Bernie Sanders drops out – again

The great hope of the American left leaves his supporters in the lurch, putting his weight behind the establishment choice.

Lalkar writers

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Lalkar writers

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On Wednesday 8 April, Senator Bernie Sanders dropped out of the race to become the Democratic party candidate who will face Donald Trump in the 2020 US presidential election.

This was Mr Sanders’ second time of running to secure the Democrat nomination. Last time, he was stitched up big time by the Democratic party hierarchy, which wanted the arch-warmonger Hilary Clinton, believing that she would ‘walk it’.

This time around, Bernie Sanders walked away from the race he had at one point commandingly led because he lost a series of primaries to former vice-president Joe Biden, who is seen by the Democrat great and good as the one to beat Trump this time.

Senator Sanders also cited the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic as a factor in his decision, saying: “I cannot in good conscience continue to mount a campaign that cannot win and which would interfere with the important work required of all of us in this difficult hour.”

Both before and after Mr Sanders’ announcement that he was bowing out of the contest, his camp and that of Senator Joseph Biden had been in negotiations over which parts of the Sanders platform they should hoist onto the Biden bandwagon in order to get Sanders – and, more importantly, his supporters – to back Biden’s campaign.

Biden’s own performance has been lacklustre, even by US presidential standards, leaning heavily on supposed experience gleaned from his time as Barak Obama’s vice-president, and also on his personal enmity with President Trump.

The assumption that he is trying to build in relation to this idea of ‘personal enmity’ is, of course, that Donald Trump must consider Joe Biden to be the most dangerous possible opponent since Trump had asked the Ukrainian president to investigate Biden and his son’s murky business interests in Ukraine ‘in order to smear him’.

The danger for Biden with this narrative is that Trump won the impeachment battle related to the so-called ‘Ukrainegate’ phone call, leaving the question still hanging in voters’ minds as to Biden’s and his son’s connection to dirty politics and dodgy business dealings in Ukraine.

Incorporating a modicum of Sanders’ programme?

At this time, we have no definite idea of the final platform on which Joe Biden will stand, but to carry those Sanders supporters it will need, initially at least, to go some way towards universal public healthcare, addressing homelessness to some extent, moving towards a $15 per hour national minimum wage, and creating student loans to help poorer kids get through college.

Whatever the end result, Mr Biden immediately responded to Sanders’ capitulation with the following words: “I’ll be reaching out to you … You will be heard by me.” Adding: “And to your supporters, I make the same commitment: I see you, I hear you, and I understand the urgency of what it is we have to get done in this country.”

Even on the surface, this seems very friendly, and it is telling that Sanders absolutely forbade his camp to challenge Biden on the Ukrainian allegations that President Trump raised, or on any issue that suggested criminal activity.

In January 2020, Zephyr Teachout, a law professor allied to Mr Sanders’ campaign, wrote a column in The Guardian saying that Joe Biden had “a big corruption problem”. Sanders made clear to CBS News: “It is absolutely not my view that Joe is corrupt in any way,” and one of Sanders’ aides who had agreed with Ms Teachout was virtually forced out of the team.

It has been speculated that Sanders used his early lead to open negotiations with the Biden camp even before Biden’s ‘Super Tuesday’ victories shot him into the lead. One unnamed Sanders team member speculated that Sanders was prepared to lose if he could get Biden to take on board most of his platform.

This does seem possible when we look further at Joe Biden’s gushing reply to the Sanders surrender: “Senator Sanders and his supporters have changed the dialogue in America,” the former vice-president said. “Issues which had been given little attention – or little hope of ever passing – are now at the centre of the political debate.”

Another incident that could suggest a Sanders/Biden double-act was the strange campaign trail adopted by Sanders. Bernie Sanders had to recognise Joe Biden as the main contender for the Democratic nomination, and yet he spent days trying to force two other candidates out of the race by campaigning in Minnesota and Massachusetts, the home states of Ms Klobuchar and Ms Warren (winning neither) who both threw their weight behind Biden when they ran out of steam.

One weapon that Joe Biden has in his electoral arsenal that Sanders lacks, and which may have helped him make the decision to step aside, getting Biden to carry much of his platform into the Oval Office, if indeed he did do this, is the older black vote. A big majority of older black people still look to the Obama presidency as one of the greatest events in US politics, and Biden was Obama’s right-hand man.

Despite Obama being no better than any other president of the USA in terms of foreign policy or home policy; despite his continuing wars and meddling in other countries’ internal affairs (helping bring open fascists to power in Ukraine; destroying Libya); and despite the vastly increased executions of black people on the streets by police forces across the country during his term in office, Obama was the first and as yet the only black president, and Joe Biden was his loyal vice-president.

So it now seems understood by all, even though it is not yet official, that Joseph Biden will stand against Donald Trump for the presidency. The platform will be assembled at the Democratic National Convention (DNC), but, owing to the coronavirus pandemic, there are many voices being raised in favour of that platform being carried out via the internet. This would mean a greater level of control by the Democrat party elite within the DNC and less chance of any Sanders-supporting delegates rocking the boat from the floor.

‘Sleepy Joe’ v Boxer Trump

Whatever the platform is and however it is arrived at, it will still have to survive the pugilistic and direct style of the Republicans under Trump’s leadership.

Biden’s mental state and ability to do the job has already been called into question through newspaper articles, and Trump has publicly labelled Biden as ‘Sleepy Joe’ – a nickname that seems to be gaining some ground.

Marc A Thiessen, a columnist for the Washington Post, wrote an article on 12 March (well before Biden was the only man standing in the Democratic nomination race), entitled It’s fair to speculate whether Biden is mentally fit to be president, in which he listed recent gaffes by the 77-year-old Joe Biden. Some of the gaffes highlighted by Thiessen are, as he says, nothing by themselves, but taken together over a short period may cause concern.

Some of the Biden gaffes are mere slips of the tongue, but others show that gaps do exist in his memory and still others that reality appears to have toddled off altogether while he was talking. Biden’s grasp of what is happening now seems blurred as, when talking of the upcoming presidential election, he declared: “I think we can win back the House.”

He forgot the words of the Declaration of Independence, saying: “We hold these truths to be self-evident. All men and women are created, by the, you know, you know the thing.”

While campaigning in South Carolina, he forgot what office he was running for, declaring: “My name’s Joe Biden. I’m a Democratic candidate for the United States Senate.”

On three occasions, Biden declared to the press that he was arrested in South Africa trying to visit Nelson Mandela in prison – an incident his campaign team later admitted never happened.

He described, in an interview with the Post, meeting a navy captain in Afghanistan, but the Post reported that “almost every detail in the story appears to be incorrect”.

He claimed to have worked with Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping on the Paris Climate Accord of 2015, although Deng died in 1997.

He claimed during a debate that “150 million people have been killed [by guns in the USA] since 2007” (which would be nearly half the US population).

He said he met with Parkland mass shooting victims while he was vice-president, even though the shooting took place after he left office.

He has declared that Democrats should “choose truth over facts”.

He has said that “poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids” (which is perhaps more of a Freudian slip than anything else as it’s a good bet that a black kid in the USA is more likely to be poor).

He has pledged to use biofuels to power “steamships”.

He repeatedly gets confused about what state he is in during campaigning.

He has claimed that his late son Beau “was the attorney general of the United States”.

He publicly confused former British prime minister Theresa May with the late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Taken together as a whole these gaffes may form a pattern – and raise questions about whether Biden has experienced a cognitive decline.

Social democracy to save imperialism or socialism to save the workers?

Of course, mental illness has never stopped anyone else from becoming the president of the United States of America. Take Ronald Reagan, who was obviously suffering from Alzheimer’s during his last term. George W Bush, too, was hardly fluent in English or common sense.

It is a fact, though, that much of the left throughout the world will still be hoping that Biden beats Trump. Why?

Because they have not yet learned that it doesn’t matter who the president is, or what colour or sex they are, since the USA remains the world’s most prolific murdering and robbing imperialist state in the world today.

In just the same way, it doesn’t matter who leads the British Labour party, since it remains a machine that exclusively serves British imperialism.

Would anyone excuse the crimes of a mass murderer simply because he had been kind to his old mother? So why excuse the crimes of a murderous imperialist state – whose crimes are on an immeasurably greater scale – because it is willing from time to time to distribute a few scraps of welfare to the exploited and oppressed?

We must understand what imperialism is and what it does; and that individuals, no matter how well-meaning (or stupid), cannot change the system – even if elected to sit on seats of supposed power.

Socialist revolution will sweep imperialism away, and that will be driven by the workers, not gifted to us by a multimillionaire or by a social-democratic party, be that party led by a ‘right’ or a ‘left’ social democrat.