Bernie or Bust: Both Justified and Inescapable

by Matt Turner

6 April 2016

Looking at the US presidential primary contest from afar, it is painful to see those backing Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination being completely ignorant of the inevitability of ‘Bernie or Bust’. It is unsurprising that in November it was claimed 33% of Bernie Sanders supporters could not envisage voting for Clinton in a general election. I, for one, do not blame them.

The lesser of two evils?

The right to vote is not the same as an obligation to vote. Some people, like myself, would refuse to choose between the lesser of two evils. That is what politics has been about for far too long. It is how we have ended up with administrations which fail to represent the needs of working people time and time again. Ordinary voters have been unwittingly pandering to the will of establishment politicians for decades.

In the UK, we have also consistently settled for fairer managers of a twisted and deceitful system. It has given us nothing. On both sides of the Atlantic, it is clear that enough is enough.

In a democracy, it should be politicians who reflect the will of the people. If Clinton cannot put forward a truly progressive agenda during a presidential campaign due to her allegiances to gung-ho interventionism and the moneymen in Wall Street, then she is not entitled to a single vote from Sanders’ supporters. The people who espouse his ideas believe that the corporate agenda – taken as gospel by both political parties for the last 30 years – has overseen a callous redistribution of wealth. From the so–called ‘war on drugs’ to welfare reform, from free trade agreements to free market economics – all have served to disenfranchise not only the working and middle classes, but dupe an entire country into believing there is no hope for an alternative.

Sanders fights against that agenda; Clinton champions it.

Taking on the establishment, inside and outside the party.

It is becoming all too clear that the system is rigged. The huge grassroots network Sanders has mobilised have seen him get less than 5% of the media coverage given to Donald Trump. Cenk Uygur’s recent interview with Sanders highlights some of the absurd corporate spin seen in the mainstream media and the attempt to undermine his campaign and keep the electorate none the wiser.

The same kind of tactics are endorsed by the Democratic National Committee, which has tried to stifle the number of primary debates and opened the gate for unlimited corporate funding. Former vice-chair Tulsi Gabbard had to resign her position to endorse Sanders, and claims she was ‘warned’ by many inside the party not to support his campaign.

Here’s the truth, Clintonites, so take a seat. It is only Sanders who will break up the big banks. It is only Sanders who will halt mindless militaristic ventures. It is only Sanders who will lead the fight against an establishment determined on self-preservation. It is only Sanders who wants to tear down the rigged system and be the architect for a better way. In that respect, Clinton and Trump are very much on the same team.

It is important to address one of the scarier prospects of a huge Bernie or Bust surge: President Donald Trump – not that it stands much chance of coming to pass. Although it is perplexing that he has progressed this far to begin with (nice one, USA), plenty of Republicans are already considering voting for Clinton over that car-crash – which not only says a lot about both candidates, but insinuates that Trump would have a lot of problems winning a general election let alone getting absolutely anything through Congress if he does.

Trump and Clinton are the two least favourable and least trusted candidates in the entire political process at the moment, and in November 2016, the likelihood is the US will have to choose between the two. If Clinton wants to avoid a Trump presidency, she should embrace the progressive agenda instead of making the progressive movement embrace her. She should give cast iron assurances that she will not go back to the same old politics after her inauguration, because that would be the final nail in her coffin.

A privileged position?

Accusations have been levelled at the Bernie or Bust movement that it is one based on privilege and that people can afford to write him in because they are in a position not to be impacted by a Republican presidency. What people fail to understand is that a Clinton administration would effectively be a Republican presidency. Furthermore, the fallacious assertion that the collective Sanders has built is a hotbed of middle class white people in safe havens from the likes of Trump is insulting and denigrating, especially when he continues to maintain the bulk of working class support.

The most perplexing aspect of this argument is also an ironic one given the privilege shown by Clinton supporters tucked up in a safe, warm bed at night who are voting for a candidate who is going to decimate families, communities and entire countries in the name of neoconservatism. They are in a position not to be destroyed by her hawkish foreign policy. Palestinians, Syrians, and others caught up in her war games are not.

Clinton’s destructive foreign policy.

This is the last and probably the most compelling argument for a Sanders write-in: foreign policy. It is staggering that Clinton can actually be more radical and destructive in her foreign policy than the likes of Trump. Her AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) speech was nothing short of swearing blind loyalty to Israel and pandering to Benjamin Netanyahu, making Barack Obama look like a peace campaigner in the process.

The previous militaristic adventures she has blindly endorsed in Iraq and Afghanistan not only resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians, but created the perfect storm for Isis to thrive. She turned Libya into a failed state and continues to insist on overthrowing Bashar al-Assad while giving vague, meaningless rhetoric about how she will ‘tackle Isis’.

The global consequences of electing a president who takes foreign policy inspiration from flagrant war criminal Henry Kissinger are unfathomable. The ‘expertise’ she claims to possess wreaks of intervention and imperialism, and as Glenn Greenwald correctly asserts, her allies in the Middle East have ranged from President Mubarak of Egypt to an ultra-conservative Saudi dictatorship. She has a track record of taking advice, taking money from and embracing some of the world’s worst tyrants.

This is not the policy platform of a ‘progressive who gets things done’. It is the policy platform of a Republican in disguise. That is why so many people have embraced Bernie Sanders. He rejects the neoliberal orthodoxy that both establishment Democrats and Republicans swear unwavering allegiance to, and he rejects the notion that the US should act as the world police, ignorant to the suffering it causes in the process.

It would be a travesty for those considering Bernie or Bust to submit to the status quo at the final hurdle and accept the lesser of two evils. The US deserves better, and the rest of the world does too.

Photo: Benjamin Kerensa/Flickr

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