Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

April 27, 2020

When Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign, this is the speech he should have given

Filed under: Bernie Sanders — louisproyect @ 5:53 pm

On April 8th, Bernie Sanders suspended his primary campaign. Not long afterwards, he did a video with Joe Biden that was something to behold:

If you look at the transcript, you’ll see that Biden spouted some outrageous bullshit:

You know, Bernie, you and I’ve always shared a profound conviction as long as we’ve both been in politics. This country wasn’t built by Wall Street. It wasn’t built by CEOs and hedge fund managers. It was built by workers. The great American middle class was built by American labor unions. Unions, and yes, unions, that’s the story of America.

Biden also had trouble with mangled sentences: “Here’s my pledge. I will make an educator an education that in fact, Jill, my wife is a professor at a community college, says any country that out competes us, Joe.”

Whether this meeting of the minds will result in a genuine partnership is open to question. Governor Cuomo carried out a maneuver that eliminates the Democratic Party primary election in New York as part of an overall restriction of ballot status that also left the Green Party and the Working Families Party out in the cold. By November, the Sanders campaign will be left with a lot less clout that it even had in 2016. All the talk about a “political revolution” will become a fading memory as either a Biden or Trump presidency accelerates the decay that begin with the pandemic and the economic collapse.

Just recently it occurred to me that although I would have never exploited the DP ballot line if I were Bernie Sanders, I could have made a much stronger case for truly fighting for change inside the party. Some “inside-outside” leftists have argued that Sanders is helping to precipitate the formation of a new party by heightening the contradictions inside the DP, using the example of the birth of the Republican Party in the 1850s from the bowels of the Whig Party. Theoretically, they argue that by harping on the “political revolution”, it creates sharp class divisions that will split the party, taking the youth, Black, Latino and working class constituency into a new home. This was the provenance of the Eric Blanc “dirty break” Jacobin intellectuals that I suppose still has some purchase there, even if Dustin Guastella and Paul Heideman seem bent on opposing any “third party” initiatives from DSA (not that they really have to worry much.)

In 2014, I wrote a speech for Bernie Sanders on the basis of him “seeing the light” and running as an independent. This go-round, I will be writing another speech that accepts him exploiting the DP ballot line. As I said, I don’t believe that this is in the interest of the radical change we need in the USA but, as you will see, it articulates the position that is consistent with the expectations DSA and Jacobin placed in him. It assumes that he placed political principle over his long-time comity with Biden, Clinton, Obama et al. It was just such comity that drove his top advisers nuts apparently:

But on the stage that night, Sanders didn’t take his aides’ advice. Instead, he largely gave Biden a pass, bashed Bloomberg sometimes — but not over stop-and-frisk — and mostly stuck to his standard talking points. It wasn’t the first nor the last time Sanders eschewed his staffers’ suggestions to be more aggressive with his top rival. Their warnings proved prescient: Biden went on to sweep the day in South Carolina, unify moderates, and then carry Super Tuesday.

“Knocking out Biden was job No. 1. And even when he was down, no one went for a knockout blow,” said a top aide. “That was the problem.”

So, here’s the speech Sanders would have given on April 8th if he paid attention to his advisers:

My fellow Americans,

I am suspending my campaign for the Democratic Party nomination for President since it has become clear that leading party officials have closed ranks against me. The suspension of Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar’s campaigns were designed to help unify the party apparatus around Joe Biden’s campaign and thus make the question of “electability” paramount.

Like my fellow Democrats, I believe that Donald J. Trump must not be re-elected. I want to urge my supporters to vote for Joe Biden, who, despite our serious and major political differences, will never adopt the authoritarian methods that have turned the White House into Tony Soprano’s strip club in “The Sopranos”, where favors and payoffs were dispensed.

My goal is the same that it has been since I decided to run for president. For my entire political career, both on the streets and in my capacity as an elected official, I have stood for the rights and well-being of working people. Because of restrictive ballot laws in the USA, I have run as a Democrat since that was the only way I could reach large segments of our population who tend to pay less attention to third party election campaigns.

That being said, I want to bend the stick in the opposite direction from this day going forward. I made the mistake in thinking that by running as a Democrat, I would be given the same respect as Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar. Instead, I have been pilloried by analysts on MSNBC and CNN as if I were a spoiler. They have denied my right to defend working-class families in my presidential campaign. I have been called an anti-Semite and hounded for defending reforms carried out in Castro’s Cuba with the same arguments Barack Obama used. There was something very much like McCarthyism going on, even though I am a democratic socialist, not a Communist. This attempt to put a gag over my mouth was something I tolerated because of the need to focus on the bigger questions dividing me from my fellow candidates, but it eventually became clear that it was a symptom of deeper problems within the Democratic Party that must now be put on the front burner.

With the suspension of my campaign, I will now move ahead rapidly to create a party within a party that will be called The New Democracy and its members The New Democrats. Its goal will be to fight for the restoration of New Deal values in the Democratic Party and to serve as an organizing center for grass roots campaigns for social equality, trade union power, and immigrant rights in a country that has for too long catered to the greed and the arrogance of the super-rich.

The $182 million in small donations to my campaign will now be reallocated to the creation of New Democracy headquarters in cities across the United States, in both blue and red states. I have begun assembling a senior staff that will be in charge of creating this infrastructure. Cornel West, David Sirota, Krystall Ball and Julian Castro have already agreed to serve and I expect more people committed to New Deal values to join us in the coming weeks.

As I have stated, I plan to vote for Joe Biden on election day and hope that all my supporters will follow suit. However, this does not mean that I will remain silent on the issues that divided us. While I don’t believe that the Obama White House could ever be mistaken for the naked criminality of the Trump administration, it is clear that its failure to confront the billionaire class left working people less motivated to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. When she gave speeches to Goldman-Sachs for $675,000, it symbolized the willingness of the Democratic Party elites to play ball with Wall Street. It allowed Donald J. Trump to demagogically attack the Democrats as part of the swamp and land us in the current mess.

New Democrats will use the Democratic Party ballot line, just as I did. In cities and states across the country, we need to take on the Republicans who are using their political power to increase the economic power of the corporations that are defying regulations against fracking, making trade unions impossible to organize and creating terrible suffering among our immigrant population, both documented and undocumented. We expect New Democrats to be both candidates and organizers. To further that end, we will be creating training centers where young people will learn the skills that helped build the CIO and the NAACP in the 1930s and 40s. As someone committed to New Deal values, I will be using all my time and energy to creating a party within a party that can turn this country around.

Facing an existential crisis unlike any encountered in the USA since the Great Depression, we need a new generation of fighters to be inspired by the words of FDR in 1933:

It seems to me to be equally plain that no business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. By “business” I mean the whole of commerce as well as the whole of industry; by workers I mean all workers, the white collar class as well as the men in overalls; and by living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level-I mean the wages of decent living.

Perhaps through our militancy and our deep resolve, the Democratic Party leadership will begin to return to its New Deal roots and lead us into a new epoch. It will not be as a result of conversations I have one-to-one with Joe Biden or any other senior elected official. Instead, it will be a result of mass pressure in the streets, strikes, rallies and other forms of struggle just as was the case in the 1930s. As devoted as I am to the legacy of the New Deal, I recognize that without the agitation and activism of millions of working-class people FDR would have not taken the bold actions he took.

Finally, in the hope that our message gets out, we will not be relying on MSNBC and CNN to back ideas that their corporate masters are determined to silence. I have begun exploratory conversations with media experts about how to create an alternative media that can reach millions. It will be commercial-free and committed to the truth. In a time when we have a president pouring out lies by the thousands, it is incumbent upon us to defend the truth. With corporations creating a blizzard of lies through its stranglehold on the media, it is up to us to speak the truth to power. Tentatively, we will be calling our new media center the North Star in homage to Frederick Douglass who once said: “Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning.”




  1. Yep, that’s the speech that Bernie should have given when he suspended his campaign and endorsed “Lunchbucket Joe.” Too bad he was too chickenshit to do it…

    Comment by Kurt Hill — April 27, 2020 @ 6:14 pm

  2. Louis, that Bernie speech was from 2016…are you OK?

    Comment by Craig Johnson — April 28, 2020 @ 5:42 am

  3. I love the term “undocumented immigrants” as if they had lose their documents instead of not being entitled to have them because they entered the US by breaching the law.
    Anyways, a party of workers and marginalised will never win because workers are getting more and more divided between those who reside legally and those who don’t. They compete for resources so they are and will always be at war with each other. Most of them at least, as shown by the many workers who voted for the orange conman in 2016.

    Comment by Riccardo Pusceddu — April 28, 2020 @ 10:49 am

  4. I am okay, Craig. Just working a bit too fast for my own good.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 28, 2020 @ 11:13 am

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