Sanders’ role in the Democratic Party

May 2, 2016

IT SEEMS like some on the left--including Rick Greenblatt in his recent Readers' View ("How do we describe Sanders?")--are approaching the Democratic presidential primary race with a kind of Sanders "exceptionalism."

They understand perfectly the role of left-wing Democratic Party candidates--to corral the young malcontents who are dissatisfied with the party's milquetoast, pro-capitalist policies and bring them back into the party fold--except when it comes to Sanders.

The difference between Sanders and other left Democrats of the past and present is that Sanders has waved the flag of socialism. Since this is a new phenomenon and since Sanders has helped revitalize interest in socialism in a society that has traditionally shunned it like the plague, Rick and others seem to reason that Sanders' candidacy must somehow be different with respect to the role he is playing, and will play, in the Democratic Party.

The truth is that both things are true: Sanders is giving voice to discontent and creating unprecedented interest in radical, socialist ideas--though these ideas were already percolating before the election cycle began, as various opinion polls during and after Occupy show.

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But Sanders is also corralling that discontent, and he will, to the best of his ability, try to convince his supporters to help him "revitalize" the Democratic Party.

The first step in this revitalization plan will be to horse-trade over the party platform, in return for him cajoling and convincing his supporters to swing behind Hillary Clinton, in order to stop the "fascist" Trump threat. This is a played-out script and has a predictable ending.

Our task as revolutionaries is to see both sides of this contradictory process and act accordingly. We are excited by the Sanders phenomenon regarding the door it has opened regarding socialism. Which is all the more reason why we must also take on the other side of the contradiction--where this enthusiasm is being channeled.

Only in this way will we understand our task: Win as many Sanders supporters and sympathizers as we can to the understanding that their aspirations, which we wholly identify with and want to fight for, cannot be fulfilled by the Democratic Party, a staunch defender of imperialism and "history's second most enthusiastic capitalist party," to quote former Nixon strategist and author Kevin Phillips.
Paul D'Amato, Chicago

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