Bernie Sanders versus the progressive left

Bernie Sanders Rally: Photo by Melissa Fossum

When Bernie Sanders made his entry into the Democratic field, few people would had imagine that he could become a real challenger to Hillary Clinton, but now he is the champion for the liberal wing of the party. Bernie Sanders, the 73 years old self-described socialist elected as an independent to the House and Senate representing Vermont, wasn’t as popular as liberal firebrand Elizabeth Warren but he had a good record of siding with the unions and bashing income inequality. So one would assume that the progressive left would be on board with him, but there are exceptions, both in and out of the party.

From the independent left their major distrust for Sanders is his foreign policy, which is relatively hawkish. The Green Party had mixed feelings about Sanders, but there were some that last year were trying to convince Bernie to run as a Green. Now the feeling is of distrust toward Sanders, most greens and independent progressives fear that an endorsement of Hillary Clinton from Bernie would siphon progressive votes into a militarist and corporatist candidate. Green Party members and allies said that Bernie Sanders isn’t Eugene Debs and they are right, but some on the Trotskyist left think otherwise. Some on the independent left might prefer the Green Party nominee Jill Stein over Sanders but still say some good things about him, while others basically called him a neocon of the left.

If people on the independent left, the Green Party or some Trotskyist outlet distrust Bernie is because he isn’t one them. But why the progressive left in the Democratic Party be against the most progressive candidate of this election cycle. The answer is #BlackLivesMatter and the recent Netroots conference prove that. Bernie Sanders is considered by black and brown liberal activists to be soft on the issue of racial inequality — that’s why they interrupted his speech. His answer that he was active in the Civil Rights movement and that he marched with MLK didn’t calm the angry crowd, neither the fact that his other answer for solving racial tensions was to speak about economics. The hashtag #BernieSoBlack mocked a campaign supposedly out of touch with racial justice topics. The criticism of Sanders has even been made about his white supporters.

I’m a socialist and for me the fight against racism is vital part of politics, but I feel deeply troubled by the attitude of the protesters. Matt Bruenig had alredy made the case that Bernie Sanders had already spoke on issues like racial justice so why are the activists so against the old socialist, but mute about Hillary Clinton, who supported the racist tough on crime legislation of his husband. I’m not by any standard a fan of Bernie, my libertarian socialist tendencies made doubt about his bureaucratic social democrat ideals, but I think than if they want to talk about racism why not to question the role of Hillary Clinton in the Libyan War which prompted a humanitarian crisis that affects mostly poor black Africans?

I was surprised to known that even the two time presidential candidate of the Socialist Party and longtime antiwar activist David McReynolds was disgusted with protesters over the Netroots event. It would be wise bring back to discussion of police unions, which Bernie Sanders and most progressives are usually in favor of. And the fact that he represents a mostly white state doesn’t excuse him from the responsibility of talking about these issues. But even with that said, Sanders is not a Nazi or any kind of racist, and if Sanders hasn’t been the best friend to black communities, is Hillary Clinton any better? She may have a more diverse campaign team, but is a staunch supporter of the racist War on Drugs.

I wonder who the black and brown liberal protesters are going to vote for, the man who had been active in the civil rights movement his entire life, or for the wife of a governor that honored the Confederate Flag. I wrote that liberal identity politics were responsible for the death of the New Left ideals of decentralism and anti-imperialism. Liberal identity politics today is a powerful ally to the neoliberal status quo, because it is very difficult to find a perfect progressive. Liberals are in large part responsible for building the racist Prison Industrial Complex, and with self-defeating strategies like those favored by some activists their cause will be lost. Stop wasting the time attacking a man relatively good on the issue of race and confront the fact that a racist Empire should be the subject in question.

Recently in an interview, Ron Paul said that Muhammed Ali inspired him, and that he would have liked to be as brave as him for resisting the draft. Ron Paul is right, Ali was a brave man but it wasn’t only his refusal of being part of the Army — he talked about an Empire abroad and at home whose victims are mostly people of color.


  1. The NutRoots thing was delicious. The Left’s Coalition of the Aggrieved is pretty fragile by now, O’Malley’s offering his belly in submission was at least amusing, at best educational for the intelligent whites paying attention.

    I think within 15 years both the Left and Right are going to have city-states/enclaves where they can do their things. FedGov will be broke and unable to stop it.

    President Hillary will help the process along, so She is to be fondly hoped for.

    Good luck.


  2. I agree with the premise of the article but I don’t understand how anyone can categorize Bernie Sanders as “relatively hawkish.” He’s the least hawkish person running for President, and that includes Rand Paul and Jim Webb.


  3. It’s fairly obvious to this reactionary what’s going on here.

    Bernie Sanders is reviving some semblance of Old Left socialism that appeals more to white blue collar workers than to the ethnic underclass that constitutes much of the Democratic Party’s electoral machine. His demographic is the same that fled the Democratic Party in droves to vote for Nixon and Reagan after the darkest days of America’s cultural revolution, in which their neighborhoods were torn apart by racist insurrection.

    Black and brown activists sense that Sanders is not fully honoring their status as exceptional victims and so they attack him. The idea that the problems of whites should be given any thought before theirs is anathema to the identity politics crowd.

    By the way, that you attribute identity politics to liberalism is scandalous. It was wholly a creation of the New Left, and it began with anti-imperialism. The New Left found the revolutionary potential of working class whites wanting, so they turned to American blacks and foreign revolutionaries, whom they decided were the Third World/non-white vanguard struggling against First World/white oppressors. For example, the group that invaded San Francisco State University to demand the creation of a black studies program was called the Third World Liberation Front. And then the feminists and gays came along and created intersectionality to appropriate the oppression of blacks for themselves. This was, again, wholly a New Left effort, and even liberals find a lot of this stuff unpalatable.

    All you’re trying to do is to claim that identity politics is not really leftism so True Leftists should abandon it and turn back to economic socialism. Nice try. Sorry, but the revolution has moved on, and you’re now a Girondiste. You are right, however, that the reason why identity politics is so popular is because it is more palatable to the dominant ideology.


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