The Bern, Hillary and Democrats

May 21, 2016

The Bern, Hillary and Democrats

by Francis Wilkinson

American socialism is not for the impatient. From the early 19th century on, a parade of reformers, unionists, utopians, anarchists, syndicalists, socialists, communists, pranksters and malcontents have sought to pick the lock of American capitalism and free the oppressed.

The Unbending Bern–A Fight to the Finish

Wall Street, the Vatican of capital, was a source of grievance, and a bloody target of terrorists, at least as far back as 1920. Mass deprivation in the 1930s and youthful radicalism in the 1960s each took their best shot at revolution. In between, beatniks and professors scoffed at the herd instincts of mass consumers and the false consciousness of the perpetually striving.

Bernie Sanders, 74, has waited a long time for his moment. In this, he is representative of his creed. He has applied his socialism to a begrudging soil and tilled away, determined to get back to the garden. He has never given up. And his side has never won.

It’s understandable that he is reluctant to cede the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton. Whether his presidential campaign began with a prescient insight or a lucky roll of the dice, his success has been extraordinary. In a 2015 Gallup poll, more Americans said they would vote for a Muslim or an atheist for President than for a socialist. Sanders has done remarkably well swimming against the tide, all the while claiming he’s rolling with it.

Clinton has collected 2.9 million more votes than Sanders. When the last primaries end on June 7, she will almost certainly be headed to the Democratic National Convention with a bigger lead over Sanders than Obama had over Clinton when Democrats nominated him in 2008.

Do you remember how Clinton dominated the 2008 convention? How she reorganised the party in her image? I don’t either. It was Obama’s show. Because the way the system works is that if you win more votes, and more delegates, as Clinton has on both counts in 2016, you win the nomination. And if you win the nomination, you get to lead the party and its convention.

Ah, the system. The trouble, from Sanders’s perspective, is that the system is corrupt, and so is the party that operates within it. In late April, Sanders posed the big question that has animated his campaign:

“The Democratic Party has to reach a fundamental conclusion: Are we on the side of working people or big-money interests?” Mr. Sanders asked the crowd. “Do we stand with the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor? Or do we stand with Wall Street speculators and the drug companies and the insurance companies?”

Over the course of 2016, Democratic voters answered Sanders. In voting for Clinton, they opted to stand with those in need of health care and education and opportunity, but to do so in a way that doesn’t destroy Wall Street or drug companies or insurance companies.

Sanders doesn’t like the answer. He wants revolution, not gradual progress; purity, not a compromise that straddles and mediates opposing interests. He and his supporters have attacked the results of the Democratic primaries as rigged, resorting to the kind of logic—and, in Nevada, conduct—that recalls some of socialism’s less gentle antecedents.

As Jaime Fuller wrote:

“Sanders voters have also been selectively frustrated about the many confusing primary rules. They have not railed against caucuses, which tend to feature extremely low turnout and are so long that many people with inflexible work hours or busy lives are unable to take part. Of course, Sanders has done exceedingly well in caucuses. Using “rigged” is a political act as much as the politics the phrase seeks to call out.

Of course, when the system is corrupt, you are not obligated to honour its rules. And when your opponent is morally compromised and doctrinally wrong, you have a duty to prevent her from gaining power at the expense of your more perfect, far-reaching vision. Or you do if you value socialism more than you trust democracy.

Sanders has taken pains to stress that he is a Democratic Socialist, distinguishing himself from the unsavory henchmen of Moscow and Beijing. His primary campaign has been unhindered by the kind of red-baiting that would envelop, and overwhelm, him in a general election, when his youthful associations with less democratic strains of socialism would become a staple of Republican advertising.

It’s likely that in a general election, the agents of capitalism would indeed join forces to crush Sanders. His campaign, which has sparked a fire but not a revolution, would be exposed as just the latest socialist mirage on the American landscape.

In the Democratic primary, Sanders has been spared all that. He hasn’t won. But he hasn’t completely lost, either. He’s just been required, once again, to wait. It’s not capitalism, however, that has deferred his dream of socialism with American characteristics. It’s democracy.”
— Bloomberg/

12 thoughts on “The Bern, Hillary and Democrats

  1. FrancisWilkinson. Bloombergview. What else can we say about a piece on being unbias. I too need to cari makan in my new land. If I were to write a piece from my employer’s viewpoint, could I not be unbias? Big short the story bares it all. With that, frustration comes the need for Bernie.

    My great grand father is a democratic socialist for the old new China. I do not know him. But, from what I can read about him, would I be proud of him? Yes, I am. Perhaps, I am bias, or I had to 😉 But, I would not be ashame to make the claim that all of today’s Chinese descent could be proud of him, and would take greater pride of our race if his ideal were to gain acceptance. As for Bernie, all in the world should be proud that a democratic socialist ran and is still running. I take pride in lending my support for Bernie. Unfortunately, I pity my CEO employer could not publicly agree with that. 😎

    Hey.. speaking of which, perhaps many in Malaysia who have to cari makan has to do the same .. messed up we are. Messed up we will continue to be. Such is our world.

  2. The world will be a better place if everyone acts following their conscience.

    If your employer does unethical things (such as exploiting foreign workers or poisoning the environment), find another employer and do some whistle-blowing too.

    If our govt is corrupt and full of thieves, speak up or engage in discrete resistance
    (such as leaking documents to Sarawak Report and WSJ – something which is probably being done by upright civil servants).

    We can disagree on philosophy of life or political ideology, but I feel that all of us should try our best to act following our conscience.

    My favourite saying and guide to how I should live my life:

    “A truly great man is one whom
    money and rank cannot corrupt,
    poverty and hardship cannot shake,
    and power and force cannot subjugate”

  3. Social democracy, Katasayang?

    Dead as a doornail. I think socialism as a doctrine of economic determinism will and in many instances gone the way of the Dodo. We need a paradigm shift in all these kinds of labelling. The Middle Path of syncretistic politics which gels the Keynesian and the economic liberality policies of the capitalist New Right. It’s not the economic disparity that causes so much Angst – it’s the Social Injustice.

    Political Egalitarianism should not be merely about economics – it should be about equal opportunity. It encompasses social justice, cohesion, interdependence, individual worth, human development – including fair educational-vocational opportunity and environmental protection.

    So much for Ivy-Leagues (US), Sandstone (Oz) and other ‘premier’ varsities. Nations need Brawn (technical skills) as much as Brains (intellectual skills). And that is why Europe is becoming ‘Lembek’. Postindustrial nations are living off the misery of Industrializing nations don’t you think? Whatever happened to the “Protestant Work Ethic” as coined by Max Weber? Hard work, discipline and frugality? Sloth is an animal.

    Conscience as a political ideology, Dr Phua?
    But Conscience is a Function of Nurture and Cultural Mores, which is highly variable. Hard-wiring can only do so much.
    Therefore, i would propose what is known as the Golden Mean, found in both Eastern and Western Philosophies..
    Otherwise, individual conscience and its accompanying emotional attachments will drive civilization back into the hunter-gatherer stage. Individualism cannot be ‘Corporatized’.

  4. Interesting developments in Zionism :

    The BDS campaign in the USA is gathering steam, with progressive Jews as some of its leaders.

    (UMNO Baru “Ketuanan Melayu” has some resemblance to Zionism, with both claiming that they are masters of the land).

    Doctor CLF: conscience is not an “ideology”. Feelings of conscience/guilt is that uncomfortable feeling that people experience when they do things which, deep down, they know are not ethical or “right” in terms of one’s culture, and one’s societal norms and values.

    It works for most people, including the Nazi Party supporter who saved some of the Nanjing Chinese from the Japanese massacre during WW2. Or Polish Catholic people who hid and saved Jews during WW2 in heavily anti-semitic Poland. (Of course it does not work for people without any conscience such as
    those with narcissistic personality disorder etc).

  5. Well as i said, conscience is a pretty poor predictor of any human endeavour. It is borne out by ‘Academic’ experimental evidence like the Milgram, Hofling hospital and the Stanford Prison Experiments.

    Hannah Arendt’s term “the Banality of Evil” applies. Conscience seldom trumps Hard Authority.

    This is Philip Zimbardo who carried out the Stanford Prison Experiment:

    The history of China is replete with human brutality and genocidal madness, which i need not go into. What makes you think you will be better?

    As for me, i won’t know until i’m put into extremis circumstances.

  6. @CLF: you are right. Socialism in whatever form is going nowhere. Even when implemented, it has mostly been more ineffective, and abused than provide real economics good. But, that doesn’t mean one ought to give up. Heart of liberal ideals is to see form of socialism takes hold. Unless, the world would choose to give up on liberal ideals entirely, I cannot see how we can give up re-inventing what it means to achieve a more ‘socialble’ world.

    In any case, I think there is too much needless fear on the word socialism. Perhaps, it is caused by our past and present danger due to falsehood of “authoritarian socialism”.

    I like this article explaining the difference.

    @Dr Phua, thank you for the reminder. Thanks for sharing the Hong Kong posting also for the aged also. We can only imagine what is happening in Malaysia.

  7. Another inspiring example of a socialist politician:

    Katasayang: I would say that Social Democracy is a kind of political
    ideology with a conscience (and compassion). P.S. It’s a waste of time to debate cynics who are quick to pass judgment on others or prone to making
    sweeping statements !

  8. One more thing, my comrade-in-arms Katasayang:

    The word “liberal” means very different things in the American and European contexts and political lexicon i.e. in the USA, someone who is very liberal would be some kind of Social Democrat and in Europe, it would mean a classic liberal of the Hayek variety.

    I would say that Social Democracy worked pretty well from 1945 to 1973 in Western and Northern Europe. But it has been in trouble over the last few decades, one of the possible reasons being increasing globalisation and the apparent failure of Keynesianism in the 1970s. It is politically difficult to exercise fiscal restraint during good economic times, and to increase public spending during bad times, following John Maynard Keynes’ recommendation.

    P.S. I have prepared slides on “Social Democracy and the Economy” and made it available on the Internet. You are welcome to take a look.

  9. Hilary has won .Bernie “has’nt lost completely” either.

    The one size Capitalism, unfettered, cannot fit and fix all, especially in promoting equality and eradication of poverty.It needs the some form of Socialism and Liberalism to complement for achieving the desired results, delivered in honesty and competency.

    But Bernie’s claim that the system(Super delegates) is corrupt, is itself flaw.He knew the rules of the electorate system.He should have fought on the issue from the very beginning,not 3/4 way through the trailing competition.

    Nevertheless, a Clinton-Sanders combination would quite certainly ensure a victory for the Democratic Party in the USA presidential race in November.It is the better alternative to the Unreliable Donald Trump, viewed globally.

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