In my exclusive interview with Mike Gravel, the former Alaskan senator warned that, just as the neoconservative establishment has ruthlessly squashed progressive enterprises in South America, the neoliberal establishment will be equally aggressive in its crusade against democratic socialism here at home. The corporate media’s unilateral hostility to economic reform, never mind economic justice, betrays its homogenous philosophy of feudal division—and what’s more, it portends our own government’s violent response, which it will certainly make if these expensive instruments of propaganda fail. If the progressive cause were to generate any serious momentum in America, if the people were to take to the streets and demand systemic overhaul, then the military would meet them with advanced weaponry: the more blood they spill, the clearer the message that structural criticism will not be tolerated.
We’ve received sanitized previews of this authoritative pushback in the Democrat Party primaries. These primaries are fought less at the ballot box than in the media, where all of the lethal wounds are inflicted. Andrew Yang, who warns of the dystopian future of automation, was greeted by an immutably cold shoulder. Tulsi Gabbard, who warns of the apocalyptic consequences of imperial adventuring, was slandered with such brutal aspersions that it really seemed as if the Democratic National Committee wanted to inspire an assassin. And Bernie Sanders, who warns there will be no future without a functional domestic infrastructure, has withstood a more insidious intraparty conspiracy against him—but now, with every reason to believe that he will sweep his mediocre corporatist opponents and win the support of the voting public, the Democrats are preparing to pull out all the stops.
The airwaves and the press are replete with monologues and editorials instructing their consumers not to vote for Sanders, who poses a threat as nebulous as it is infuriating. Of course, this threat is not his seemingly inflexible support for the Democrats’ wars and military spending; instead, it is his philosophy that certain fields of industry, like health care and education, shouldn’t be subject to the profit motive. This view, we are told, looks towards Armageddon, although the trajectory is never outlined, much less detailed. The mouthpieces of corporate intelligentsia, employed by mass media conglomerates, can say only that this principle of Sanders’s, if followed, will disrupt “the system”, that monolithic system which never produces for us but, for reasons unknown, commands our unyielding and unquestioning respect. The system’s most recognizable apologists, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, are making the rounds—loudly or quietly, depending on the speaker’s personal style—preaching the protection of the holy system.
For a century or more, their tasteless panegyrics have persuaded the peasants to support the familiar and the tame. However, the overwhelming evidence of their perfidy—terminal unemployment, corporate medicine, enslavement of the youth through limitless student debt—and their own failure to thwart their political opponents has eroded their platform and threatened their standing. They are the sexless symbols of weakness and malaise, indignantly demanding their own relevance in a culture that has rendered them obsolete at last. Of course, they still maintain institutional power, the smoggy fumes of which sustain them for the nonce: indeed, their English counterparts kicked up enough dust in December to keep Jeremy Corbyn from winning Parliament, and they certainly have enough smoke to ferret Sanders out of the running, should they wish.
Then again, they may not want to take such an ugly approach, not while the tenderhearted liberals are watching in search of a moral contrast to Trump and all of the brutality that he represents. Ergo, the Democrats have designed their voting apparatus to stop Sanders in his tracks. The primaries, as everyone ought to know at this date, have little to do with the number of votes and all too much to do with the number of delegates—delegates, those fleshy manifestations of republicanism, the purpose and efficacy of which are puzzlingly evasive for all but the most cynical insiders. We’ve written before about the abundance of delegates—more than a thousand, the last time I checked—who have pledged their support for Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren, even though the Iowa caucus is a few days away. Awarding the effective entirety of democratic power to a miniscule few chosen by the party elites is sufficiently sinister, but it isn’t satisfactorily so, not for the vanguards of the oligarchy, who loathe nothing more than the people’s will.
Accordingly, they have designed an additional step in the primary process, one which reduces the power of the individual ballot to nothing, or very nearly nothing. When I applied to be a delegate for Tulsi Gabbard, I was told she would receive one delegate for every fifteen percentage points she receives in the New Hampshire primary. The latest polls place Gabbard at an uncommonly optimistic eight percent, or roughly half of what she needs to win a single delegate. Meanwhile, Sanders is pegged at about twenty-eighty percent, which would get him only one delegate . . . just like Pete Buttigieg, who is currently tracking at fifteen percent. The result is the same, as far as the delegate count is concerned—and if Buttigieg were to drop out of the race, you can rest assured that his delegates would turn, or would be directed to turn, to a candidate like Biden, and not to a candidate like Sanders.
In other words, Sanders can win the New Hampshire primary with as much as 29%, and Buttigieg can finish a lowly, distant second with as little as 15%, and the contest ends in a statistical tie. The other primaries and caucuses have disquietingly similar structures, the undeniable design of which is to limit the influence of the vote. It doesn’t favor or disadvantage any particular candidate; it favors the establishment by setting an insurmountable disadvantage before the people. As voters, we are props or, at best, ensemble characters in this masquerade of subterfuge and fascism. There are no rewards for campaigning, volunteering, and showing up on the big day to vote; there are only participation trophies, and perhaps a vicarious sense of success for having guessed which harlot would emerge from the brothel.
“This is the most important election of our lives,” we are told, but never has voting meant any less. The devaluation of the ballot has reached its apex—or its nadir, if you prefer—and it is difficult to imagine what can be done to salvage this election. We were told that the DNC, in the aftermath of the epic cheating scandal of 2016, overhauled its delegate system to better reflect the will of the voters, but the current system couldn’t reflect it any less. The only surefire solution to this Gordian knot of electoral imprisonment is to crash it and to replace it with a system of direct democracy, as Gravel proposed in his discussion with me. Curious, isn’t it, and just a little sad: the only man who said his intention in running wasn’t to win has been the best source of political advice in this wretched primary season. Unfortunately, that interview won’t change the results of the New Hampshire primary any more than it will change the results of the Iowa caucus, both of which are tragicomically expensive abuses of our time and money.
Bernie Sanders is perhaps the most visible victim of this sadistic game. Could it be that he is also the last?