opinion

OPINION: The end of Sanders' campaign shows the power of America's ruling class



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The crowd applauds as then-presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally at the University of Michigan main quadrangle on March 8 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.Sanders dropped out of the presidential race Wednesday. Tribune News Service

To anyone concerned about the growing influence of corporations on our government, the hollowing out of the middle class and a Democratic Party elite that primarily serves those with large bank accounts, the end of Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid Wednesday is a depressing moment in history. 

When I first heard the name Bernie Sanders in 2015, I was a mildly political, Obama-loving Democrat who had little conception of the forces of wealth and power that control the country. I was locked in to the Democratic orthodoxy and scoffed at ideas such as free college and “Medicare for All.” Like many others, my conception of what was necessary or even possible was exceedingly narrow. 

I voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the 2016 Democratic primary, but it was only later that I began to understand the real problems facing America and how important the Sanders campaign was to the American political environment. By the time I saw him speak at Dunn Meadow in 2018, I was fully on board with his message.

Like many young Democrats, I'm disappointed to see Sanders drop out. Few on the left seriously thought that the Democratic establishment would refrain from doing everything it could to stop a populist challenger. That being said, the announcement has only increased my cynicism about a party that could potentially be irredeemably devoted to the very wealthy.  

It is a testament to the failure of the Democratic elite that Sanders' exit was precipitated by former candidates who had claimed to be progressive, closing ranks around former Vice President Joe Biden. In the days before Super Tuesday, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and others consolidated their support for a relic who embodies the corruption in the Democratic Party. 

Biden’s political career was funded by some of the most powerful bankers in the country. He has pledged to stand in the way of key progressive legislation such as Medicare for All. And he claimed to have “no empathy” for the young people who complain about the economy he helped destroy.

Sanders' campaign was also up against hostility from profit-driven news media. As Sanders railed against the oligarchs who run our country, many of them owned large news networks or spent millions in advertisements. Many of the popular news commentators regularly used dismissive or disparaging language to describe the Sanders campaign. One example was when MSNBC veteran Chris Mathews compared a Sanders victory to the fall of France to Nazi Germany.

In America, elections are not decided by the solutions candidates offer to the issues of our time. They are pageants, contests of personality held in a way that is inoffensive and subservient to the dominant power structures in our society. Candidates are judged on how they speak, look and act. The substance of their policies is overshadowed in the mainstream discourse by horse-race politics.

In his 2019 book “Hate Inc.,” journalist Matt Taibbi described the main function of our modern news media to simply cast blame on either the Democrats or the Republicans. Systemic problems that were created on a bipartisan basis are rarely if ever discussed. Sanders, whose critiques of America levied blame on both of the corporate parties, was virtually incomprehensible to the millionaire cast of cable news pundits. 

Few if any candidates for the presidency regularly referenced the disgusting fact that half a million Americans are homeless. Before Sanders, few politicians had the courage to stand up to the health insurance and pharmaceutical industry by throwing their full weight behind a fully funded comprehensive national health care system. 

His structural critique of the American system was embodied in his integrity to his ideals. Sanders refused to accept support from political action committees, a commitment held not even by fellow populist Elizabeth Warren. His small-donation-centric strategy will shape the contours of electoral politics for the foreseeable future.

Though things seem dark for the American progressive movement, it is undeniable that Sanders' legacy will endure. Sanders was overwhelmingly supported by the young people in the country across all demographics. As the dinosaurs die out, there is little doubt that future generations will continue to be more progressive. Unfortunately, however, it seems that America's addiction to corporate money will push it closer to oligarchy. There is every reason to believe things will get better, but before then, things will definitely get worse.

Bryce Greene (he/him) is a senior studying informatics and is the president of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee at IU. First and foremost, he is a citizen of the world.

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