Bernie Sanders has been fighting the good fight for longer than I’ve been alive, and so it ought to go without saying that I’m forever grateful for his efforts to make the country and the world a saner, kinder, and more civilized place. But in his recent interview with The Guardian, he once again doubles down on the failed strategy of reforming the Democratic Party from within.
He correctly states that the party has “turned its back on the working class,” and cites the stalled progress on Build Back Better and voting rights legislation as examples of the Biden administration’s failures to deliver for ordinary people.
He then urges Democrats to “step up and take on the greed of the ruling class,” and insists it’s time for them to “have the guts to take on the very powerful corporate interests that have an unbelievably powerful hold on the economy of this country.”
If this all sounds very familiar, it’s because these refrains are quite similar to what we heard from Bernie in his last two presidential campaigns, when he was railroaded and sabotaged by a Democratic Party establishment who clearly despises him for tirelessly making these very demands of them.
In other words, if there’s one person on Earth who should know by now that Democrats do not and will not ever represent the aspirations of working people, it’s Bernie Sanders. And so I say, with all due respect and admiration for the man and everything he’s fought for, it’s long past time that he stop deluding himself and his followers with the fantasy that the Democratic Party is capable of making the “major course correction” he feels is necessary.
Remember, this is the party that hid behind the Senate parliamentarian as an excuse to get out of raising the minimum wage. This is the party that deferred to the CDC when faced with the decision of whether or not to extend the pandemic eviction moratorium. This is the party that planned to restart student loan payments this winter, and delayed it a mere 90 days only after realizing that the pause was set to expire amidst a record-shattering covid surge.
The Democrats are a ruling class party of ruling class leaders, ruling class donors, ruling class media stooges, and wannabe ruling class voters. Their disdain for working people is plainly evident at each of these levels. The suggestion that the Democratic Party will ever be a vehicle for the empowerment of the working class is patently absurd, and at this point, outright laughable.
Even in the immediate aftermath of the killing of Build Back Better by “moderates” like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, the party’s centrist establishment is already warning progressives that they should “tamp down rhetoric” ahead of the midterms lest the Democrats be perceived as “too far left.”
NEW: Centrists are warning progressives to back off with their favorite rhetoric as the Democratic Party enters a challenging midterm year where it is in deep danger of losing the House and Senate majorities.https://t.co/hq8k7WKNRL— The Hill (@thehill) January 12, 2022
And so Bernie’s insistence that Democrats pivot in a more populist and progressive direction only serves to keep alive the false hope that such a maneuver is possible. Instead, the lifelong independent should accept that come January 2023, Democrats will be a minority party with virtually no power at the federal level, and that the path to a better future doesn’t run through them, but through outside movements and burgeoning new parties.
Those who scoff at such long shot endeavors fail to realize that reforming the Democratic Party into a force for good is as Quixotic an effort as any. Watching Bernie waste his talents in this way is as frustrating for progressives as watching Michael Jordan play minor league baseball must have been for Bulls fans in 1994.
Jordan no more belongs on a baseball diamond than Bernie belongs inside a party that is openly hostile to him and everything he represents. Time is running out to recognize this self-evident fact. Because at this rate, it’s a certainty that Democrats will lose badly in the midterms, and that the Bernie wing of the party will be blamed for it. Progressives will then have to once again defend themselves against accusations that it was all their fault.
Now that Democrats have once again proven their unwillingness and inability to change no matter the circumstances, we should all realize that this ongoing intra-party debate is completely pointless. Democrats are not a party to be reasoned with, appealed to, or petitioned - they’re to be defeated. And come November, they will be defeated. Rather than be dragged into another round of litigation about who’s to blame, Bernie and the Left should simply let the party destroy itself however they’d like, and instead focus on building something new that may emerge in the wake of the Democrats’ crushing defeat.
Bernie’s given it his best shot inside the party. But just as yelling at a frog won’t turn it into a prince, publicly chiding Democrats won’t move them anywhere. The party is designed to serve the corporate elite, win or lose, and that’s what they will continue to do. Their reluctance to “take on” these interests isn’t because they lack the “guts,” but because doing so would violate the party’s foundational principles.
Bernie must know this, and so it’s long past time he have the “guts” to say it definitively, and act accordingly.