In 1986, Sanders ran for Vermont governor against the state’s first woman governor, Madeleine Kunin. He lost badly. Had he done better, he would have caused Kunin to lose to a Republican. That would have been just fine with Bernie.
Catherine Hill, a Marxist feminist, explained his motives and tactics in her 1989 Master’s thesis. Bernie’s intentions are fine, but first, here’s how he could turn the country over to the Republicans in 2016.
How to wreck the Democratic Party and help Republicans
Running a socialist for president will have two devastating effects. First, it will focus about $1 billion of conservative cash on tarring Bernie and the Democrats as socialists. In the past this has been enormously successful. In fact, of all political prejudices (against Catholics, blacks, Mormons, atheists, etc.), the one against socialists is by far the strongest. In the end, he could cause a reaction that discredited both socialists and Democrats.
And the stupid thing is, his proposed policies are not even socialist! They’re just tweaked Democratic/centrist policies. Even under Eisenhower (R) the super-rich were taxed at a 95% top rate! Sanders is not taking over the “means of production” like a real socialist. In fact he told Catherine Hill …
So “socialism” is either just his personal brand, or he’s hiding something really big.
Second, it will mean that every Democratic Congressman and many Democratic Senators will be forced to run against Sanders. This is because they have all stated time and again that they are not socialists — even Elizabeth Warren has. If they flipped, they would be called sneaky communists, which would fit the socialist/communist stereotype perfectly. This is why no Senators and only six Representatives (compared to 158 for Clinton) have endorsed Sanders.
Why would Sanders do something this awful? To understand him, I read a sympathetic analysis, written by someone who shared his politics and had access to him back at the time of a campaign similar to the one he’s in today.
Who was Catherine Hill and what was her bias?
Catherine Hill, then a Cornell University graduate student, explained the campaign clearly, with careful documentation and an interview with Bernie. In the preface to her 1989 Master’s thesis, she states that it was written from an “altogether biased perspective.” Later she concludes approvingly that “Sanders politics … is the wave of the future for the American left.” So her views are not the result of any anti-Sanders bias. (All unattributed quotes below are from her thesis.)
What was Sanders’ real goal in 1986? (Hint: it was not beating Republicans)
During the 1970s Sanders lost badly in four statewide elections. “At that time he had stressed the educational aspects of the campaign.” Hill means he was educating voters about “socialism” and knew he would lose. Later he became mayor of Burlington, and then ran for Governor but got only 15% of the vote.
“Sanders views the power of propaganda at the state level as a very powerful vehicle.” Sanders wanted to be governor so he would have a larger audience than he had as mayor of Burlington. Such education is mainly a matter of “getting the media to expose the public to socialist view[s].”
It also includes his policy proposals. Hill said, “Sanders’ taxation proposal contains radical policies which aid poor people while it educates them.” But, even in the off-chance he was elected there was little chance of passing such radical proposals, so like most of his policy proposals, it was just “educational.” (When Sanders proposed his 767-page single-payer amendment to Obamacare, he said it could not pass and would get few votes. It was just for socialist education. In fact, it was so long it was never even discussed.)
As it turns out, socialist education appears to have been Sanders’ primary motive at all times. In her interview, Hill asked about the “effectiveness of education about socialism.” Bernie replied, “We haven’t succeeded. We haven’t even scratched the surface. There is nothing to support us. Nothing in the schools, … I will try to interject myself more strongly [in the schools] this year than I ever have before.”
Bernie saw spreading the word of socialism as his life’s work, “based on the work that people did a hundred years ago” —Sanders.
Why is Sanders running against Clinton?
As with Kunin, he ran against Hillary thinking he would likely lose but would accomplish a lot of socialist education. Of course, if he got the nomination, that would allow him to educate the rest of the country. And if he became president, he believes he could educate us even more. So, obviously he would like to win. But his goal is not the Democrats’ goal of making sure that the White House holds a Democrat pushing progressive policies rather than a Republican doing the opposite and worse.
This distinction is crucial. It means that even if he thought Clinton stood a far better chance in the general election, it appears Sanders would prefer to get the nomination and hand the White House to Trump or Cruz rather than give up the chance to do more socialist education. It also means that he may not care at all if he damages Clinton with his smears, because all that matters is that he gave himself the best chance to do more socialist education.
This extreme prioritization of socialist propaganda (as Hill calls it) has been Sanders’ consistent policy since he first ran for office in 1972 with no hope of winning. But why does he appear not to care about beating Republicans? First, there is one more point to consider.
Did Sanders worry about a Republican victory in 1986?
It’s difficult to understand why he wouldn’t care whether Clinton or Cruz won the election. Being a Marxist, Catherine Hill shared Sanders’ view, but still questioned him about it.
Hill asked whether “people on the left should support her [Kunin’s] candidacy in order to avoid a Republican victory.” Sanders “scoffed at the idea that he was dividing the left.” Hill’s explanation of this is short and sweet. “In Sanders’ view, there was no left to divide.” This was his view after getting 15% of the vote. According to Bernie, those 15% were left, and all the rest were not. There was no split.
So who made up the 85% non-left voters? In the Kunin race, Sanders gained little support from the Progressive Coalition or the Rainbow Coalition, and was opposed by the far left newspaper, “In These Times.” The result, as Bernie explained, was: “You know who didn’t vote for me is the liberals; they voted for Kunin. … It takes money to be a liberal, and they did not support me. In Burlington … my support comes from the working-class wards.” So, according to Bernie, even the Progressive Coalition that he spawned was not left.
Bernie classified everyone who didn’t support him as “not-left.” In that election Bernie lost the feminists, the environmentalists and essentially all middle-class liberals. If you’re not with him, then you’re not left, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican.
By this time, Sanders had watched Johnson (D) defeat Goldwater (R) who wanted to end Social Security and the union shop, wanted to re-segregate schools and to develop tactical nuclear weapons for frequent use. Then he watched Johnson pass the Civil Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid and the Voting Rights Act. Still he called the two parties Tweedledum and Tweedledee. And he told Hill, “there is no such thing in the State of Vermont as a Democratic or Republican party, mostly they are labels that people fix to themselves when they want to become governor or senator.” Since there is no difference but the label, it just doesn’t matter who gets elected, if that person is not “true-left,” like Bernie.
Is Sanders a Democrat?
In her interview, Catherine Hill came right out and asked Bernie, “Why don’t you join the Democratic party, get funding and then come out as a socialist once you’re in office?” He had just finished explaining that, “Having a lot of money is a very significant part of electoral politics. And the higher the office the more significant it is.” So her question is asking if he shouldn’t sneak in and use the Democrat’s money without letting on that he’s not a Democrat.
His answer was, “It doesn’t work that way. That’s the temptation, but it’s a fool’s temptation. The goal there is to outsmart them. … the position of integrity is to declare who you are and not fool people. And assume they are smart enough to see your name and vote for you outside the Democratic party. You don’t change the system from within the Democratic party.”
Similarly, in 1990 he said:“Why should we work within the Democratic Party if we don’t agree with anything the Democratic Party says? It would be hypocritical of me to run as a Democrat because of the things I have said about the Party.”
On Oct. 26, 2015 he told Charlie Rose, “I have been extremely consistent on my views for many, many years.” Then 11 days later, on Nov. 5, the last possible day to register for the New Hampshire primary, he said, “I am running as a Democrat. Obviously, I am a Democrat now.” This was quite a reversal. Either (1) he became the Democrat he has always despised, or (2) he decided to abandon his “position of integrity,” and be hypocritical. Or, just as Hill suggested was possible, perhaps he joined the Democratic Party to get the funding he needs.
Let’s give Bernie the benefit of the doubt and assume that he stayed consistent on his core principles and did not flip-flop on “we don’t agree with anything the Democratic Party says.” Let’s assume he just decided not to take “the position of integrity.” This was the best tactic for getting the money to educate us on the vastly superior merits of Sanders’ socialism. So he stayed true to his core principle of despising Democrats and just flipped regarding his tactics and his integrity.
This fits with what he told Hill. “If you had two million dollars in your pocket right now … and walked into the state’s Democratic headquarters saying that you wanted to be governor or U.S. senator, you would be one of the leaders of the Democratic party in five minutes. That would be irrelevant. Just saying you’re a Democrat would be sufficient.”
With this dim view of the Democrats it’s not surprising that Sanders might feel justified in putting one over on them and is “just saying” he’s a Democrat.
So far, he is running on money he has raised, but he takes money from the Democrats for his Senate campaigns, and as he points out, “the higher the office the more significant” is the need for money. If nominated, you can be sure he will not be turning down Democratic funding.
Bernie cares about gaining the media spotlight to educate the public about his views on socialism: the ruling class protects its wealth at the expense of the working class, and that should be undone. This view is more than a century old but still important, and Sanders articulates it well. But if he can’t be president, his past statements indicate he doesn’t care who wins. Clinton, Trump and Cruz are all about the same to him.
That makes him a danger to Democrats and the country. He feels free to smear Clinton (since, by his stated views, she’s essentially a Republican) to further his cause. This could cost Democrats the election. And he doesn’t mind running as a socialist, even though that will hurt his chances and the the chances of all Democrats up for re-election.