The red-baiting of Sen. Bernie Sanders has been stepped up as we near the date of the important South Carolina primary election this coming weekend. “Liberal” pundits have accused him of everything from supporting “Marxist dictators” like Fidel Castro to singing the praises of chandeliers installed in the Moscow subways by the communist dictators of old. “You don’t ever talk about the wonderful chandeliers in the Moscow subways when you have Stalin killing 30 million of his own people,” Joe Scarborough declared on Morning Joe today. “With his praise of dictators, who does Bernie remind you of?” Joe’s wife, Mika Brzezinski, then asked.
David Frum wrote in The Atlantic recently that Sanders was “a Marxist of the old school of dialectical materialism” for whom “class relations are foundational.” (Heaven forbid that we bring the issue of class into an election!)
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews perhaps topped everyone when he suggested that had “Castro,” the object of Sanders’ alleged praise, “won,” we would have seen “executions in Central Park.”
Stephanie Ruhl, also of MSNBC, hosted Diamond Resorts CEO Stephen Cloobeck, a major Democratic Party fundraiser, who said on her show, Sanders is an “anarchist who would love to burn down the United States.”
In a Freudian slip of the tongue, MSNBC’s Donny Deutsch last summer said Sanders is “more dangerous to this company…country…than Donald Trump. I would vote for Donald Trump, a despicable human being, if we had a socialist because that will bring the country down.”
Joining the chorus of attacks on Sanders that ultimately serve only to weaken the fight against Trump was Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who said Sanders “believes in an inflexible ideological revolution that leaves out most Democrats, not to mention most Americans.”
The real unity candidate
Rather than join Sanders in calling for at least some of the things that have made him the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination (Medicare for All, tuition-free public colleges, heavier taxes on the rich, a big hike in the minimum wage, the job-creating Green New Deal, and overhauling of labor law to make forming a union much easier), some are resurrecting the long-dead Joe McCarthy zombie. They say we need a “moderate” to “stop Bernie” before its “too late.”
First of all, Bernie has not yet clinched the nomination. It is true that he has done more than any of the other candidates to build the kind of winning coalition of youth, minority voters, working-class voters, and unregistered voters of all races that will be needed to win the nomination and the presidency. But we won’t see the first big test of that ability until Super Tuesday next week.
If it works out that Bernie wins big on Super Tuesday, it will not be a victory for any narrow ideology but for a multi-racial, multi-generational coalition. It will be a victory by that coalition over the power of a billionaire’s money or over a candidate seen by many as merely continuing the status quo.
No doubt, if Bernie does well on Super Tuesday and piles up after that a large plurality of delegates going into the convention, there will still be those who pin their hopes of stopping Bernie on the 15% of delegates who are “superdelegates” and who can jump in on a second ballot.
Such a move would amount to party elders reversing the results of political action by the broad multi-racial, multi-generational coalition developed around the Sanders campaign. It is unthinkable that a candidate selected through such a move could possibly defeat Trump in November.
The choice is not between Sanders, whose platform is broadly supported even by many who don’t agree with him on every single part of it, and someone who can defeat Trump. The choice, if Sanders is the nominee, will be between a candidate who embodies progressive values and reaches out to all groups hurt by Trump’s policies, including those now backing other Democratic candidates, and Donald Trump. The red-baiting campaign against Sanders, then, decreases, not increases, the chances of defeating Trump.
The red-baiting campaign ignores realities on the ground. In the national polls, Sanders has more space between him and Trump than any of the other candidates.
A campaign grounded in the reality of working-class life
As for all the panic around Cuba, you don’t have to be a supporter of “communist dictators” to see the advantages that come from the U.S. having improved relations with Cuba. Witness President Barack Obama’s attempts to normalize relations with that country to the benefit of all concerned. Witness the huge number of American farmers who would love to do business with that country.
Witness the on-the-ground reality of millions of young people who now join the struggle every day for the kinds of progressive economic and health care policies and the Green New Deal advocated by Sanders. Witness the millions under 30 who are tired of needing five roommates to pay the rent.
Sanders’ campaign, by keying into reality on the ground, is aimed at mobilizing huge numbers who have been sidelined by the economic policies of the last 40 or more years. By embracing the issues raised by Sanders, the Democratic Party will strengthen itself for the battle against Trump. Trumpism is the result, not the cause, of racism and anti-communism. It should be clear that racism and anti-communism cannot be employed to defeat Trump, or more important, Trumpism.
Many millions of voters will have to be mobilized and millions who have been outside the process will have to be brought in if Trump is to be defeated. No one should think for a moment that a billionaire racist and sexist, full of nothing but himself—Mike Bloomberg—will be able to turn out the voters required to defeat Trump. If the superdelegates in Milwaukee this June allow Bloomberg to take the nomination away from Sanders, they will be guaranteeing that millions stay home and Trump is re-elected.
There is no need to accept any of the arguments that the right wing, too often with liberal support, is making against Sanders, including the argument they’re making about health care.
The Improved Medicare for All plan pushed by Sanders replaces the disaster we have now in health care with a modern, less bureaucratic system that eliminates corporate health insurance. They can talk all they want about how expensive the Sanders plan would be, but the reality is that under his plan, we would spend almost $500 billion a year less than we do now. Reasonable estimates are that if you eliminated all the premiums, deductibles, co-payments, and out-of-pocket costs people pay and replace them with a modest tax, every family would still save, on average, $2,500 a year.
Sanders is told he has to account for the costs of his plan for the next ten or more years. No one tells the corporate insurance companies or the pharma giants, however, to account for anything at all, including what they will charge us tomorrow. The claim that Medicare for All is too radical and too expensive is, simply put, a lie.
What Democrats should be saying is that if it takes a “democratic socialist” to tell us the moral truth that all human beings deserve good health care, then so be it; let’s listen to the democratic socialist rather than to the corporate giants who watch tens of thousands of us die premature deaths every year.
The false Sanders-Trump comparison
Still another attack that must be dispelled is the false comparison being made between Sanders and the fascistic Trump.
The media is pushing the outrageous concept that there is a similarity between Trump and Sanders, with Sanders being described as the Democratic Party’s own iteration of Donald Trump.
Jennifer Rubin, in The Washington Post and on MSNBC, said Sanders has “a fleet of Bernie Bros who slash, burn, attack and smear other Democrats.” She has not been watching the news lately. In every speech, Bernie calls for defeating Trump while too many of the other Dems are slashing, burning, and attacking Bernie.
Yet we hear from MSNBC that both Bernie and Trump are “populists” whose followers are motivated by the same thing. The MSNBC pundits must also not be watching the Trump rallies they so frequently televise. Those rallies are hate sessions marked by racist, sexist, xenophobic chants, and they display an abhorrent cult of personality that the right wing is developing around Trump.
A typical Sanders rally puts forward a positive message of caring about one another, with Bernie urging working-class folks to bridge their differences and unite in a movement against the corporate power structure.
The equating of Trump and Sanders is one of the worst lies being pushed by too many in the liberal media.
There have been other attacks, of course, and we can expect still more attacks on Bernie. When they cover his rallies, they show usually only some brief remarks he makes or they show him waving his arms. They rarely show the substance of arguments or propositions he puts forward.
So far, whenever he scores a victory, they make efforts to qualify it. Yes, he won, but last time he got a much larger vote when he ran against Hillary. Yes, he won, but this was only a caucus, and he didn’t win in the delegate count. Yes, he won among Latinos, but what about Blacks? If he gets 30%, even though he has six opponents, they note how far short he is of 50%. If he gets 50%, then they note how that was only in the second round of the caucus when many of those other candidates were eliminated.
Social media is also filled with vicious red-baiting and racist attacks against Bernie and his supporters, including and especially Nina Turner, his African-American campaign co-chair. MSNBC repeatedly broadcast one story about alleged “Bernie Bros” going on social media to “threaten” the leaders of unions in Nevada, but on this liberal network, there has never been any reporting about alleged abuse on social media by supporters of any of the other candidates.
This week, they are repeating the mantra that Sanders is pals with the National Rifle Association despite the fact that the NRA has declared him to be in the enemy camp because of his calls for gun controls and despite the fact that youth who led the March for Our Lives are backing his campaign.
Another refrain heard on MSNBC this week is that “other than naming a few posts offices, he hasn’t gotten much done in Congress.” An honest look at the hundreds of bills passed by the Democratic Congress this year and still sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk shows clearly that Sanders has, all his legislative life, played a major role in building the movements that have been the impetus for so much progressive legislation.
This time, though, it’s possible that all the attacks, including and especially the red-baiting, just may not work. They won’t work because a broad coalition is developing in this country. A majority are tired of not getting fair wages, of not getting health care, of not being treated fairly, of suffering from discrimination, sexism, and racism—and they want change.
It will be no surprise if Sanders wins the Democratic nomination. Nor will it be a surprise if broad forces unite in a campaign, with him at the top, to oust Trump from the White House. The time for that has certainly come.
Originally posted on People’s World under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People’s World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union’s campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and ’80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper’s predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.