The Trouble With "Bernie-Style" Politics and the Grifting of the Internet Left

The Trouble With "Bernie-Style" Politics and the Grifting of the Internet Left

Markos Moulitsas has a message for the "Bernie or Bust" crowd. (Image by: TPV, released under open license. Moulitsas and P!nk individual image license: Wikimedia.)

Markos Moulitsas has a message for the "Bernie or Bust" crowd. (Image by: TPV, released under open license. Moulitsas and P!nk individual image license: Wikimedia.)

Markos Moulitsas knows which side his bread is buttered on.

In what at first glance appears to be an impassioned plea aimed at Bernie Sanders supporters to remain within the Democratic Party to 'improve' it, the proprietor of Daily Kos moved the goalposts of win and loss from the primary to the general election, claiming that Bernie Sanders has not yet lost and Hillary Clinton has not yet won, because she has not yet been declared President-Elect. But Markos' appeal is not really targeted to Sanders supporters; it is targeted to the Bernie or Bust crowd. And he's not really asking them to be involved in the Democratic party, he is begging them to continue to provide traffic for Daily Kos.

To this end, Markos has made them a deal: he promises to use his presence on the Internet to kneecap (euphemism: "apply pressure") Hillary Clinton's presidency as much as they have tried to hamper President Obama's. Coincidentally, this fits just fine with the "progressive" grifter-sphere, positioning themselves as the victims of the Democratic establishment, an excuse they have often used, for example, to beat up on President Obama in ways often worse than the Right wing. But in order to be effective at such grifting, Markos needs the "Bernie or Bust" crowd to not just be around, but to be around with a somewhat credible claim of being "Democrats."

It is that crowd that he asks to stay involved inside the Democratic party so that, in Markos' words, a "Bernie-style" candidate can win the presidency in 2024. In the mean time, the Bernie or Bust crowd should turn their guns on Democrats running for lower public offices to build a base and a network within the Democratic party. Work on downballot races, elect more Democrats that agree with you, and in 2024 you will be positioned for a major ideologue to take over the White House, Markos says.

Markos is wrong. The "Bernie or Bust" crowd - the people threatening to leave the Democratic party and deny Hillary Clinton their votes in November - has already proven itself utterly disinterested in downballot races. Fully 15% of Sanders voters in his winning coalition in Wisconsin did not vote to remove a conservative Republican from the Wisconsin Supreme Court, a significant enough number that may well have made the difference in that race. Just 4% of Clinton voters skipped the WI Supreme Court race.

But Bernie or Bust voters aren't merely indifferent to down-ballot Democrats. They are hostile to them. These extremists have actively protested and attacked Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party's efforts to build a war-chest for Congressional candidates.

"Bernie or Bust" voters come in two strides: ones who are Republican moles planted in a failed attempt to create chaos in the Democratic primary, and others who are only interested in making a high-profile symbolic statement and have no intention of actually getting their hands dirty in the actual hard work of political organizing.

But Markos is not alone of course. Vox's Matt Yglesias is also in awe of the revolutionaries that carried Bernie this far.

But his campaign greatly exceeded expectations and showed that the kind of politics he represents is considerably more viable and mainstream than most of us in the press realized. He showed that there's a coalition ready to support and finance candidates that embrace a more democratic style of politics than mainstream Democrats thought possible.

A more "democratic style" politics? Nearly all of Bernie Sanders' big wins in the Democratic primary have been in states that do not even cast ballots to allocate their delegates, instead choosing caucuses, a superbly undemocratic forum that tends to shut out working people, the poor, people of color, immigrants, and anyone who believes democracy requires a secret ballot.

This is the problem with the "Bernie-style" politics that numerous political observers find to be the present day's shiniest object. With huge rallies and bird-landings, what on the surface appears to be a popular movement turns out to be little more than personality cult once that shiny surface is easily dug out. It's why Hillary Clinton now leads Bernie Sanders by more than 3 million actual votes, and Bernie Sanders is trailing Donald Trump by a million actual votes.

The people now threatening to abandon the Democratic nominee-apparent or even vote for Trump are not trying to build a movement. They are not trying to make change happen. They are not trying to elect downballot Democrats. They are trying to make a statement. Bernie or bust is that statement.

For all their blackmail, however, they are not nearly a potent enough force to be able to deny Hillary Clinton a win in November. They are, however, a well-greased engine that control a lot of page-views, something essential to the relevancy of the "netroots." That's the reason Markos Moulitsas and other are pretending to be in awe of their magnificent power, while begging on bent knees for them to please, please not leave.



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