie or Bust YouTube show and podcast, I made sure to point out that in order not to alienate undecided potential Bernie voters in the primary, I wasn’t quite ready to stress the Bernie or Bust message in most of my political interactions. I stated very clearly that I, personally, am Bernie or Bust, but that tactically I still wasn’t sure that it was the best strategy to try and win over primary voters, and in many cases, it still might not be. This is not to say that we shouldn’t make serious arguments against other candidates. It’s simply to say that in general, I don’t believe that a militant Bernie or Bust strategy is the most effective way to win over undecided primary voters who might be turned off by such a confrontational approach.
But there is one candidate whose supporters need to hear the unfiltered Bernie or Bust message loud and clear, and that’s Mike Bloomberg. Anyone even considering supporting this cretin must be made to understand one thing: they can’t have him. Period. Michael Bloomberg simply is not an option, because we, the Bernie-or-Busters, will not allow him to be.
A key component of the Bernie or Bust movement’s strategy was what they called “electoral leverage,” in which Bernie supporters would essentially threaten to undermine the eventual non-Bernie nominee of the party in a general election, in the hopes that sincere blue-no-matter-who voters would choose Sanders in the primary to avoid such a split in the party that would usher in a Trump victory. I wasn’t on board with this in the beginning, and I still think there are more effective ways to convert Biden, Warren, and Buttigieg supporters to our cause, such as making an electability argument centered around the all-important Bernie-to-Trump swing voters in the critical Rust Belt states, which the Bernie or Bust movement has articulated extremely well.
But the Bloomberg supporters need to hear a direct and unequivocal statement from Berners that there is no way in hell we will ever vote for Michael Bloomberg. This is an extreme circumstance in which a leverage strategy is entirely appropriate.
First of all, anyone who actually prefers Blomberg to Sanders may as well prefer Trump to Sanders. Bloomberg and Trump share far more in common than Bloomberg and Sanders. Bloomberg and Trump are both obvious racists who have enacted blatantly racist policies. They’re both notorious womanizers with dozens of sexual misconduct claims against them. They’re both abusive bosses who bemoan pregnant women in the workplace. They both treat Muslims as unwelcome suspects. They both view poor people as dirt and working people as suckers. And they’re both oligarchs who view democracy as an unfortunate inconvenience.
Second, of course, there are those voters who may personally prefer Sanders to Bloomberg, but fear that Bernie is unelectable, whereas Bloomberg can at least “beat Trump.” Aside from the very strong likelihood that a Bloomberg vs. Trump race would yield the lowest black voter turnout in decades, which would surely doom Democrats up and down the ballot, there’s another, deeper issue here that these nervous “Bloomberg can at least beat Trump” voters must contemplate. To say that only Bloomberg can beat Trump is to say that Trump can’t really be beaten. Again, they’re both equally racist, sexist, and xenophobic, and they’re both equal in their contempt for poor and working class people. And sure, you could say that Bloomberg is a “self made” billionaire whereas Trump may not be a billionaire at all, and that Bloomberg is “smart and competent” whereas Trump is a bumbling fool. But then you’d have to concede that, for the purposes of the 2020 election, Trumpism is reduced to fraudulence, stupidity, and incompetence, and that we’re simply going to forego the opportunity to try and defeat the more insidious elements of Trumpism (the bigotry, misogyny, and cruelty), for fear that we actually can’t. To say that Bloomberg is the most “electable” candidate is to say that he’s the only one Trumpian enough to win. This is a thoroughly cowardly position, and a shameful betrayal of the very values liberals constantly espouse.
And third, Bloomberg is clearly in this race for one reason, and that’s to stop Bernie Sanders. He got in late when it seemed clear that Biden couldn’t make it, and that Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar lacked the broad appeal and name recognition necessary to compete nationally. Bloomberg, with his infinitely deep pockets and nearly universal name ID, knew he could at least stay in the race through the very end and perhaps split the vote in such a way as to force a brokered convention, during which the party superdelegates could choose the nominee on the second ballot, even in the increasingly likely scenario that Bernie goes into Milwaukee with a delegate lead (ie, a plurality, but not a majority).
Of course, we simply can’t stand for this. The fact that an authoritarian, racist, sexist, xenophobic, Republican billionaire is even being entertained as the alternative to Trump, when of course, the irony is such that I don’t even have to finish this point and you get where I’m going with it, is an embarrassment that the Democratic Party shouldn’t ever get to live down. But if they want to be around long enough to try, then they better not nominate him. Because if they do, we will destroy the Democratic Party once and for all.
According to betting markets, which are consistent with most observers’ analyses, including mine, this is coming down to a Bernie or Bloomberg race. The point we need to make is that Bernie or Bloomberg is Bernie or Bust, because we simply won’t stand for Michael Bloomberg. So if no one else has a chance at this point, then Bernie or Bust is the only real choice there is.