In previous posts (here, here, and here) I’ve expressed skepticism about whether Bernie Sanders will really go through to the end with the knockdown fight against the Democratic Party machine that will be required to win the nomination.
My skepticism is based on the contradiction between, on the one hand, Bernie’s call for a political revolution against the “rigged” social economy of the 1%, and, on the other, his explicit commitment to running in the Democratic Party, keeping it united, and supporting whatever candidate the party chooses, including Hillary Clinton.
The Democratic Party as an institution, and Hillary as a political persona, are primary obstacles to any such political and social revolution. It is the programmatic ideology promoted and practiced by Bill and Hillary Clinton, and honed by the Obama administration, that has defined the Party as a strategic partner of the ruling class for at least twenty-five years. It’s hard to make a revolution from within a principal political institution of the counter-revolution. And I think it’s beyond Bernie’s ability (and perhaps his intent) to transform that institution into its political opposite.
This contradiction within the Sanders campaign, and within Bernie’s political persona, is, of course, a reflection of the contradiction within the Democratic Party between its popular class base and its elite institutional interests. For leftist Sanders supporters who accept this analysis of the Democratic Party, the implicit argument must be that he’s indeed mounting a coup to revolutionize the Party. But there’s a flip side to that argument: If he’s not mounting a coup, he’s not really running a campaign. For skeptical leftists, it is obvious that Bernie systematically avoids and elides this contradiction in order to protect the fictional and precarious unity of the Democratic Party against what he sees as the greatest evil of the Republicans. That strategy of protecting, via avoidance and elision, the precarious and pernicious unity of the party makes Bernie Sanders at one with Hillary Clinton, as a Democrat.
If FDR’s grand historical project was to save capitalism from itself, I fear that Bernie’s more modest mission is to save the Democratic Party from itself.