Hillary Clinton finally clinched the Democratic party nomination with convincing wins in delegate-rich California and New Jersey, and narrow wins in New Mexico and South Dakota. Bernie Sanders won in Montana and North Dakota. Clinton now has the majority of elected delegates, total delegates, and votes and can rightfully claim the title of presumptive nominee.
The fact that one of the two major parties in the US has finally got around to nominating a woman as their presidential candidate is a good step forward, even if the US is way behind many other countries where women have become the leaders even without the boost they got from a spouse’s prior electoral success. It will be interesting to see if she does win the presidency, the Republicans and the dead-enders in the country will bitterly oppose her every move for Presidenting While Woman by inciting anti-woman sentiment, the way that they opposed Barack Obama’s every move (other than those favoring the oligarchy) for Presidenting While Black by inciting anti-black sentiment.
So what next for the Sanders candidacy? He has said that he will continue to fight to the convention but that is surely in order to influence the direction of the party. There is no question that his candidacy has pushed the debate within the party in a far more progressive direction than it was before. Already he has signaled that he will fight to include many of the issues that he fought for into the party platform. While presidents are not obliged to follow the platform and some see it as mere window dressing, they do signal the way that sentiments are shifting on major issues.
Clinton will undoubtedly protect the causes of women, abortion rights, and the LGBT community but the neoliberals and neoconservatives who are so strongly embedded in the Democratic party establishment and are her friends and supporters will try to continue their pro-war, anti-Palestinian foreign policy and their pro-Wall Street and pro-‘free trade’ economic agenda (which really means supporting the free flow of capital across the globe by the transnational oligarchy).
The Sanders campaign has managed to get both Clinton and Obama to embrace the idea of expanding Social Security benefits rather than cutting them. They have placed people on the party platform committee who argue for a more balanced approach to the Israel –Palestinian issue, one on which Clinton’s position has been deplorable and aligned with the most extreme hardline Israeli policies. Sanders has pushed the rights of Palestinians to the front burner.
“I think that Bernie’s statements in support of the humanity and freedoms of Palestinians are a huge part of why so many young Jews are flocking to him,” said Max Berger, a 30-year-old political organizer from Brooklyn. “It’s a huge sign of how politics are changing. People are excited about candidates who support equality and are willing to fight for it.”
For Berger and other young liberal Democrats, the presidential debate this week was the latest in a series of moments that have shown them Sanders shares their values on justice, whether it’s in discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calling for an end to mass incarceration in the U.S. or talking aggressively about income inequality.
Raising the minimum wage to a living one is something that is now accepted, as is the idea that college tuition costs have to be curtailed. Clinton, notoriously friendly to the big banks, has been forced to concede that the big banks have to be regulated.
In her own Daily News editorial board interview, published on Monday, Clinton went as far as to agree with Sanders that Dodd-Frank gave the White House authority to break up banks “that pose a grave threat to financial stability”. She promised that as president she would appoint financial regulators who would be prepared to make hard calls to prevent a repeat of 2008, as well as to empower and resource prosecutors to press criminal charges if merited – a far cry from the 1990s.
Adam Green, cofounder of the million-member advocacy organization Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), said that ideas like breaking up too-big-to-fail banks were not long ago on the margins of Democratic politics. “Now the center of gravity of the Democratic party as it thinks about Wall Street has dramatically shifted and both the candidates are talking about jailing bankers who break the law and breaking up big institutions.”
It will be up to progressives to fight the reactionary forces within the Democratic party (and there are many of them especially in the upper echelons) on all these issues every step of the way. It has been the unfortunate history that people who would vociferously oppose wars and violations of humans and civil rights when committed by a Republican, stay quiet or even justify them when there is a Democratic president, as we can see from the muted reaction to Obama’s drone killings, support for the NSA’s spying, persecution of whistleblowers, and excusing of torturers.
And this is where it is imperative that the mass movement that Sanders has created, especially among the young, not be allowed to wither away, the way that Barack Obama quietly sidelined them once he became president so that he could better accommodate the wishes of the oligarchy. I think that it is unlikely that Sanders will quietly retire to being a senator again. He benefitted from the Occupy Wall Street movement and he has the responsibility to keep these fires going and prevent the Democrats from doing what they always try to do after an election, and that is go back to pleasing the big money interests.