To the Left of Bernie

By Andrew Pragacz

Campaigning during for the New York State Primary in April, Bernie Sanders stopped by the Floyd L. Maines Veteran’s Memorial Arena to a huge crowd.  Several thousand waited in line for up to three hours just to get a glimpse of the 74-year old self-proclaimed Democratic socialist.  Although he lost the primary, he won Broome and Tioga Counties, along with the majority of New York State Counties.  In upstate, he garnered the most votes of any candidate, Republican or Democrat by 10,000 votes.  More people voted for Bernie than Trump in Broome County.  While Bernie is widely supported by liberals and the broader Left, it is worth noting that a large chunk of his supports are much, much farther to the Left.  The mainstream media and Democrats and Republicans alike have been in a constant state of astonishment that a man supporting universal healthcare, free tuition, legalizing marijuana nationally, and expanding the social safety net could be doing so well.  In reality, however, these proposals are not outside the mainstream of American opinions, since all of these are supported by a majority of Americans—but don’t hold your breath waiting for the corporatized media to tell you that.  So consumed have they been with Bernie’s so-called leftism that they’ve failed to take seriously the strong left criticisms of Bernie.  The comments below come from people who attended the rally in Binghamton, but watched the spectacle from     Bernie’s Left.

  “Sanders wants to remove marijuana from its current schedule I status, arguing that “marijuana is not the same as heroin.”  He is right: marijuana is not heroin.  But, what about heroin? Or other highly policed schedule II drugs such as meth or cocaine for that matter?  Changing the legal/medical status of one drug does not do enough to seriously confront the war on drugs.  As history has told us: when one drug scare ends, another emerges – and it is the most vulnerable populations who pay the price.  To truly end this war we must consider policy with an aim to legalize all drugs.  Moreover, we must view drug use as an issue of public health/treatment, a proposal Sanders and many others support.  More importantly, though, we must view drug use/production/dealing as an issue of systemic poverty, a view much less supported nor seriously discussed.  More substantive changes like these are necessary to create the “political revolution” Sanders and his supporters, and I include myself as one, are desperately fighting to make happen.”–Kevin Revier

“My biggest issue with Bernie is his consistent claim that he is leading a “revolution”. It’s a cry his supporters have taken up enthusiastically, and it couldn’t be more inaccurate. A revolution, by definition, is a forcible overthrow of an institution in favor of something new. This is not what Bernie is proposing by any means. Instead, he is proposing a different way of working within the dysfunctional system that currently exists. He’s convincing a new generation that all a revolution takes is a willingness to get out to the polls, sanitizing the long history of revolutionary work done by actual revolutionaries.” -Jessica Dunn

“Bernie Sanders’ campaign has exposed a huge appetite within the Democratic Party for the sort of social democratic policies which have been absent from mainstream discourse for over 30 years. In that sense, I think what Bernie’s doing is great; but he’s called for social democratic policies more akin to a New-New Deal, all the while using the fiery rhetoric of revolutionary class warfare. My problem with Bernie is that the rhetoric he often uses just isn’t in line with the policies he calls for. Bernie isn’t a socialist; he’s the sort of moderate capitalist that had a home in the Democratic Party for most of the 20th century. And he should be more honest about what he really stands for.”

Alternatively, if you want a more personal take:

“As a left-wing student activist, who embraces rather than hides from the radical label, I view Bernie’s campaign with healthy skepticism. On the one hand, I see his campaign as a huge opportunity for the Left to influence public discourse. On the other hand, I’ve been  troubled by Bernie’s attempt to pass off social democratic policies — indeed radical in an age of unchecked neoliberalism — as somehow “revolutionary.” Bernie should be honest about his role within a capitalist economy: like FDR before him, Bernie merely wants to save capitalism from itself, not challenge its structural underpinnings in any significant way.” –Jonathan Taubes

“During Bernie’s town hall meeting in Binghamton, he said, ‘I will be damned if we’re gonna see the American Dream die.’ My question is: How can something die if it has only ever been a myth? Even in times of greater economic mobility, this dream was reserved for a few lucky white men. Women and minorities have never had access to the American Dream, nor have their white male counterparts had much success. Rather, the American Dream is really just a fantasy to get the working class to be good little laborers and accept the capitalist system. Why is Bernie, who calls himself a socialist, trying to save something he is purportedly against?–Mary




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