Sanders and the goddamned Democrats in 2016
The sagacious and prescient Black Agenda Report has this to say about the goddamned Democrats:
Bernie Sanders is this election's Democratic sheepdog. The sheepdog is a card the Democratic party plays every presidential primary season when there's no White House Democrat running for re-election. The sheepdog is a presidential candidate running ostensibly to the left of the establishment Democrat to whom the billionaires will award the nomination. Sheepdogs are herders, and the sheepdog candidate is charged with herding activists and voters back into the Democratic fold who might otherwise drift leftward and outside of the Democratic party, either staying home or trying to build something outside the two party box.
1984 and 88 the sheepdog candidate was Jesse Jackson. In 92 it was California governor Jerry Brown. In 2000 and 2004 the designated sheepdog was Al Sharpton, and in 2008 it was Dennis Kucinich. This year it's Vermont senator Bernie Sanders. The function of the sheepdog candidate is to give left activists and voters a reason, however illusory, to believe there's a place of influence for them inside the Democratic party, if and only if the eventual Democratic nominee can win in November.
Despite casting millions of voters for the likes of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and other sheepdogs, those leftish Democrat voters are always disregarded when Democrats actually win.
Sanders’ campaign will help divide the left and bind many of them to the Democratic Party. Over the next six months expect a stream of articles praising Sanders as the people’s, progressives’, the left’s champion, or attacking anyone who disagrees. Short of a mile-wide asteroid smacking into the earth, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic Party nominee. She needs challengers to enliven a primary that is more coronation than contest, and she needs the sparring to keep her in fighting shape for the general election. Plus, having a left-wing candidate allows her to appear as the responsible moderate who stakes out corporate-friendly positions slathered in progressive blather. By the time the convention is over, those progressives who hopped on board the Sanders train to nowhere will have reconciled themselves with supporting Hillary, whatever their misgivings. It’s basic psychology. Like investors who throw good money after bad, it’s hard to admit after spending more than a year of your life advocating for a candidate that lost, that maybe it’s time to stop investing in the Democratic Party. But if we step back and take a look at just the last few years, it’s non-electoral organizing like Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, immigrants’ rights, and low-wage worker organizing that is actually making social change and forcing the Democrats to the left. So go ahead and vote for Sanders and Clinton, but that’s all. Spend the rest of your time, energy, and money on building militant grassroots activism. Because while elections are about moving candidates, social movements move the whole system.
I agree -- which is why I follow non-electoral organizing so closely, and throw hits to it.
Comparing and contrasting: I don't like BAR's sheepdog metaphor, because it's not systemic; it depends on the mutual, conscious agency of shepherd (the Democrats) and sheepdog (Sanders/Kucinich/Brown). I just think life, and especially political life, is a lot sloppier and more complicated than that; BAR approaches a category error, here. I prefer Gupta because he makes clear how even the purest intent can be leveraged by an opportunistic political class.
Bernie's 74 years old; that's close to the age where you don't buy green bananas in the supermarket. It's certainly reasonable to think he's running for President just because he wants to, and not for a payoff. I mean, what do they give him? My working assumption is that running for President was on his bucket list -- he is, after all, a Senator -- and he figured out he could raise a little money, maybe Hillary turns out to be not a well woman, so why not give it a shot?
I think one of the problems the left in America has is that they can never take "Yes" for an answer, or even mentally transform the absence of a "Hell no!" into a "Maybe." (That's going to be a problem if the left ever comes anywhere near power; will they be able to seize it, assuming they can recognize it?) And that, IMNSHO, is what's happening to a lot of people who've left the Democrats "but have nowhere to go."
So here is what I think about the Sanders candidacy and the goddamned Democrats:
1) Yes, at last, the Democratic regulars have no place to go. 2010 and 2014 cleared their bench. All the scumbag Blue Dogs went down the tubes last cycle. (This won't prevent the DCCC from trying to recruit new ones, but the ones they recruited are gone.) That means that the Democrat regulars can't tack to the center; there's nobody there. So, they have to suck up to the left. They hate it, because they hate the left, along with their base, but that's what they will try to do. That makes this cycle different from past cycles, which the "sheepdog" metaphor can't take take into account. Yes, the Democrats will do the "Honey, I've changed!" thing in the primary, and then resume the abuse in the general and/or in power, but that doesn't mean we have to fall for it. No playbook lasts forever, after all. Every dynasty comes to an end. Every regime loses legitimacy. Take the opportunity and run with it!
2) Yes, at last, actual leftie concepts are entering the discourse. Dear Lord, whoever would have thought that an avowed [gasp] Socialist, actually using the word, would be on the teebee, running for Preznit? Now, I am quite sure Sanders won't be talking about "the collective ownership of the means of production," but with the national political discourse at the level it's at, that's a mere nuance, a matter of detail. What matters is that the taboo of the S-Word has been broken. Take the opportunity and run with it!
3) Yes, you can walk and chew gum at the same time. You can (a) use the newly opened space in the discourse to introduce left concepts, and point out that Sanders' real problem is that he's way too moderate, while (b) giving money to the Greens, voting affirmatively, voting for the lesser evil, not voting, spoiling your ballot, or whatever. The long "My vote is my own" permathread is completely different from shaping the discourse to our own advantage, which to me is central to the Sanders candidacy. Take the opportunity and run with it!
4) Anything that splits the Democrats is good. Gaius Publius:
But if it starts to look like [Sanders] can actually beat Clinton — if he lasts through next April, say, with the same wind or stronger at his back — look out. The more he thrills the voters, the more he splits the party.
Consider that again — If Sanders and his message prove wildly popular with voters, the party will split along a continent-long fault line, one it has lived with, uneasily, for more than two decades....
Whatever the outcome, this may be the most interesting political year for Democrats since 1968, when Eugene McCarthy forced President Lyndon Johnson out of the race, paving the way for Kennedy to enter it. (I know, Nixon won that year, but only because we lost Kennedy, who I'm certain would have beaten him.)
5) Suppose Sanders wins. Would that be so very bad?
NOTE  Even assuming things are as simple as BAR makes them out, Judas Goat would be the more appropriate metaphor, but it too depends on mutual, conscious agency. OTOH, I can well believe Deblasio, with his own Contract with America, or whatever it turns out to be, is completely corrupt and cynical. I mean, a guy who runs as somewhere on the left and then appoints Bratton police chief in, IIRC, the space of 24 hours after his election win... What can you say?
 For example, the press is an important player that doesn't figure in BAR's metaphor. They too want Clinton to have a competitor, and for two reasons: (1) Many of them just flat-out hate the Clintons, as people, and (2) if there's a horse-race, that means stories, "the narrative," teebee appearances, book deals, etc.
 Actually, Bernie isn't even as far left as the 12-Point Platform, which is quite consciously radically reformist, and not revolutionary.