One of the most important contributions of the Sanders campaign has been the exposure to millions of people, especially young people, of the highly undemocratic nature of U. S. society. Those activists who’ve been around for a while must each of us had our moments when we realized that our 5th grade American History wasn’t too accurate. For me, it was the mis-named Free Speech Movement in Berkeley in 1964, which wasn’t about free speech so much as it was about the right to raise money on campus to support the Civil Rights struggle in the south, particularly the voting rights movement in Mississippi, led my SNCC. We saw a supposedly liberal college administration and a supposedly liberal governor (Pat Brown, Jerry’s father) buckle under pressure from the far right wing Knowland family which owned the Oakland Tribune. Negotiations went on for weeks, and culminated in the sit-in of 800 students in Sproul Hall, me among them. We ultimately won our rights, but lost all our illusions about liberalism and democracy.
That same year, Fannie Lou Hamer led a contingent at the Democratic Convention that demanded that her Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (whose symbol was a black panther) be seated instead of the all white official delegation. She refused a compromise which would have seated two non-voting members, and electrified the convention despite Johnson’s opposition. The black delegation was finally seated in 1968.
The United States has never been a democracy. When a whiff of democracy blew through the south during Reconstruction, a deal in the presidential election of 1876 suppressed that movement. Tilden, a Democrat, won the popular vote, but not an Electoral College majority, so the election went to the House of Representatives. Republican Hayes was given the presidency under the condition that he would withdraw all troops from the South, thereby ending Reconstruction and enabling Jim Crow Laws to once again disenfranchise and virtually re-enslave the Black population.
Even the beloved FDR’s New Deal got passed only by excluding Blacks from benefiting from Social Security and Unemployment Insurance by denying these provisions to farm workers and domestic workers.
So the disgusting shenanigans of the Democratic Party officials in Nevada last week and the revolting reaction of the DNC and the mainstream media are not new phenomena: they are par for the course.
The immediate remedy is for the Sanders movement to take over the Democratic Party. If Bernie doesn’t win the nomination, we should withhold our support for the ticket until Bernie is made chair of the DNC and is given power to appoint a progressive majority on the DNC that will revise the primary process for 2020 by implementing genuine grassroots democracy, one person, one vote.