“Secretary Clinton has a number of Super PACs. One of her Super PACs recently reported that they raised $25 million from special interests — $15 million from Wall Street, alone. Now, every candidate in the history of the world, Democrat, Republican, when they receive huge amounts of money from Wall Street, or the drug companies, or the fossil fuel industries, what they always say: ‘Not gonna impact me.’ And our question is: if it’s not going to impact their decisions, why would Wall Street be spending $15 million?”
As demonstrated by his statement above, Bernie Sanders asked pertinent questions of Hillary Clinton’s record and character throughout the Democratic primary season. Over the course of those months, he gave hope to disillusioned voters sick of the ‘status quo.’
He came off sincere, principled, and emerged to many as the only barrier between the White House and the sociopathic Hillary Clinton — or the dangerous Donald Trump. His message presented a sharp contrast to the thug-like Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s cavalcade of media pundits, superdelegates, and the party at large.
Yet in spite of the way Clinton and the DNC sabotaged his campaign, from media smears to voter ‘irregularities,’ on Friday, Sanders said he would vote for her while appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. He argued he would do so to stop Donald Trump from ascending to the presidency.
While this may come as a surprise to many Sanders supporters, considering the power of his rhetoric over the past year, in reality, his decision to support Clinton is not a recent development. It is, however, predictable. While some Bernie diehards might argue Sanders must support her in the fight against Trump — among a variety of other likely rationalizations — the truth is his record has long indicated where he would throw his support after losing the nomination.
In February, Bernie Sanders, facing flimsy allegations he was being rude to Clinton, promised he would “certainly support” Hillary Clinton should she become the nominee — again, in the name of defeating Trump. Earlier this month, following his defeat in the California primary, he met privately with both Clinton and President Obama. He reportedly promised he would work with Clinton during his meeting with the president.
The details of how he would do that became clear in his op-ed for the Washington Post, published Thursday, titled “Bernie Sanders: Here’s what we want.” Though Sanders discussed problems with the criminal justice system, concerns about the environment, and the problems of money in politics — all issues worsened by a potential Clinton presidency — some key concerns were noticeably absent.
Sanders made a point of criticizing the military-industrial complex throughout the course of his campaign. He even spoke out about it before he was running for office, lending credibility to the popular perception he is an “anti-war” candidate.
For all of his rhetoric, however, his list of demands this week made no mention of military spending. Not once. There was no push to stop the United States from toppling governments, and there were certainly no complaints about the corruption within the Pentagon and Congress that allows for bloated defense programs — like the failed F-35 fighter jet program, a piece of which Sanders lobbied to bring to Vermont.
Sanders’ willingness to vote for Hillary Clinton in spite of her long record as a war hawk — after repeatedly criticizing her during his campaign — is enough to doubt his commitment to peace. But his apathy toward stopping the empire has been apparent for years. Many of his supporters point to his vote against the Iraq War. Others cite this incomplete list of his voting record on defense bills to “debunk” claims he voted to fund the war (it’s missing military and war spending bills H.R. 5010, H.R. 4613, and H.R. 2863, to name a few, all of which Bernie voted for when he was in the House).
But in truth, arguments that Bernie only voted to fund billions of dollars worth of war to win several million in benefits for veterans, for example, fall flat — especially compared to an actually principled lawmaker, like former Rep. Dennis Kucinich. Speaking on the House floor regarding H.R. 5631, a 2007 war funding bill yielding some domestic benefits, he said:
“Congress has the power to end the war, and that power is in this moment. Cut off the funds for the war, and the war is over.
“The war in Iraq has been a great and tragic mistake. It has cost us in blood and treasure. It has damaged our once unchallenged representation in the world. It has squandered the goodwill rained upon this nation after 9/11. We should vote against this rule, vote against the bill. This is a vote on Iraq.”
Bernie voted for H.R. 5631.
Perhaps bills like these are excusable to Sanders supporters because they demonstrate his skill at compromising. He knows how to work the system. Aside from the fact this justification inherently disproves the popular notion Bernie is an “anti-establishment” outsider — rendering him, rather, a savvy political game-player — it is not applicable to many of his other pro-war positions. There was no compromise required when Sanders voted for a neoconservative bill calling for regime change in Iraq before the 2003 invasion. He might have voted against the war, but he voted for the precursor to it — in addition to tens of billions of dollars worth of spending for it and hundreds of billions for the military, in general. In 2010, he did not have to compromise to cosponsor a resolution condemning Muammar Gaddafi, “including the possible imposition of a no-fly zone over Libyan territory,” which became a precursor to Hillary Clinton’s war.
One of Sanders’ former aides, Jeremy Brecher, chose principle over compromise; he resigned over Sanders’ support for Bill Clinton’s “humanitarian” bombing of Kosovo in the late 1990s.
Still not enough to shake you from your Bernie stupor?
He said this year he believes Obama’s wholly unconstitutional kill list is, “in general,” constitutional. He vowed to continue the drone wars, though he offered no specifics on how he would reduce the number of civilian casualties. He championed the cause of Palestinians, failing to acknowledge, as he reaped the benefits of such a stance, that he joined Congress in unanimous consent to strengthen ties, including military ones, to Israel — just weeks after the Protective Edge onslaught he made a habit of condemning in recent months.
Further, though Sanders stressed the importance of the environment in his list of demands published Thursday, he failed to recognize the Department of Defense is one of the biggest polluters — and with no mention of military spending, it’s unclear how he plans to combat it.
Another glaring omission from his list of demands was any mention of the Federal Reserve bank. “What do we want? We want an economy that is not based on uncontrollable greed, monopolistic practices and illegal behavior,” he said, failing to discuss the country’s secretive, centralized private bank, which loaned billions of dollars to the banks he often condemns.
For a senator who previously voted to audit the Fed and called for more oversight, it’s perplexing why he failed to mention such a pressing issue in his list of important platform issues — if by perplexing you mean ‘cowered to Clinton’s political pressure.’
Nevertheless, even this omission should not come as a surprise. As former Rep. Ron Paul said in 2010, of an ‘Audit the Fed’ bill he cosponsored with Sanders:
“At the last minute, he switched it and watered it down, and really, it adds nothing. It’s a possibility that it even makes the current conditions worse.”
Given Sanders’ many inconsistencies — apparent long before he opted to run for president — it should come as no surprise he has fallen in line with Hillary Clinton. For example, he included no mention of surveillance and privacy issues in his list of demands; unsurprisingly, during his campaign, Sanders stopped short of promising to pardon Edward Snowden for his leaks. Though he said his service to the public should be considered in deciding a punishment, Sanders agreed Snowden deserved to be punished. Clinton has long been a proponent of the surveillance state and prosecuting Snowden.
Nevertheless, Bernie’s impact on the public consciousness is not to be discounted. His ability to rile up his supporters and make them feel empowered enough to stand up to the establishment is admirable. However, behind his booming rhetoric rests an establishment figure who, given many opportunities, chose to side with the establishment he claims to fight against.
His supporters, however, are not as willing to fall in line. Though one-third of his supporters insisted they would not vote for Clinton in March, that figure had jumped to 45 percent by June. Some of his supporters have splintered to Trump, others to the Green Party’s Jill Stein, and still others to Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson.
Some Sanders diehards may still insist he was the only good option. Perhaps they’ll take some condemnation of the system over none. But they would do well to ask themselves how a half-hearted revolutionary was ever going to make a difference when he failed to tackle the driving heartbeat of the American empire — the military-industrial complex and the Federal Reserve.
Unfortunately, Sanders was never anti-establishment. He just wasn’t Hillary Clinton, and had he truly opposed the fundamental machinations of the United States government and its corporate henchmen, few Americans would even know his name, courtesy of the manipulative media.
Though Sanders commitment to establishment norms is evident — and apparent through a moderate-intensity search of his voting record — his supporters’ enthusiasm is real. So is the Washington establishment’s fear of them.
Perhaps Sanders most recent pledge to support Clinton — the antithesis of his entire message — will free some of them from the notion he is a principled candidate vying for true change, allowing them to focus on viable, genuinely ‘outsider’ solutions to the American political machine.