The Unfortunate Truth About Bernie Sanders

I thought I’d get into the background of Bernie Sanders, and after a bit of searching this article, filled with facts, showed up. What do you all think about this? Is he the man to be the next President? Why, or why not . . . I’m purposely not offering any comments in an effort not to ‘lead’ anyone’s thinking . . . 

If you find any other research you might want to add, please share it via the Comment section 🙂 

Thanks and hugs, ~Jean

A Socialist in the Senate?
The Unfortunate Truth about Bernie Sanders
by Ashley Smith
November 15, 2006
First Published in Socialist Worker

On the surface, the election in Vermont to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords was a classic battle between capitalists and workers.

In one corner loomed the Republican�s forward Richard Tarrant, a multimillionaire and former CEO of the software company IDX. Nicknamed �Richie� Rich, he spent nearly $7 million of his own money to create the illusion of popular support, blanketing the state with obnoxiously large campaign signs.

In the other corner thundered Independent Bernard Sanders, known throughout Vermont as simply �Bernie.� Sanders served four terms as mayor of �the People�s Republic of Burlington� during the 1980s, and eight terms after that as Vermont�s lone representative in the House of Representatives. He built a reputation for attacking corporate interests, supporting universal health care and defending union jobs.

Sanders knocked out �Richie� Rich, winning the vote by a whopping 2-to-1 margin. Everyone — from the British newspaper, theGuardian, to Democracy Nows Amy Goodman — has heralded the election of the first socialist senator in U.S. history, an independent who will stand up to the two mainstream parties, oppose war, roll back corporate power and lead the fight for workers and the oppressed.

While it was fantastic to see Tarrant humiliated, Sanders� election to the Senate doesn�t represent a radical departure from politics as usual. He may have a portrait of Eugene Debs hanging in his office, but his politics have little in common with that great American socialist.

In the 1980s, as Burlington�s mayor, Sanders mounted a challenge to the Democrats and Republicans, maintaining a consistent anti-imperialist position in solidarity with the Nicaraguan Revolution and trying to implement pro-worker policies.

But that was long ago. Now Sanders is independent in name only — he in fact supports the Democratic Party.

As his long-time antagonist and now ally, Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean, said on the NBC�s Meet the Press, �He is basically a liberal Democrat, and he is a Democrat at that — he runs as an Independent because he doesn�t like the structure and money that gets involved… The bottom line is that Bernie Sanders votes with the Democrats 98 percent of the time.� Ironically, that�s more often than most Democrats vote with the Democrats.

Sanders� voting record is also not so very left wing; one study found that 38 other congressional representatives had a more progressive voting record.

Sanders� relationship to the Democrats has been developing for many years. In 1992, he supported Bill Clinton as a �lesser evil,� though he later abandoned this impolite phrase to unapologetically endorse Democrats for the White House ever since.

In the 2006 Senate election, he didn�t even really run as an independent. The Democrats cut a deal with Sanders — they wouldn�t run a candidate against him, in exchange for him supporting Democrats in other races. The Democrats backed up their word by nominating Sanders in their primary, which he refused to accept to preserve his nominal independence. But Sanders did accept support from national Democrats like Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid, Barack Obama and Barbara Boxer. He also accepted a large donation from Hillary Clinton�s Political Action Committee, HILLPAC, which featured him as one of its most important candidates.

Sanders in turn backed Democrats against third-party alternatives. In the election to fill his House seat, he and his supporters helped dissuade Progressive Party hopeful David Zuckerman from running, and went on to support the Democrat Peter Welch, who eventually won.

Sanders� endorsement of the Democrats no doubt helped him build his war chest of about $5 million, over 80 percent of which came from out of state.

To put an exclamation point on his all-but-declared membership in the Democratic Party, Sanders celebrated his election victory, contrary to his tradition of hosting a separate party, with the Democrats. He has promised to caucus with the Democrats in the Senate, and the media thus takes him for granted as part of the new majority in the Senate.

For veteran Sanders watchers, this capitulation to the corporate Democrats and their apparatchiks is nothing new. He has made it one of his missions to agitate against voting for Ralph Nader, the Green Party and, in some cases, Vermont�s Progressive Party.

During the 2004 election, Sanders announced on Vermont Public Television, �Not only am I going to vote for John Kerry, I am going to run around this country and do everything I can to dissuade people from voting for Ralph Nader… I am going to do everything I can, while I have differences with John Kerry, to make sure that he is elected.�

The political consequence of his capitulation to the Democrats has been a long list of unnecessary compromises and outright betrayals that will only mount in the Senate.

Despite his own claims, Sanders has not been an antiwar leader. Ever since he won election to the House, he has taken either equivocal positions on U.S. wars or outright supported them. His hawkish positions — especially his decision to support Bill Clinton�s 1999 Kosovo War — drove one of his key advisers, Jeremy Brecher, to resign from his staff. Brecher wrote in his resignation letter, �Is there a moral limit to the military violence you are willing to participate in or support?�

So outraged were peace activists over Sanders� support of the Kosovo War that they occupied his office in 1999. Sanders had them arrested. Under the Bush regime, Sanders� militarism has only grown worse. While he called for alternative approaches to the war on Afghanistan, he failed to join the sole Democrat, Barbara Lee, to vote against Congress� resolution that gave George Bush a blank check to launch war on any country he deemed connected to the September 11 attacks.

Ever since, he has voted for appropriations bills to fund the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, despite their horrific toll on the occupied peoples as well as U.S. soldiers.

Sanders has been critical of the war on Iraq, but he has supported pro-war measures — such as a March 21, 2003, resolution stating, �Congress expresses the unequivocal support and appreciation of the nation to the President as Commander-in-Chief for his firm leadership and decisive action in the conduct of military operations in Iraq as part of the ongoing Global War on Terrorism.�

He also opposes immediate withdrawal from Iraq, despite the fact that a majority of residents in his home city of Burlington voted for such a position in a town meeting resolution in February 2005.

The day after his election to the Senate, Sanders declared, �I don�t think you can do a quote-unquote immediate withdrawal. I think the policy has got to be we will withdraw our troops as soon as possible, and by that, I mean that I believe we can have our troops out in the next year, and maybe a significant number of them before that. I don�t think you can snap your fingers and just bring all the troops home tomorrow. I just don�t think that�s practical.�

Even more shocking, Sanders scuttled any action on a wave of Bush impeachment resolutions that swept Vermont towns in 2006. Like House Majority Leader-to-be Nancy Pelosi, who has promised not to impeach Bush, Sanders argued that impeachment was impractical, and that activists should put energy into electing Democrats.

Outraged, Dan Dewalt, the organizer of the impeachment resolution campaign in Vermont, said, �We think we have quality politicians in Vermont. We�re wrong. We have politics as usual in Vermont. Our so-called independent congressman, Bernie Sanders, can�t get far enough away from impeachment.�

This summer, Sanders voted for House Resolution 921, which gave full support to Israel�s murderous war on Lebanon. He also voted for HR 4681 that imposed sanctions on the Palestinian Authority with the aim of removing the democratically elected Hamas government.

In response, longtime War Resisters League leader, David McReynolds sent a public letter to Sanders, stating, �Because of your vote of support for the Israeli actions, I would hope any friends and contacts of mine would not send you funds, nor give you their votes.� Indeed, Sanders has consistently defended Israel through it worst crimes against Palestinians and Arabs. Unsurprisingly, some Sanders staffers have also worked with the American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) — including David Sirota, now a Democratic Party strategist, and Sanders� former communications director Joel Barkin.

Finally, in perhaps his worst betrayal yet, Sanders joined a host of liberal Democrats including Barbara Lee and John Conyers to vote for HR 282, the Iran Freedom Support Act — which bears a striking resemblance to the resolutions that set up the framework for the war on Iraq. The act stipulates that the U.S. should impose sanctions on Iran to prevent it from developing weapons of mass destruction and distributing them to aid international terrorism. It also calls for the U.S. to support democratic change in the country, thereby establishing all necessary pretexts for a war on Iran. Democrat Dennis Kucinich voted against the act and denounced it as a �stepping stone to war.�

Sanders — like many liberal Democrats — rightly calls attention to the plight of workers and the poor in Vermont and across the U.S., demanding reforms to address low wages, lack of health care and the absence of a social safety net. He argues that much of this suffering is the result of U.S. free trade policy. But instead of agitating for internationalist solutions like cross-border unionization, as proposed by the global justice movement against neoliberalism, Sanders argues for protectionist policies and economic nationalism.

Sanders� support for the Democrats confounds his position. After all, it was the Democratic Party under Bill Clinton that passed NAFTA, established the WTO, cut the big deals with China and imposed some of the worst IMF structural adjustments programs on developing countries.

Ominously, Sanders� economic nationalism has led him to look for allies among Republican right-wingers like Lou Dobbs and Patrick Buchanan, who see China as a rival to U.S. power and are looking for political justification for a new Cold War.

In denouncing Permanent Normalized Trade Relations (PNTR) with China, Sanders wrote, �As the greatest democracy on Earth, we must ask why American companies are turning communist China into the new superpower of the 21st century? While Microsoft is �saving a dollar,� it is helping undermine our economic and military security by gutting our manufacturing and technological infrastructure, and moving it lock, stock, and barrel to one of our major international rivals.�

Sanders defends his alliances with protectionist Republicans. He told the Nation magazine, �In the sense that we are trying to develop left-right coalitions, we also trying to redefine American politics.� Thus, he appeared on a China-bashing panel organized by the Teamsters� Jimmy Hoffa along with Patrick Buchanan in 2000 during a union-sponsored demonstration against PNTR for China.

One of his former staffers, David Sirota, recently wrote a glowing review of Lou Dobbs� book, War on the Middle Class. Dobbs mixes populist rhetoric about deteriorating living standards for workers with some of the worst anti-immigrant racism and China-bashing around. Yet Sirota writes, �It is undeniable that aside from Dobbs and a few politicians, America�s political debate is devoid of economic populists. War on the Middle Class confronts this problem head on — and thanks to Dobbs� passion and charisma, it succeeds in sounding the alarm that cannot be ignored.�

In cooperating with right-wing populists, Sanders reinforces American nationalism and its attendant racism toward immigrants. Such ideas are an impediment to workers forging solidarity against both American empire and the corporations� divide-and-conquer strategy to drive wages down inside the US and around the globe.

Sanders can boast of a good voting record in defending the rights of the oppressed. He has consistently voted for the rights of women, gays and lesbians, and racial minorities. However, he downplays all these questions in favor of a populist appeal on economic issues. As one Progressive Party activist told the Nation, �Sometimes, Bernie�s biggest critics are on the left. Some social liberals quietly grumble that Sanders maintains too rigid a focus on economic issues.�

On some pivotal issues, Sanders does worse than subordinate the demands of the oppressed — he joins in the attack. For example, Sanders claims to oppose the death penalty, but he voted for Bill Clinton�s 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which broadened the scope of the federal death penalty and laid the foundation for Bush�s �war on terror� and attacks on civil liberties.

In 2004, Sanders was put to the test of whether he would stand up against state-sanctioned murder, and he failed. Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft used Clinton�s act to override Vermont law and force a federal death penalty trial for Donald Fell, who was eventually convicted and sentenced to die. Throughout this trial, Sanders remained on the sidelines.

Said Nancy Welch of Vermonters Against the Death Penalty,

We repeatedly called on Congressman Sanders to join us in decrying the imposition of a death penalty trial on a state that had abolished capital punishment,� said Nancy Welch of Vermonters Against the Death Penalty. �We asked him to participate in a press conference with other political, religious, and labor leaders, but he declined. Even when we directly asked him, on a public radio call-in program, if he would join us in saying Vermont should stay death penalty-free, Bernie wouldn’t take a stand.

Meanwhile, on the issue of immigration, Sanders has joined the Democratic Party in its attacks on immigrant rights. While he voted against the reactionary bill sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner and passed by the House last year, he has supported other anti-immigrant bills.

He has consistently voted to restrict visas for skilled workers — like the L-1 Nonimmigrant Reform Act, which he himself cosponsored, arguing that it was wrong for corporations to import workers when they are laying off U.S. employees. He voted for the Goodlatte Amendment to eliminate the visa lottery that distributes 55,000 visas a year to foreign workers on a random basis.

Sanders voted for the Border Tunnel Protection Act that criminalizes digging tunnels under the border, and anyone who uses them. And he voted for the Marshall Amendment to the 2007 Homeland Security bill that funds electronic verification of employment eligibility.

With Bush promising to work with the Democratic majority in Congress to pass anti-immigrant legislation, including more aggressive border enforcement as well as a new guest-worker program, Sanders will be pressed to line up with a lesser-evil attack on some of the most oppressed workers in the country.

Like Al Gore�s attempt to rehabilitate himself through environmentalism, Sanders has begun to trumpet green issues, especially global warming. But while his voting record is good on this issue, Sanders has long antagonized environmental activists. After getting elected mayor with the slogan �Burlington�s Not for Sale,� Sanders attempted to cut a deal with developers for hotel construction on the city�s waterfront and other projects in its wetlands. Activists built a campaign with the slogan �Burlington�s Still Not for Sale� that effectively halted the worst development plans.

Once in the House, Sanders made one of his worst environmental decisions. He worked with then-Texas Gov. George Bush to lead the charge for dumping nuclear waste from Vermont�s Vernon reactor in Sierra Blanca, an impoverished town inhabited mainly by Chicanos on the border with Mexico.

Together, they worked to pass the Maine-Vermont-Texas nuclear waste compact, and then took advantage of Bill Clinton�s decision to allow interstate transportation of low-level nuclear waste. Sierra Blanca, already a toxic waste dump, has thus been poisoned for generations. However much Sanders may oppose the transportation and dumping of nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain for threatening the health of people in Las Vegas, he and the Toxic Texan, George Bush, established the precedent for this with their compact in the 1990s.

Sanders� positions on energy are also tinged with nationalism. He repeatedly calls for US energy independence from the Middle East, even though most U.S. oil comes from other countries like Venezuela. Such demagogy plays into the widespread anti-Arab racism that surrounds oil politics.

Even with these faults, Sanders� overall record looks good, but his support for the Democrats compromises even his best positions. As Jeffrey St. Clair has documented in Been Brown So Long It Looks Green To Me, the Democrats are every much a part of the destruction of the environment as the Republicans.

AS IT was with Howard Dean, it is a bit hard for Vermont leftists to believe the national reaction to Bernie Sanders.

As Vermont�s long-time political commentator Peter Freyne noted, �He will not leave a party behind him. So what will be his legacy? I don�t see a next Bernie on the horizon. I don�t see what comes after him. There�s a lot wrapped up in one man, and I don�t know where that gets you in the long run.�

But, in truth, Sanders is leaving a party behind — the Democratic Party.

Whatever his betrayals, Sanders can still give an excellent speech about the evils of corporate power and the barbarity of class inequality, but he does so as a fellow traveler of the corporate Democrats, who he supports even as they move further and further to the right.

Figures like Bernie Sanders could help workers form a party of their own to challenge the corporate duopoly, and build a more politically self-conscious working-class movement. Instead, like Jesse Jackson and other Democratic liberals, he is the progressive bait on this capitalist party�s hook — to tempt people who would otherwise want a genuine alternative into supporting a party opposed to their demands and aspirations.

Anything we want from Sanders or the Democrats we will have to fight for. And if we want a genuine socialist alternative, we should follow the lead of Sanders� hero, Eugene Debs, who said, �The differences between the Republican and Democratic Parties involve no issue, no principle in which the working class have any interest.�

Instead of capitulating to the corporate parties, Debs spent his life building the Socialist Party and the struggles of the working class and the oppressed for our own self-emancipation.

Ashley Smith is a correspondent for Socialist Worker. This article first appeared on the Socialist Worker web site: Thanks to Alan Maass.

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16 Responses to The Unfortunate Truth About Bernie Sanders

  1. Pingback: Did Political Entrepreneur Trump Create The American Populist Party? | SOTN: Alternative News & Commentary

  2. Sacredpeaks says:

    TPTB are desperate to find any candidate they can prop up that will stick with the American people because they know Hillary’s goose is cooked (Epstein pedophilia/human trafficking, HBSC, UBS, Clinton Foundation, Benghazi, missing State Department e-mails, etc.). The Republicans consider Jeb “milk-toast” and none of the other Republican candidates are resonating. TPTB know most of the American people view themselves as independent voters and are fed up with the two-party duopoly. That’s why they have Bernie waiting in the wings. They will probably pair him up with Elizabeth Warren to make it look like they will clean house. Quite frankly, nothing will change until we reverse the Supreme Court Citizens United ruling, stop the electronic vote rigging, abolish the Fed/ US Inc. and restore the Constitution. I don’t care what party any of the candidates belong to. Look at their voting track record, their financial backers and if they have any potential conflict of interest, like ties to the Jesuits, Vatican, MIC, etc. And if that doesn’t cover it, any candidate should also have to undergo a DNA/drug check and be scrutinized as to whether they are micro-chipped or mind controlled.

  3. pupma says:

    Bounce them all out, if you bother to vote at all.
    I would just adore, watching them all packing up, in shock and going back to their little mansions.
    Every single one who has held office in the last 70 years, OUT! (Bye Bye McCain!)
    Pink Slip every single one! Maybe then, Washington will be able to hear us again.
    Wouldn’t that just be fantastic?! (A girl can dream)!

  4. Pamela says:

    I have no faith or confidence in any politician or “power broker”. ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS. Bernie Sanders=BS! He supports all the death and destruction of a constant war machine. He is no friend of peace, individual rights or limited government. He is a bought and paid for puppet. His speeches are for entertainment purposes only…in other words, business as usual. This is my personal opinion.

    • pupma says:

      Your could also be describing our warmonger in AZ, John McCain.
      Same old, Same old……………description is apt for most all of them up on that old hill, Pamela!
      Hugs, Terri

  5. Di, Cerrillos,NM,USA says:

    Sorry Bernie, I still vote for firing all of Congress. A thorough cleaning needs to happen before I take any congressperson seriously. We have seen our beloved country infected and compromised to the point of demise. Lance the boil, get it over with. We are resilient and will survive. We will not survive with Zionist bandaids. The original idea behind the establishment of the US is barely alive but indeed is still there and can be revived.A little sunshine and oxygen could help. We were warned by founding fathers and wise people after them, to not let lawyers and Zionists into our government. The earth people have had enough treachery.
    The truth is bubbling into our consciousness, will we allow it to rise to necessary levels to support revolution?

  6. Marilyn says:

    Jean -hope all is well with you haven’t seen any post in several day, I do know you have health issues. Bernie Sanders seems to hit on a lot of people issues-is he just doing this to get our votes like so many before him. After reading this article wondering if he is just more of the same putting on an act. He doesn’t appear to be the best speaker, is older then most of our recent presidents, but sure does hit the right notes on what we the normal people have to deal with in everyday life. If I had a choice between, Bernie-Hilary or Jeb Bernie would get my vote. Another person who stands out is Cynthia McKinney, maybe her and Bernie could team up. Hugs!

  7. lecox says:

    This article was written for Socialists. I’m not that interested in Bernie or the various -isms that vie for dominance in the halls of government. All these guys are basically players. They don’t really know enough or have enough abilities to do their jobs. The only government people I would be interested in would be government people who would be willing to admit that. For me, the bottom line is honesty. And it takes real know-how and ability to be honest. Bernie might be a little more honest than most, as far as that goes.

  8. Hildegard says:

    I see Sanders as a Pink Party Democrat. The Young Turks would be proud.

  9. hannacora says:

    Last week when I read on Bernie Sanders three points came to the surface for me:
    1) The realization that he is of the Jewish faith – automatically thought to what degree does he adheres to the Zionist philosophy;
    2) After graduating, Sanders spent time on an Israeli kibbutz (not long, less than 1 yr); and an interesting fact about his brother;
    3) His brother, Larry Sanders, was a Green Party County Councillor representing the East Oxford division on Oxfordshire County Council, in England, until his retirement in 2013.

    I did not make judgment then, I needed for facts. After reading the above it appears that he does have some Zionist thinking, i.e. favouring Israel’s war on Lebanon. The rest of the article leaves me quite puzzled as to what he really stands for. Please keep in mind that my political knowledge is infinitesimal.
    Have a look at the link below,
    it gives a better overview of Bernie the man.

    • Jean says:

      As a Jew, can you imagine what he might do should there be a backlash on the Jewish people, so many of whom are not Zionist? Hugs, ~EJAn

      • Di, Cerrillos,NM,USA says:

        There are Jews who didn’t buy the shmaltz of a homeland and move to a kibbutz but that doesn’t mean that they don’t believe in and follow the Talmud. It is a toxic idea that fosters a them/us concept. It doesn’t just say that Jews are superior but that it is a duty to kill non-Jews. That doesn’t promote peace and prosperity for all folks who live on earth. With religions promoting these ideas and folks believeing them without question, how can those of us whose ideas are different think that we are safe? We are barely treading water to prevent our complete immersion in the slavery that Zionists have planned for us. If push comes to shove, IMHO, the Jews will stick together.

  10. huggie1950 says:

    Clean house means clean it good. A new house that is in a State not of its own one of ours. Now I am open to a location any place but DC It is infected. I also would be open to a America Indian for our first leader.

    • Ri-chard says:

      Huggie, in total agreement for an Indigenous Leader plus, having their elders pics on our currency with spiritual notations.

  11. Ri-chard says:

    Bernie which way is the wind blowing?

  12. Bruce says:

    It seems to me that any candidate that is heavily involved with either party and is promoted by the main stream media is controlled by the powers that be. If he is in office now, he is part of the problem and must go.

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