by Keaton Weiss
Bernie Sanders turned some heads this week when one of his advisors disclosed that he is not ruling out a third run for the presidency in 2024. The announcement came with the caveat that he would only consider entering the race “in the event of an open 2024 Democratic presidential primary,” meaning that should Biden decide to seek re-election, Bernie wouldn’t challenge him for the nomination.
First, we should recognize the irony that nothing is likelier to force a Biden re-election bid than the threat of a Bernie candidacy in lieu of it. By saying he’ll only consider running if Biden doesn’t, Bernie is ensuring that the DNC will make Biden run again no matter his viability. Democrats’ top priority these past seven years – far more important than defeating Republicans – has been to stop the Sanders movement from taking over their party. If even a doomed Biden re-election campaign were to come with the guarantee that Bernie would stand down, that’s a deal Democratic leadership couldn’t refuse.
Because of this, it’s overwhelmingly likely that Bernie isn’t running in 2024. Still, as a supporter of his who’s been fooled twice into thinking it worthwhile to try and win a rigged game inside a filthily corrupt Democratic Party, I should say that I am willing to vote for him again, but this time with a caveat of my own: he must run as an independent.
As a Democrat, he’ll lose even if he win
After Bernie dropped out and endorsed Biden for the 2020 nomination, there was a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking about what went wrong in his campaign. Some felt Bernie should have made larger ground game investments across all Super Tuesday states rather than spending heavily on internet ads. Some said he should have been more hostile to the Democratic establishment from day one, pushing back on party orthodoxies surrounding Russiagate and the first Trump impeachment. I myself felt it was a terrible mistake for him to appear on 60 Minutes after his landslide Nevada victory, as it gave the media an opportunity to reset the narrative and shiv him with their predictable Commie-mongering nonsense.
But despite the campaign’s structural flaws and strategic mishaps, Bernie did emerge from the typically all-important first four contests the odds-on favorite to win the nomination. And absent an unprecedented last-minute reshuffling of the deck in which the entire party – at the apparent direction of former President Obama – united against him, it’s a near-certainty that he would have won the nomination.
In other words, for all of our second-guessing about what the Bernie campaign could have and should have done better in 2020, they – or, rather, we, as I should include his million-plus volunteers in this assessment – performed well enough to win if we were given even a remotely fair chance.
But we weren’t, and we never will be. The Democrats hate Bernie’s guts, and they hate ours too. And by Democrats, I refer not only to the party’s higher-ups, but to their rank and file MSNBC-addled nitwit voters as well who find us too mean and divisive for their sensitive, pseudo-sophisticated tastes.
In 2016, Bernie may well have won were it not for the blatant and egregious DNC and media bias against him. In 2020, he overcame those obstacles and essentially had the nomination clinched, and they still found a way to deny him in the 11th hour. How could Bernie, or his supporters, possibly expect a third attempt in 2024 would yield a different outcome?
Bernie or Bust vs. Blue No Matter Who: a debate we can’t afford again
From April through November of 2020, the Left was mired in an endless back-and-forth about how to vote in the general election. Some insisted that we fall in line behind Biden for the sake of defeating Donald Trump, while others committed to either vote third party or abstain altogether in protest of another illegitimate primary in which their candidate was unfairly denied.
I found this debate tiresome and unproductive, thinking the Left should be more focused on building institutional power through worker revolts, racial and economic justice protests, and third party organizing. Bickering over how to vote in an election that, big picture, had already been lost, seemed like a huge waste of time and energy.
Now in 2022, a wave of revolutionary labor action is sweeping the country. We’ve seen courageous strikes at Kellogg’s, John Deere, and Nabisco, and stunning union victories at Amazon and Starbucks. Sustaining this momentum is an absolute imperative for the Left, and should remain its primary focus in the coming years. Another sabotaged Bernie campaign within the Democratic Party – and the subsequent time suck of debating each other about how to vote in November – would be a distraction we can’t afford.
Repeating the same action and expecting a different result isn’t just insane, it comes with an opportunity cost. In this case, time and money spent pointlessly trying to outmaneuver a scheming party establishment and talk sense into a mindless herd of liberal lemmings called the “Democratic electorate” are resources that could be put to much better use supporting independent grassroots movements unwed to and unbound by the DNC.
2024 will be a historic opportunity for an independent
Joe Biden has reportedly told former President Obama that he intends to seek re-election. Donald Trump is obviously laying the groundwork to run himself, and will likely be the Republican nominee. If 2024 is a rematch between Biden and Trump, it will be the first time since 1892 that an ousted President (Grover Cleveland) runs for re-election against the incumbent who defeated him.
This will create a historic opportunity for an independent candidate to make the case that both of his/her opponents are failed Presidents. If Biden and Trump are the respective nominees of the Democratic and Republican parties, the independent in the race can emphasize that we’ve tried each of these options before, and both worked out terribly. As someone who’s both traveled the country and worked in tourism with people from its every nook and cranny, I can assure you that such a common sense appeal would resonate strongly with the average American voter.
A contest between two highly unpopular presidents each asking for a second chance they don’t deserve poses a unique opportunity for a third party candidate with the savvy and the star power to seize it (in the aforementioned 1892 Harrison v. Cleveland election, Populist Party candidate James B. Weaver had an impressive showing, winning 22 electoral votes). Whether or not Bernie is the ideal person to fill this role may be an open question, but he’s likely as formidable as any who would try.
Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose
Yes, the day Bernie dropped out of the 2020 primary was frustrating, depressing, and infuriating. But it was also liberating in the sense that we on the Left were no longer tethered to the Democratic Party in any way. We felt no need to remain in good standing with their leaders, their media stooges, or their voters. We were free to create our own political project on our own terms – a challenge that, while daunting, was exciting at the same time.
One year into Biden’s miserable presidency, such an endeavor remains as necessary as ever. The Democrats’ record of inflation, censorship, and global war is certain to doom them in the midterms. Come 2023, the Republicans will control both chambers of Congress, and absent some divine reversal of fortune for the Biden White House, Trump is likely to be re-elected the following year.
And so because Democrats can no longer beat Republicans, we have nothing to lose by taking a flyer on an independent. Regardless of whether or not Bernie could pull off a miracle and win the presidency in 2024, it’s going to be necessary to build a Left alternative to the Democratic Party. Their days as a nationally relevant political presence are numbered, and some organized force is going to have to replace them.
It’s difficult for me to believe that Bernie doesn’t already know all of this. By now it must be obvious to him that the Democrats would sooner self-destruct than nominate him to lead their party. Furthermore, he must understand the disempowering effect of repeated defeats and the detriment it causes to his movement. Surely, socialist that he is, he must recognize that right now the real action on the Left is in workers’ movements, and that another folly attempt to transform a party of capital into a party of labor would only distract from those struggles. And finally, as a self-proclaimed independent, he ought to know as well as anyone that 2024 is shaping up to be the most favorable climate for third parties in modern political history.
And so if he really wants to give his political revolution one last chance at success, he ought to heed the advice of former Green Party nominee Jill Stein, who said in 2016, “You can’t have a revolution inside a counter-revolutionary party.” I for one am done trying that approach. If Bernie decides the same and is willing to run as an independent, he’ll have my full support. Otherwise, I’m out.
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Photo: Gage Skidmore (CC 2.0)