On August 24, Bernie Sanders officially launched his post-presidential bid project, Our Revolution. Hoping to build on his primary success, Our Revolution looks to endorse and financially support down-ticket Democratic candidates around the country. This is part of the vision Sanders laid out about reforming, or in his words “revolutionizing” the Democratic Party.
It offers an ambitious, and a somewhat respectable goal, to fight to push a center-right party further to the left. However, as many have noted Sanders himself while being much further left than his Democratic counterparts, is not the bastion of leftist politics the media, and many of his supporters think he is.
Sanders campaign, which he called revolutionary, only offered revolutionary politics inside the Democratic Party. To his credit, he gave the party a big scare, he offered a viable alternative to the neoliberal politics of Hillary Clinton, making such waves that party officials even conspired to possibly use Sanders lack of religion against him. Leaked emails showed that a few DNC officials wanted to out Sanders as an atheist in two southern states they feared Clinton could lose.
Sanders also inspired millions of young voters to become interested in politics. His campaign was reminiscent of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign in that regard. Tens of thousands packed auditoriums to hear Sanders speak up for the 99%, to stand up for Native American rights, and to demand workers be paid a higher minimum wage. Yet, his politics still came from a liberal, pro-capitalist mindset, and so does Our Revolution.
What Sanders is selling as a revolution, is, in reality, nothing more than an attempt to reform a capitalist, centrist party. Our Revolution cannot be revolutionary in this sense, as it is simply not possible to revolutionize a counter-revolutionary party. At the end of the day, Our Revolution is still supporting capitalist candidates who by and large support the Affordable Care Act over universal healthcare, or at least support slowly progressing the struggling health care plan towards some version of socialized care, meanwhile courts around the country pick apart the plan, leaving it in shambles and as further rises in health insurance costs skyrocket, leaving what might be left of the affordable part of the plan on the cutting-room floor.
Candidates being endorsed by the new organization include the likes of Tulsi Gabbard, a United States Congresswoman from Hawaii who has criticized President Obama’s foreign policy as not being tough enough against the likes of ISIS. Her criticisms of his lack of military action have earned her critiques for being a right-wing hawk when it comes to fighting ISIS in the Middle East. The organization also threw its support behind a now-failed bid to oust Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz by supporting the anti-Iran, vocally pro-Israel supporter, Tim Canova.
These are not revolutionary candidates, and they are hardly reform candidates. In reality, they are simply candidates who either vocally supported Sanders in the primary, or in the case of Canova, offered a challenge to Wasserman Schultz, someone Sanders knew was fighting to ensure he did not receive the Democratic presidential nomination.
Throughout the Our Revolution endorsements you will find candidates who are outside of the Democratic norm, but all are still liberal, capitalist, mainstream candidates who are not rocking the Democratic boat too far and who don’t step out of the liberal mindset to join the left.
While even those on the left can appreciate the election of further-left Democrats, as they do, to a degree, make the life of many Americans better, a greater understanding of the party tells us that even the most domestically left Democrats still generally fall into foreign policy imperialism and American exceptionalism. Those being endorsed by Our Revolution do not break that mold.
Our Revolution is not revolutionary, and it should not be discussed as revolutionary. Revolutionary politics will only come from outside the two-party establishment and will likely not come by playing by the establishment rules. Even parties such as the Green Party are not bringing about revolutionary change as they seek to gain power through the already established system and offer no path to changing or overthrowing that system. They wish to reform our politics, not revolutionize them.
As socialists, the goal should be to educate the influx of young voters who are seemingly attracted to the socialist label, but only understand it in the context of Bernie Sanders. When speaking to a crowd at the University of Georgetown, Sanders proclaimed that his brand of socialism didn’t involve workers owning the means of production.
If the mainstream understanding of socialism in the United States becomes offering partly socialized programs through the means of capitalism, the goals of socialists around the country become a greater uphill battle than ever before. Socialists still find themselves explaining that socialism isn’t aligned with Stalinism and the USSR, and now have to further explain that it doesn’t support “fixing” capitalism. Even the term democratic socialism has been muddied by Sanders campaign. What Sanders thinks of as socialism is merely an old-school, post-New Deal Democrat. A liberal who understands the importance of a welfare state, but who cannot see past the blinders of capitalism to understand why this economic system makes welfare necessary. Instead of fighting to change the system, they instead fight to put band-aids on it. The world socialism should be nowhere near that.
With that said, we can admit that Sanders can be praised to some degree for removing a lot of the stigma around the “S” word, while at the same time realizing that by using the label for his liberal version of socialism, he has also done damage to what the word means.