By Stanley Heller
July 28. I won’t bother criticizing Bernie Sanders for endorsing Hillary. He said he’d do it all along, endorse the winner of the Democratic Party primaries. It was only the willfully blind who thought he was going to stage a walk out and start a new party or join with the Greens. I will criticize him for the way he did it, though, becoming a Hillary “yes-man” and throwing overboard the best of what he stood for.
His big moment was speech at the Democratic Convention, covered live by the major networks. It was his big chance to give HIS message. The prepared text is here
First let’s talk about what he didn’t mention. The biggest thing is Palestine. Bernie had a terrible record on Palestine coming into the campaign. In the decades he was in Congress he never engaged in any meaningful criticism of Israeli. In 2014 as Israel wiped out hundreds of children in Gaza Bernie was an Israeli government apologist. We forget because he did change. He was smart enough to see that among his base the rights of Palestinians are a big issue so he made some statements criticizing Israel. In April of this year he said Israel’s attacks on Gaza were “disproportionate”. He gave a Palestinian and hijab wearing Palestinian Linda Sarsour a visible part of his campaign. He appointed Jim Zogby and Cornel West as his reps on the Democratic Platform committee. They were given leeway to push for something on Palestine though Clinton’s people refused any compromise. The platform on Palestine/Israel is awful and explicitly condemns the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (see page 49).
The platform was done and I guess adopted without further changes Monday or Tuesday. So Bernie had nothing to lose by speaking some truth to the millions who were ready to listen to him, but he said nothing. Would it have been …gasp…impolite to bring up Palestine? He’s all in with Hillary, but couldn’t he give a little bit to his base, some hint, some nod. No, nothing. He did a Jesse Jackson, bringing the issue up in his 1988 campaign and dropping it in his biggest moment.
So the question then comes up for activists who spent the last nine months working for Bernie how was worth it? You helped bring thousands into the Democratic Party, the graveyard of progressive politics, the slave of Wall Street and the enemy of direct action. If Trump(Hitler) does win the Democrats surely will do nothing but bleat. Why weren’t you instead building up an independent candidate or spend your time on BDS campaigns or concentrating on building in-your-face street protests like Black Lives Matter?
Sanders didn’t mention Syria either. The last road to the liberated section of Aleppo is now completely cut and another 300,000 people are under siege. King Barrel Bomb and the Russians blow up hospitals with impunity. The U.S. along with the other big powers pledged that come June 1 if the sieges hadn’t ended there would be air drops of food and supplies. The pledge apparently is erased from U.S. government memory. Sanders could have at least said something about refugees. Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan have taken in millions without question. The much much richer U.S. has begrudgingly allowed in a few thousand refugees at most. Bernie didn’t have a word to say about this or any other refugee issue.
Come to think of it Sanders didn’t mention any foreign policy or military issue, not the Saudi-U.S. war on Yemen nor the reckless NATO drive to move right to the Russian border, nor the trillion that will spent to “modernize” nuclear weapons or U.S. military bases all over the world or our economy’s addiction to weapons sales. Mostly he went back to his stump speech on inequality.
He couldn’t talk about out of control hyper-militarized police or say the words “racism” or “Black Lives Matter”. The most he could remark is that we should “repair a broken criminal justice system”.
He did talk about climate change, but even here he blew his big chance. He said the election is about “the greatest environmental crisis facing our planet” but then he completely pulled his punches. He said, “Unless we act boldly and transform our energy system in the very near future – there will be more drought, more floods, more acidification of the oceans, more rising sea levels.” That’s it, just some “more” problems with the weather? What about the grave warning from top climate scientist Robert Howarth that we’re on the path to blow past the crucial 1.5 degree Celsius world temperature increase level in just 13 years. After that feedback loops start kicking in and the world temperature rises even more rapidly and very very quickly we hit a temperature where the temperature increases are irreversible, meaning we can’t do anything to fix the situation. Why not talk about THE top climate issue of our time, how progress on limiting greenhouse gases is being undone because of the huge increase in methane in the atmosphere coming about because of fracking?
On Sunday 5,000 to 10,000 people took to the streets of Philadelphia to demand an end to fracking and to call for 100% renewable energy. I filmed portions of the whole two hour march and I’d say a good 1/3 of the people who walked in 95 degree heat were carrying or wearing some kind of Bernie sign or banner. Sanders could easily have saluted them and mentioned their anti-fracking demand, but no he said nothing.
I’ll give it to Sanders. He saw the radical Left dissatisfaction out there and he organized it and used it to get millions of votes and dollars. But after the smoke clears and he goes on to campaign for the Hillary Clinton, MAKER OF HISTORY, what do we have to show for it?