What Is Bernie Sanders' Endgame?

Despite continuing to make clear that he is not a Democrat, Senator Bernie Sanders has been on a "unity tour" with DNC Chair Tom Perez and has been elevated to co-chair of Democratic outreach.

It's been a troubling couple of days, as Sanders has deemed Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff insufficiently progressive; declared reproductive rights negotiable; denounced threats against Ann Coulter more vociferously than he denounced threats from his supporters against Hillary Clinton and her supporters; and then declared that "the model of the Democratic Party is failing."
"I think what is clear to anyone who looks at where the Democratic Party today is, that the model of the Democratic Party is failing," Sanders told CBS's "Face the Nation."

..."Clearly the Democratic Party has got to change. And in my view, what it has got to become is a grassroots party, a party which makes decisions from the bottom on up, a party which is more dependent on small donations than large donations," Sanders said.
Ostensibly, Sanders' endgame is "changing" the Democratic Party to make it more competitive nationally. But I have some questions about that.

1. Hillary Clinton having won the popular vote is not evidence of a failing model, but of an antiquated electoral system in desperate need of reform. Why is Sanders not leading a visible and sustained focus on the Electoral College?

2. I understand that Sanders believes Democrats need to start being competitive in smaller races across the country (and I agree). But why did he choose to use his platform to support an anti-choice mayoral candidate in Omaha, a white man named Heath Mello? And why did he not choose to use his platform to support a progressive mayoral candidate in St. Louis, a Black woman named Tishaura Jones, who ended up losing by only 888 votes?

3. Is Sanders unaware, or does he simply not care, that he is risking alienating the existing Democratic base? And what the costs of that could be? By continually criticizing the Democratic party, and by suggesting there doesn't already exist a grassroots of Democratic activists, he (and the Democratic leadership) will not only find out that grassroots activism already exists, but quickly find out how much grassroots party organizing has relied on women's unpaid labor. And, as I noted on Twitter, I'm not talking about voting, but about all the work that happens in between days we head to the voting booths. The volunteering. The organizing. The making calls to Congress. The showing up in between.

It may well be safe to assume that people will still show up to vote, because we're the people who won't let fascists win because of hurt feelings. But it's a big risk to alienate the people who have the experience of organizing outside elections. That's the stuff that people might be less willing to do, when they're getting shit on for their troubles.

This passage from Laurel Brett's piece "Still We'll Rise" is incredibly important:
Doesn't it mean anything that this "tour" is traumatizing women? We raised money, canvassed, made phone calls, stuffed envelopes, went on Facebook and educated people, and for many of us, November 8th may have been one of the worst nights, if not the worst night, of our lives.

And now here you are, posturing and strutting your stuff as if HRC had not aced the popular vote and created the most inclusive platform in the history of the Democratic Party. Don't take us for granted. We won't do all that work again for a candidate who compromises on our issues.
This isn't about "sour grapes." It's about the unpaid labor of women, especially women of color, which has been and is being taken for granted, and about what should be the easily understandable fact that women aren't going to keep giving their unpaid labor to a party that will happily accept their labor but not their input. Who will let us stuff envelopes but not lead.

4. I have been told countless times now that we must sacrifice "identity politics" (that is, the policy needs of marginalized people) to focus on economic populism (which is not the same thing as economic justice) because "Bernie is right about working class people." Okay. My question is: Which working class people?

Because, as I recently noted, Trump has made a deeply dishonest promise to the working class, which is, in part, dishonest because it fails utterly to acknowledge who constitutes a significant portion of the working class. Specifically, retail workers, who are disproportionately women and disproportionately people of color.

And while I keep hearing that Sanders is "right" about working class people, what I don't hear is anything that meaningfully differentiates his rhetoric from Trump's about who the working class actually is in this country.

Further, I don't hear much discussion about how to address the fact that "it's possible more than 8,600 brick-and-mortar stores will close their doors in 2017." That translates into a shit-ton of jobs. And while I agree that it's critically important to raise the minimum wage for these workers, that won't matter if the jobs disappear.

We're careening headlong into a major retail crash, which is going to send the economy into a tailspin, and there is no discussion or preparation for the fallout.

Fast food is being automated. Service jobs are being automated. Manufacturing jobs are being automated. And retail is being automated via the internet.

Also: Construction collapses with no retail spaces to build and no one able to afford new homes. Retail construction is what saved the industry during bad housing markets. What is the plan?

Stump speeches about banks and billionaires won't cut it. Is Sanders actually interested in being a leader on economic issues for everyone in the working class, or is he just interested in focusing on the same select group of working class voters that Trump is, the only difference being that he makes them slightly different insufficient promises?

* * *

I want and need answers to these questions. I'm not asking them because I "hate Bernie Sanders." I'm asking them because I don't see evidence of a leader who wants to make the Democratic Party more viable. To the absolute contrary, I'm seeing what looks very much like a reckless man whose ego is leading a party (of which he isn't even a part) down a road to ruination.

This "unity tour" looks an awful lot like every other call for unity we've seen before: Privileged people not listening, shitting all over marginalized people, and telling us that it's our responsibility to STFU and get on board, or else we'll be the ones subverting all the cool unity.

As I have said many times before: If your revolution doesn't implicitly and explicitly include a rejection of misogyny, racism, and other bigotries, and you aren't centering intersectional analysis in your solutions, then you're not staging a revolution; you're staging a change in management.

If that is indeed Sanders' endgame, it's time to be honest about that.

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