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Breaking Down the Big Speech

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Message Rob Hager

Even after his gradually rolled out defection to the dark side of Clinton Inc. was all but complete, many Bernie supporters continued to believe in Bernie, bless their hearts.

Some apologists argued that Sanders' surrender to the corrupt Democratic Party had a deeper secret motive. He did it in order to give his Big Speech at the Convention. The Big Speech is now history. It is all Sanders will write in this Convention , other than some changes in the irrelevant platform and possibly in a few rules of unknown prospective value. His uninspired choices to place him in nomination and his ritualized "unity" motion dampened any remaining enthusiasm to fight the rigged process.

We can now judge whether this speech was worth the sacrifice of Sanders' integrity by supporting the very plutocrat which it was the ostensible and well-funded purpose of his campaign, and of his supporters, to defeat.

Bernie Sanders DNC July 2016
Bernie Sanders DNC July 2016
(Image by (From Wikimedia) Ali Shaker/VOA, Author: Ali Shaker/VOA)
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The Big Speech had three essential parts. One part recited the list of New Deal-type policy reforms that majorities support and would therefore already be implemented if the US were a democracy. Sanders said these policies were what his campaign was about.

The second part of the speech was a pitch for Lesser of Two Evils voting, along with an implicit claim that Clinton is the lesser evil. This part of Sanders' speech surfed on the propaganda about Trump in which the plutocratic media is already awash. It lacked the intellectual integrity of actually dealing with the fact that, on the core progressive issues of imperialism and plutocracy, Trump has leaped right over the rightward march of Clinton Inc. to land on the progressive side of Clinton, thereby outflanking the Democrats on these fundamental concerns.

The Democratic Party will not give up identity politics as its principle disguise for its plutocratic ownership. Thus 2016 witnesses a split between those attracted to identity politics and those who understand that the reason for the inequality that gives rise to identity-based claims for relief is the very lack of an effective franchise which deprives everyone of their democratic equality. Political disenfranchisement by plutocracy hurts most of all socially and economically disadvantaged or otherwise isolated groups, of course. But the more Democrats support plutocracy and undermine democracy, the more they can claim to represent such separate identity-based complaints. Plutocracy is thus good for the Democrats' basic business of identity politics.

Others have discussed the failure of liberals to honestly assess Trump's stated positions by which he has overtly appealed to Sanders' progressive supporters. It need not be addressed further here, other than to mention that Sanders' added nothing to the general anti-Trump discourse that has been going on for months, other than simply piling on the standard identity politics narrative against Trump. It was gratifying that, when Sanders tried this narrative out on his own delegates on Monday morning, they did not take the bait. Many had already likely heard enough about Trump in their state conventions.

What Sanders left off the list of his campaign's policy goals in the first part of his speech was his most clearly progressive goal. This was commonly defined throughout his campaign as its central issue: "Very little is going to be done to transform our economy and to create the kind of middle class we need unless we end a corrupt campaign finance system which is undermining American democracy." This was the statement that made his long list of campaign promises honest, rather than the pie-in-the-sky fantasy that Obama, Clinton and others accused Sanders of dishing out to his followers because they were not "pragmatic."

Sanders' qualification that none of his majoritarian New Deal policy reforms can be accomplished unless the corrupt plutocracy is first turned back to a democracy was missing from his Convention speech. Instead of making this clear statement about priorities, Sanders simply tacked on to the end of his list of policies the following statement:

" Brothers and sisters, this election is about overturning Citizens United, one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in the history of our country. That decision allows the wealthiest people in America, like the billionaire Koch brothers, to spend hundreds of millions of dollars buying elections and, in the process, undermine American democracy."

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Rob Hager is a public-interest litigator who filed a Supreme Court amicus brief n the 2012 Montana sequel to the Citizens United case, American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock, and has worked as an international consultant on legal (more...)
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