Democratic Party unites to crush Bernie Sanders

The Democratic Party is now all but certain to run establishment figure Joe Biden in the election against Donald Trump in November.

Bernie Sanders’ initial victories in the Democratic primaries have stalled in the face of the combined opposition of the entire party establishment.

Sanders started out the primaries as a surprise favourite. He humiliated Biden in the Iowa caucuses on 6 February, and a week or so later in New Hampshire.

Bernie Sanders is a self-proclaimed socialist. He promises free healthcare and education, a $15 minimum wage, action on climate change, strict regulation of banks and taxes on the rich. Joe Biden doesn’t support any of this.

The Democratic Party establishment—and the US ruling class generally—breathed a huge sigh of relief during the Super Tuesday primaries at the start of March when Biden made his comeback.

When it emerged that Biden had won the most delegates at the end of Super Tuesday, Wall St jumped 4 per cent.

Democrats are a dead end

But the collapse of the hopes attached to Sanders expose the limitations of relying on electoral politics and the Democratic Party for change.

The Democrats are a capitalist party that have withstood numerous efforts at take-over by the left over the decades.

The Democratic Party establishment boosted Biden massively by throwing everything they had behind him to stop Bernie. Rival candidates Pete Buttigeig and Amy Klobuchar were pressured to withdraw from the race in an effort to swing their supporters behind Biden. Both endorsed him on the day before Super Tuesday.

Progressive candidate Elizabeth Warren received $14 million in funding from a hastily organised “Super PAC” funding body to boost her standing in Super Tuesday states. This allowed her to siphon more progressive voters away from Sanders at a crucial moment.

Even if Bernie had won the primaries, there was still no guarantee he would have become the candidate.

Unless a candidate wins a majority in their own right, the final decision can still be rigged. At the Democratic National Convention, which makes the decision, so called “super-delegates” appointed from the party establishment have a huge proportion of the vote. There are 3979 delegates that are actually elected in primaries and 771 unelected “super-delegates”.

Unlike the Labor Party in Australia, in which trade union leaders at least maintain significant influence, the Democratic Party is funded and controlled by the rich.

After the 2008-2009 Financial Crisis literally tens of millions were on food stamps in the US. Working people were left living in their cars as they lost their jobs and houses.

Yet Democratic President Barack Obama chose to bail out the bankers. Despite giving hope to black people his administration also coincided with the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement—and the rampant killing of African-Americans by police.

Building the struggle

The US needs a new left-wing party independent of the Democrats. But Bernie’s decision to work within the Democrats means that he has already promised to fall behind Biden. In March he promised, “If Joe ends up winning, I will be there. We are going to come together”.

People are right to be inspired by Bernie’s vision of a more equal society. But the entire political machine Sanders has built up around him is geared towards electoralism and getting votes rather than fighting where workers are strongest.

It is struggle in the workplaces and on the streets that holds the real power to change the world.

In the US workers participated in 25 major work stoppages in 2019, the highest number in 18 years. This is the biggest upsurge in workers’ struggle in a generation and scored real wins—for example $6000 pay rises for teachers in Oklahoma.

Even as Bernie was campaigning in the state, hundreds of graduate student teachers across four campuses of the University of California were organising an insurgent months-long wildcat strike, demanding cost of living wage increases.

Bernie’s campaign could have mobilised people to attend the protests or helped raise money to support the strike. But the focus on winning votes meant that he simply made statements in their support, never visiting a picket-line or protest, despite numerous appearances in the state.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and unfolding economic crisis, these kinds of struggles outside parliament will be key. That is where the power lies to win the things Bernie stands for.

Building this fight now in the face of Trump and the brutal impact of COVID-19 in the US is essential.

By Adam Adelpour


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