SANDERS WILL LIVE ON
Even more disturbing to me is what the Sanders' campaign reveals about American Jewry
Just weeks ago, the political commentariat had virtually ceded the Democratic presidential nomination to Senator Bernie Sanders. Sanders seemed poised to sweep the Super Tuesday states, and end once and for all the presidential aspirations of former vice president Joe Biden.
That's not how it turned out. Prior to Super Tuesday, Senator Amy Klobuchar and Peter Buttigieg dropped out of the Democratic race and endorsed Biden. Klobuchar made the shrewd calculation that as a candidate for the Democratic nomination she had no chance of becoming president. But as Biden's running mate, her chances of becoming president — should Biden be elected and then become incapacitated, by no means a far-fetched possibility — are not bad.
In the end, Sanders captured only California of the major states being contested on Super Tuesday, and after subsequent losses in Missouri and Michigan, he has no plausible path toward the nomination.
But that does not mean the Sanders impact will end with the crash and burn of his campaign. Once formerly taboo ideas become part of the mainstream conversation, they are legitimized. We witnessed that with respect to single-gender "marriage." What began as an apparent outlier, with judicially imposed recognition of such unions by the Massachusetts Supreme Court, became within little more than a decade a legislative groundswell that culminated in the Supreme Court turning single-gender marriage into a constitutional right.
Similarly, Sanders has brought socialism into the American political mainstream, particularly among the youngest cohort of voters. And once there, the genie will not be readily returned to the bottle.
As New York Times columnist Frank Bruni jubilantly proclaimed after Super Tuesday, "Bernie Sanders Has Already Won the Democratic Primary." Bruni identified the precise moment of "victory" — when a debate moderator asked all the candidates whether they were concerned that the party's nominee might well be a democratic socialist, and only Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar expressed dismay.
Sanders won, wrote Bruni, when the debate about his proposed Medicare for All came down to whether Congress would ever pass it, not whether such a massive expansion of the federal government is a good thing. He won when each of those onstage competed to throw many more trillions at global warming than the next candidate. He won when no one expressed doubts about the wisdom of free college paid for by the federal government, but only whether there should be a financial cut-off point for those too rich to qualify.
Bruni accurately noted that the other candidates acknowledged the "moral force" of Sanders' diagnoses of the ills of American society, and tiptoed around him accordingly. And he pointed out that the "moderate" Biden's proposed tax hikes are twice anything proposed by Hillary Clinton in 2016, and those of another "moderate," Pete Buttigieg, were quadruple.
EVEN MORE DISTURBING to me is what the Sanders' campaign reveals about American Jewry. Prior to the recent AIPAC annual convention, Sanders publicly accused the largest pro-Israel grassroots group of providing a platform for "bigotry" in the form of Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other Jewish leaders. He has long advocated leveraging US aid to Israel to impose pro-Palestinian policies, and has proposed transferring some of that aid into humanitarian assistance to Gaza.
The stance of a Sanders administration to Israel is best gleaned from some of his most enthusiastic supporters, including senior advisors to his campaign and surrogates for the candidate on the stump. Though he professes to be opposed to the BDS movement, Sanders voted against anti-BDS legislation in Congress, and has brought leading BDS advocates into his campaign.
Just last week, Sanders announced the addition to his campaign team of Phillip Agnew (a.k.a. Umi Selah) as a senior advisor. Agnew founded a BDS group and has ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a US-designated terrorist group. Linda Sarsour, who has ardently defended Louis Farrakhan, who does not even try to disguise his anti-Semitic diatribes as mere anti=Zionism, serves as a Sanders campaign surrogate. Campaign manager Faiz Shakir is another supporter of BDS.
For good measure, Sanders has labeled Congresswoman Ilhan Omar as "one of the finest people I know." And Omar's congressional colleague and fellow pro-Palestinian activist Rashid Tlaib of Detroit played a leading role in the Sanders campaign efforts in Michigan last week.
Yet despite the prominence of anti-Semites and BDS supporters in the Sanders campaign, in at least one recent national poll, two-thirds of Jewish voters said they would support any Democratic candidate over Donald Trump (even though 45 percent of respondents held an unfavorable view of Sanders).
Nevertheless, getting rid of Trump, the president who has done more to ensure Israel's security than any other in recent memory and who thoroughly reversed the Obama administration foreign policy, which sought to empower Iran as a regional hegemon in the Middle East, remains far more important to the overwhelming majority of American Jews than any dangers posed to Israel. (Biden, incidentally, pledges to return to the Obama policy.)
While numerous political analysts wrote about how Sanders' apologetics for Fidel Castro would guarantee Trump's victory in Florida, with its large Cuban population, and his opposition to fracking would cost him in Pennsylvania, where fracking has created an economic boom, no one suggested that Sanders's open association with BDS would cost him the Jewish vote.
Actually, Sanders serves as the model for the overwhelming majority of American Jews. He does not hesitate to proclaim himself "a proud Jew," even as he allies with those who seek Israel's destruction. Apparently, his Jewish pride — of whatever it consists — does not require the existence of other Jews.