Global Independent Analytics
Danny Haiphong
Danny Haiphong

Location: USA

Specialization: War, Racism, Capitalist exploitation, Civil rights

The Truth About Bernie Sanders: Why #FeeltheBern is No "Political Revolution"

Bernie Sanders can afford to call his campaign a "political revolution" and leave the term undefined. Abstraction and deception are what US elections are all about.

Excitement has grown for the Bernie Sanders campaign after recording a virtual tie with Hilary Clinton in the Iowa caucus. The excitement has been compounded by predictions that Bernie Sanders will win the New Hampshire primary on February 9th by a wide margin. Bernie Sanders has campaigned on the claim that his victory would represent a "political revolution" in the US. While his platform has undoubtedly spoken to those angry about the decline in living standards in the country, it is a grave mistake to equate the Sanders campaign with the concept and practice of revolution. His ability to stay competitive in the corporately-owned Presidential race is driven by many factors, but being a revolutionary is not one of them.

Bernie Sanders has seen his popularity grow because workers and poor people in the US are sick and tired of the conditions of capitalism. Long-term unemployment has persisted eight years after the 2008 economic crisis. The jobs that exist in the US are mostly low-wage and non-union. Most Americans do not have 1,000 USD to their name. Wall Street profits remain gigantic and the capitalist class is richer than ever. So it should come as no surprise that a politician on the Democratic Party ticket whose platform calls for free higher education, the creation of decent jobs, and a higher minimum wage has been able to remain competitive despite the lack of corporate donations.

This, however, does not make the Bernie Sanders campaign a "political revolution." Bernie Sanders' popularity is predicated on a moment where the prevailing conditions of global capitalism have made his particular brand of politics palatable (for now) to the ruling capitalist class. Furthermore, the word revolution requires definition. A revolution is a transition of power, a historical process that leads to the suppression of one class and the empowerment of another. Thus, a revolution is not merely a political transition. Revolutions require a social transformation in the power relationships of a society as a whole. One class must lose the power to define the economic, political, and cultural system of a society and another gain.

The possible election of Bernie Sanders merely changes the face of imperialism in a delicate political moment in the US. Sanders has run as a Democratic Party candidate since he announced his entrance into the race. Many of his positions, especially in relationship to foreign policy, are identical to the Democratic Party’s historic legacy of support for an endless war in service of corporations. Sanders has declared unequivocal support for Israel's ambitions, Saudi Arabia's invasion of Yemen, and the proxy war on sovereignty in the Middle East otherwise known as the "fight against ISIS." The Pentagon plans to push through a 2017 budget of 582 billion USD and Bernie Sanders has given the ruling class every reason to believe that he wouldn't hesitate to spend it.

Bernie Sanders has yet to explain how he plans to spend trillions on war and invest in social programs at the same time. The US spends around 17 percent of the entire federal budget on war. While the majority of mandatory spending goes to health care and Social Security, over half of all discretionary federal funds[1] are utilized for military purposes. Furthermore, US imperialism possesses plans to cut Social Security and Medicare. The Obama Administration has already put into place severe cuts to food stamps for the poor (SNAP). For the last thirty plus years, both corporate parties have united around a joint policy of austerity and war. This consensus, given Sanders' position on US imperialist warfare, shows no sign of changing even if the Vermont Senator were to find his way to the White House.

Other than his clear support of the costly and profit-inspired war, Bernie Sanders has exposed himself on the campaign trail as a loyal Democrat. He has shown affection for Hilary Clinton and given praise to Barack Obama. His characterization as the spark of a "political revolution" and a "democratic socialist" are ultimately contradicted by his record of loyalty to the Democratic Party. The fact that Hilary Clinton and her Wall Street backers have summoned Madeline Albright and Gloria Steinham to utilize imperial feminism  to rip women voters from Sanders shows not only the lengths the ruling class will go to select the most desirable candidate possible, but also the folly of Sanders' loyalty to the Democratic Party.

Bernie Sanders can afford to call his campaign a "political revolution" and leave the term undefined. Abstraction and deception are what US elections are all about. The majority of workers in the US are struggling with insurmountable debt, low wages, and growing poverty. Workers and oppressed people in the US have also been the target of a decades-long war to suffocate anti-imperialist and revolutionary consciousness. These conditions provide the basis for Sanders' popularity. However, it should be clear that the Sanders campaign is not a revolutionary movement to overthrow the imperialist system and replace it with a humane, socialist system run by, and in interests of, the oppressed classes. Rather, Bernie Sanders is giving the most violent and exploitative system in human history a softer face.  His supporters may like to believe, contrary to evidence, reason, his own statements and the corporate hold on power, that if only elected, he would be different.  This time will be different, they must tell themselves. They thought the same about Barack Obama.

 


[1] Discretionary spending refers to federal funds distributed based on the passage of an annual piece of legislation. Mandatory spending refers to funds allocated by law without the need for annual review and passage. “Defense” is 54% of all federal discretionary spending.

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