By Glen Ford
Jun 8, 2016
The corporate media mob this week tried to string Bernie Sanders’ leftish presidential campaign from a tree and kick the chair out from under his feet. By the time primary voters cast their ballots on Tuesday they had already been informed that, according to the Associated Press count, Hillary Clinton owned enough superdelegates to clinch the nomination – a psycho-bomb that undoubtedly depressed Sanders voter turnout in California, where polls had consistently shown an essentially even split prior to the AP intervention.
“Get out, already,” shrieked CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post, damning the Sandernistas to oblivion with six weeks and six state primaries still to go before the Democratic National Convention, in Philadelphia. The WP headlines blared “Top Supporters of Sanders Gently Tell Him: It’s Time” and warned “How Sanders Might Drive Some Voters to Trump.” The NYT proclaimed “Clinton Made History, But Sanders Stubbornly Ignored It,” as if history had delivered its final verdict.
“The struggle continues,” the Vermont senator told his supporters, many of them members of the “Bernie or Bust” proto-party. It remains to be seen if Sanders will tell that to Barack Obama when he meets the president, on Thursday. Will he risk excommunication by the Pope of the Democratic Party, who Sanders has treated as infallible throughout the primary season?
“It will be very important for Senator Sanders to link arms with Secretary Clinton,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, of Oregon, the only member of the upper chamber to endorse Sanders. Merkley’s message: the sanctity of the two-party system is paramount. Any further resistance to Hillary, the Anointed, will be deemed a heresy, and it is the duty of the party faithful – like good Democratic takfiris – to kill heretics. This is a Holy War over the fate of the duopoly.
“Will Sanders risk excommunication by the Pope of the Democratic Party?”
As Duboisian scholar Dr. Anthony Monteiro points out, the duopoly system faces an “existential threat” this electoral season, and will soon be replaced by a multi-party political configuration. We know that the Republican pole of the duopoly is fractured beyond repair when even the New York Times’ idiot-in-residence, columnist Thomas L. Friedman, senses the stench of death. In a piece titled “Dump the GOP for a Grand New Party,” Friedman writes that “America needs a healthy center-right party to ensure that the Democrats remain a healthy center-left party.” He proposes the founding of a “New Republican Party” that will break with Trump, the Tea Party, the gun lobby and the climate change deniers and, instead, fight for “free trade” and a foreign policy that will “manage weak and collapsing nations.”
What Friedman is actually dreaming of is the permanent maintenance of a consensus between two ruling corporate parties over what the “center” is, with minor variations allowed to the left and right of this consensual center. However, the revolts by Trump’s white nationalists in the Republican Party and Bernie Sanders’ leftish, “social democratic” legions among the Democrats, are rebellions against the corporate consensus – and consciously so. Freidman, like the rest of the big business media and the corporate interests they serve, is hoping for a Restoration – but it is too late for that.
Bernie Sanders’ historic mission – an assignment I am certain he did not choose or anticipate – is to refuse to capitulate, at least until he has delivered his followers to Philadelphia, where scores of thousands of leftists of all stripes will be gathered. If the Sandernistas’ morale remains high right up to the convention – that is, if they are enabled to maintain a sense of group mission – then the path to a new party to the left of the corporate Democrats will begin to emerge among a significant minority of his activists. By this time, Hillary Clinton will have revealed the broad contours of her lurch rightward to absorb Republican refugees and financiers, dragooning the Democrats into becoming, as historian and activist Paul Street puts it, “objectively, the truer and more fully explicit ruling class party in the country.” Such a hostile environment will compel those with even remotely social democratic sensibilities to seek out or create a “party of the 99 percent” – whether Sanders ultimately embraces Hillary, or not.
“A leftish electoral force, closely connected with mass social movements, will messily emerge from the tumult of 2016.”
If Sanders folds before Philadelphia – as early as this week, if the White House has its way – then history will treat him as a saboteur of the “movement” that he claimed to lead. But, the disintegration of the duopoly has already begun. A leftish electoral force, closely connected with mass social movements, will messily emerge from the tumult of 2016. The new party (or parties) will contend for the huge political space to the left of Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the past, present and likely future presidents spawned by the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), the corporate faction created in the 1980s to move the Party rightward. With victory complete, the DLC shut down after Obama’s election. It now IS the Democratic Party – a lesson that Sanders supporters have been learning all these months.
Older Blacks will be the last element of the Democratic “base” to leave the Party in significant numbers – although African Americans were the prime targets for disempowerment by the DLC, along with labor and leftists. (When Barack Obama’s name surfaced on the DLC list in 2003, he denied membership, but he was lying.) The duopoly has made the Democratic Party a “trap-within-a-trap” for Blacks, since the other pole of the duopoly has for the past half century been the White Man’s Party, the GOP. African Americans over 40 will not leave the Democrats until it is clear to them that a shrunken or split Republican Party is no longer an existential danger to Black people. However, it will also soon become clear that Hillary’s planned absorption of millions of former Republicans will seriously diminish Black influence in the Democratic Party. Blacks are the most redistributive and anti-war constituency in the country and, over time, will play an increasing role in the new, social democratic party.
“African Americans over 40 will not leave the Democrats until it is clear to them that a shrunken or split Republican Party is no longer an existential danger to Black people.”
This week, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are both scheduled to address a national gathering of Black elected officials and other assorted members of the Black Misleadership Class, in Gary, Indiana. The event is framed as an update of the 1972 National Black Political Convention in that same city. It’s organized by the National Policy Alliance, which is described as “a coalition of 16,000 Black elected and appointed officials and more than a million Black policy makers.” The convention, a thoroughly Democratic affair, will produce a document that will be called a Black “national political agenda” – which should take no time at all to construct, since it will propose nothing that is at odds with Hillary Clinton’s perceived agenda. Black Democrats are like pilot fish that eat the leftovers of sharks and clean parasites from the predators’ skins. It was hoped that the 1972 Gary convention would lead to a national Black political party, but the project ultimately collapsed in the 1980s, largely because the hegemony of the Democratic Party was, by that time, all but complete in Black America.
The death of the duopoly will not only clear a vast political space for social democrats, it will free Black America to pursue an independent agenda, through its own political formations. Given that Blacks have historically been at the cutting edge of social change in the U.S., Black emancipation from the Democratic Party would represent a sea change in national and global progressive politics.
Black Agenda Report executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.