Predictably, after New York, the establishment is demanding that Bernie bow out. The etiquette of conventional Party politics, after all, dictates that he step aside, lest he weaken the front runner. But this race has never been about tweedle-dee vs. tweedle-dum, so the conventions of Party politics have little bearing on whether Bernie should fight all the way to the Convention. Here’s why he needs to keep going.
The selection process is undemocratic, and fundamentally broken
At a time when a sizable majority of people think of themselves as independents, the two Parties completely dominate the selection – as opposed to election – process. The Parties in turn, are controlled by moneyed interests, which in turn control the media, a vast array of think tanks, non-profits, and paid pundits representing special interests of all kinds.
The rules in both Parties’ nominating procedure serve to shut out anyone not toeing the Party’s line.
The result, as Frank Bruni pointed out in a recent op-ed, is that in a nation of more than 321 million citizens, 10 million people could select the candidate.
In New York alone, millions of would-be voters were shut out of the primaries. That doesn’t serve democracy, but it does assure that the Party's favorite is in a strong position to win.
Bernie Sanders ran as a Democrat because the system prohibited any other option. But he was running to overturn this Oligarchic assembly line, not to endorse it.
Since Reagan, Democrats have embraced the pay-to-play politics of the Oligarchy and run as centrists. The establishment narrative was that America was predominantly a right of center county politically, and the only option Democrats had was to build their message and platform around an incremental and piecemeal defense of what remained of the progressive New Deal philosophy that dominated the country prior to Reagan.
When actually governing, however, even this pallid support for the New Deal evaporated. Remember, it was Bill Clinton (with Hillary’s strong support) who deregulated Wall Street, ended welfare, and ramped up the imprisonment rate, particularly for blacks and Latinos.
But this whole right-of-center myth was never true. A summary of decades of public opinion polls released in 2007, revealed that American was largely left of center and had been for some time. And it’s even more so today.
The Oligarchy fosters the right-of-center myth because it keeps them in power. The Democratic establishment -- including the corporate-controlled media and the elite Party apparatchiks heading up everything from unions to not-for-profit thank tanks and environmental groups -- is, in essence, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Oligarchy, so they all join in selling the myth.
As long as the myth held, progressive had nowhere else to go.
But as the wealth from our labors began to trickle up, not down… well, more of an eruption of wealth upward than a trickle, actually … it began to dawn on people that the myth was false, and that they were getting fleeced. Occupy Wall Street helped make this an issue. And with Bernie Sanders, people saw an alternative to the myth.
In her own words, Hillary Clinton is not a progressive. She merely donned a progressive persona when Sanders made it clear that’s where the people’s hearts were. She’s a member in good standing of the Oligarchy, complete with PACs and ties to the elite establishment who have leadership positions in everything from the media to trade unions to environmental groups. The rank and file members of these organizations – which is to say the people – were shut out of decisions about endorsements and funding and they are hopping mad.
That Sanders has been able to break through these barriers and reach the people is remarkable. In a sense, he was never running against Hillary, he was running against the clock in a system which sought to keep him a secret until it was too late.
So here’s the deal. If democracy is supposed to be about the will of the people as opposed to the whims of the Party, then Bernie needs to keep on running in order to continue to give the majority a voice.
The lesser of two evils isn’t good enough
There’s a more practical reason for Sanders to keep running. We are faced with intractable problems which will not be solved by politics as usual. As the political center has shifted rightward, it has not only abandoned the people, it has abandoned real solutions.
Consider climate change. We need a virtual revolution to deal with it. The people know it and are prepared to act, but the establishment politicians won’t. Even after grudgingly moving on the Keystone XL pipeline, Hillary refuses to endorse a price on carbon, for example. She’s essentially silent on exploration, drilling and mining on federal lands at a time when we know we have to leave most of the fossil fuel reserves we’ve already found in the ground.
She won’t support a $15 minimum wage, she’s been all over the map on trade deals, and she still won’t call for a new Glass-Steagall or a break up of the too-big-to-fail banks.
This at a time when the middle class is virtually disappearing due to the policies she’s endorsed for decades.
Even if her conversion to progressivism were real, she’s proposing to meet these epochal challenges with incremental steps. That’s equivalent to trying to jump the Grand Canyon in ten foot leaps.
Finally, there’s her neocon foreign policy with its inevitable commitment to perpetual war – wars the majority of the people don’t want.
Sanders assures a victory over Republicans, Hillary does not
Sanders does better against Republican candidates than Hillary does. In fact, he beats Cruz and Kasich, while Hillary loses to Kasich and is about even with Cruz. Hillary is one of the least liked, least trusted candidates, Sanders is one of the most. With unfavorability ratings as high as Clinton’s she will have great difficulty picking up support beyond what she has now. Sanders is likely to get stronger.
There is a path to victory
Sanders needs 1,117 more delegates to win, and there are 2,186 delegates remaining (including super delegates) so there is a plausible – if challenging -- path to victory. In fact, if he can get African Americans to vote for him, it becomes a cakewalk at this point. No mean feat, but the more they know about his record, as opposed to Hillary’s rhetoric, the more likely it becomes. With the Bernieblackout in effect, this will be difficult, but not impossible.
So run, Bernie, run
Sanders’ run was never about him. It was about trying to seize the country back from the Oligarchy, and giving it to the people. He can still foster that end by running to the end, even if his nomination has gotten more difficult. And yes, given the anti-democratic flaws and the stacked deck in the primary process, attempting to convert surperdelegates isn’t hypocritical – it’s fair game.
John Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, an eco-thriller and Book One of a Trilogy centered on global warming. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the San Jose Mercury News and other major newspapers. Atcheson’s book reviews are featured on Climateprogess.org.