Temporary Truce in a Democratic Party Civil War: The Sanders & Perez Unity Tour
Bernie Sanders says fight the billionaire class and DNC Chair Tom Perez refuses to say it; the TRNN panel asks if/when Bernie should leave the party
KIM BROWN: Welcome back to the Real News Network, I’m Kim Brown in Baltimore.
The Democrat Unity Tour. No, it’s not Katie Perry hitting the road with Killer Mike. It’s DNC Chairman Tom Perez making his first joint appearance with Senator Bernie Sanders on MSNBC on Wednesday evening.
BERNIE SANDERS: We can’t bring about the changes that we want healthcare for, making public colleges and universities tuition free, transforming our energy system away from fossil fuel. Unless we have the guts to point the finger at the ruling class of this country, the billionaire class, and Wall Street, and say, “You know what? Your greed is destroying this country. And you know what? We’re gonna take you on.
CHRIS HAYES: Do you see the world that way Tom, is that the Democratic message? Do you think it’s important, as the Senator sitting next to you just said, to say the ruling class, his words, this country, are basically screwing average folks?
TOM PEREZ: Well listen, you know, when we put hope on the ballot, Chris, we win. When we allow our opponents to put fear on the ballot, we don’t do so well. I believe that the economy has to work for everyone to be–
CHRIS HAYES: Tom, Tom, Tom! Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton, this is my point, Hillary Clinton ran on hope, she ran on hope. It was a very hopeful message. And the point is, do you have to name the enemy? That’s my question. Do you have to say, these are the people that are screwing you?
TOM PEREZ: Well listen, I think you’re creating a false choice, Chris. What we have to do as Democrats, is to articulate very clearly, that Donald Trump’s vision for America is the vision for the one, top 1% of the 1%. It’s a vision that’s divisive, when he talks about the, make it in America Executive Order, if you turn over the sheet on that Executive Order, it probably says, Made in China.
You’ve got 50 pallets or so, of Ivanka’s stuff that’s come into the United States from China, and Singapore, since roughly the first of the year. So, part of what we have to do, is expose the fraud of Donald Trump. He keeps talking about how he’s going to make your life better, he’s going to bring jobs back to America, and then you look at what’s happening in reality, he’s making it harder for first time home buyers to buy a home. He’s still making all his products in Mexico, China and elsewhere, or almost all his products. And so, we talk about that Chris.
KIM BROWN: And we’re still joined in the studio with our Senior Editor, Paul Jay, also host, producer, Aaron Maté.
So, Aaron, a very distinct line of demarcation there, between the DNC chair Perez, and Bernie Sanders, when asked, who’s the villain. I would imagine in the political landscape, Bernie was very quick to point out that it’s billionaires, and millionaires, and the richest of the 1%, and Tom Perez didn’t take that firm of a stance.
AARON MATÉ: Tom Perez basically decided to continue the Hilary Clinton campaign message, which is this vague line about hope; and to focus messaging on Trump, and his own personal conflicts of interest, which is what Hilary did. We know that Hilary Clinton’s campaign ads — for which she spent more than $1 billion — there was a study recently that said that just 25% had to do with policy. The rest were just going after Trump.
So, it was almost a policy-free campaign. And it was shunning the economic populism of Bernie Sanders. And here is Tom Perez pressed on this and refusing — just refusing to go along with what Bernie is saying. And you know, my thinking on that was, if I’m a Bernie wing of the party, I mean, are people going to be able to sit by, and stay a part of the party if the establishment is going to continue to refuse to learn. What is pretty obvious to many people what the lessons are?
The campaign, which is that this vague approach where you don’t actually talk about issues that impact people’s lives, as Bernie does, you know, challenging daily — giving people healthcare, giving people free education — it’s just not going to work.
KIM BROWN: To propose these so-called radical ideas, I guess that would be radical to the corporate Democrats, because he’s not formally a member of the Party? This is a discussion we were having off-air. So, can Bernie speak this freely because he’s not technically a Democrat?
PAUL JAY: No, I don’t think it has much to do with it.
KIM BROWN: Well, are there any Democrats that are proposing the things that Bernie has proposed?
PAUL JAY: Yeah, sure Nina Turner, there are all kinds of Democrats all over the country that are members of the party that supported Bernie Sanders.
KIM BROWN: On the national level, do we have any?
PAUL JAY: There were national politicians that endorsed Bernie. No, I don’t think that’s the issue. Let me take this back to earlier in the conversation about what’s a progressive? There is an interesting moment during the Democratic Primary, where Hillary Clinton said, “You know there’s really not that much difference between Bernie and me.” She said, “We have the same objectives. We just have a difference on how to get there.”
And what Bernie is coming almost up to saying, and in fact, in some interviews, including the one I did with him. Come out and said, that not only is this not just having different ways to get to the same objective — he’s saying, and he says in this piece with Perez — that the issue is, we’re fighting a billionaire class. We are fighting a ruling class.
Now, when you say that, in American mainstream politics, that’s entirely new, to even say there is such a thing as a class society. The closest you get to it, is they talk about a middle class, but it’s like this weird donut. It’s like there’s no upper and lower, there’s only middle. But he comes out and says… now, what he doesn’t come out and completely say very often, is that the Democratic Party, the DNC, is part of that oligarchy. It’s part of that ruling class.
And what you saw in the clip, and let me say, as much as we critiqued Rachel Maddow, let me praise Chris Hayes for having focused on this issue, as they were speaking, that this issue of talking in terms of class, and taking on the ruling class — that’s a pretty good discussion to have on cable television.
Now, what you have, in my opinion, I haven’t talked to Bernie about it, but my opinion what’s going on here, is you have a united front politics, and the Democratic Party, and the Republican Party, they need to be seen as alliances of different classes.
So, in the Republican Party you have a section of the billionaire elite, you know an ideologically far right, you have sections of the working class, you have a big section of, sort of the well-to-do in-betweens, who don’t want to pay higher taxes, and so on.
And the Democratic Party, you have another section of the elite, a whole big section of Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, certain industrialists, some big retail. Sections of the billionaire class have their hooks on the Democratic Party in alliance with urban working class, many, less and less, but still significantly some represented by trade unions; and the trade unions have some role still to play in the Democratic Party. They used to have much more of a role.
But in the Democratic Party, especially since Clinton, but really all along, the working class has ceded the real power to the financial elites. And the argument is they’re the only ones that really have the cash. So, Bernie’s thing broke that paradigm. He said, “Actually we don’t need their money any more. Because of the internet, you can now raise competitive amounts of money without kissing the ring on Wall Street.”
Perez cannot say, yes it’s the ruling class, and yes, it’s the billionaire class. One, because he knows the role in the party; but more than that, he’s got to go to them for money, because he can’t raise money, not the way Bernie did. He’s totally dependent on the billionaire class, and he can’t let this party separate from the elites; where Bernie is outright advocating that kind of separation.
AARON MATÉ: Paul, let me ask you, I mean, so first of all: why is Tom Perez even there in that seat? Remember, back in the fall, Keith Ellison threw his hat in the ring. He got wide support, not just from Bernie Sanders, but also from Chuck Schumer. I think recognizing that the Bernie Sanders wing had a lot of power, and it was the way to go.
PAUL JAY: Well, except Schumer did nothing to actually help elect the guy. He didn’t show up on the day.
AARON MATÉ: But he endorsed him. So, the point is that Ellison had some momentum and he’s a progressive Democrat.
PAUL JAY: Yeah.
AARON MATÉ: Then, you know, as Ellison is picking up all these endorsements, he’s gaining steam, everyone’s excited about him. Haim Saban, the billionaire Democratic donor, he weighs in and calls Ellison an anti-Semite, and why? Because Ellison has basically expressed the view that Palestinians have the same rights as Israelis — a very simple view.
PAUL JAY: Yeah.
AARON MATÉ: But unfortunately that one, it’s not tenable to fanatical pro-Israeli government supporters, like Haim Sabon, who is a huge funder of Democrats, especially the Clintons. So then, not long after that, Tom Perez is recruited by the Obama-Clinton wing of the party to run, and they get behind him. He beats Ellison in a narrow vote.
And so, now Tom Perez is running the Democratic Party. And so, as I said before, if I’m a Bernie Sanders supporter, and I’m a Keith Ellison supporter, who’s seeing this.
KIM BROWN: Poor Ralph Ellison.
AARON MATÉ: (laughs)
KIM BROWN: Depending on your point-of-view.
AARON MATÉ: And I’m seeing this clip — I mean, are Bernie Democrats going to be able to stay with this party? If the elite is refusing to learn lessons, and if this going to be how it’s going to go, if they’re basically launching this push-back against Bernie’s people. So, should Bernie break off from them, and run as an independent candidate, as a third party?
PAUL JAY: Well, first of all I’m not here to advise Bernie what he should do, or shouldn’t do. I can just tell you my observation, and what I think Bernie is doing, and why. And I can talk a little bit about what you’re asking.
But I think there are two wings of the Party right now, clearly. One wing represents the financial corporate elites who control the apparatus of the party and have been traditionally dominant. The Bernie wing represents this alliance of popular forces, some of the unions; I think that union pro-participation will grow. I think some of the pressure on unions that supported Clinton to now move over to Sanders, is going to be enormous.
But, as I said earlier, this is a united front of what are really antagonistic classes, in terms of objective interests, you know, workers and financial elites, their interests are antagonistic, it’s hostile. They are at a certain level, at war with each other. Everybody knows that as long as Sanders and this movement keeps on this road, we are heading towards civil war in the Democratic Party.
But there is a temporary truce. The truce is, let’s not let the institution fall apart. It’s been around, like, for hundreds of years. Look at the difficulty of the Green Party trying to build an institution. You can’t easily replace these things. You know, you’re talking about committee levels, down to towns, and districts, and hundreds of thousands of people involved in this structure.
You can’t just, you know, make something up out of whole cloth so easily. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but in terms of the media exposure Sanders gets, and all the rest, there’s a lot of reasons from that point of view, don’t give up yet, because the civil war is coming. They lost the Ellison battle, okay. Sanders is saying, that, let’s keep this truce to fight Trump.
Let’s take advantage of this disarray in the White House, and the crazy stuff going on between the White House over the healthcare act, and everything else. Let’s weaken the Republicans as much as possible, because it is a common enemy. Now it is a common enemy up to a point, and I actually think there’s a whole section of the financial elite that supports the Democratic Party, that if Sanders was ever the nominee, they might prefer Trump. But they still think they can jockey and get a corporate Democrat back in.
So, for now, everyone’s sort of saying, okay, unity for now. As we head towards 2018, there’s going to be battles where the Sanderesque forces are fighting to Primary right-wing Democrats. And that’s the beginning of real war. And then whatever happens in 2018 — and let’s say they’re successful — as they head towards 2020, the gloves come off, civil war breaks out full scale.
And you know, if you’re asking me what I think they should do, if I’m them, what I would do, is I would fight this out to the very endth degree; try to win the Primary, be much better prepared. It looks like Sanders himself is probably going to run again. And see if you can’t beat these guys. And if they rig it, if you’re asking me personally, do I think they’ll rig it? I think the rigging that’s likely to happen, if Sanders is about to win, is going to make what happened last time look like a tea party.
And then what you do is, if you get to the point where it really looks like you should be winning, and you’re not winning because of rigging, then you walk out. But you walk out with millions of people. You don’t walk out now and leave an entirely fractured movement; and a movement that the media is going to start to write off.
And I’ll give you one example of something similar. What happens when you try to do a third party role, even when you’re well known, and that’s what happened to Henry Wallace. Henry Wallace was Roosevelt’s Vice President. And in 1945 when they were re-electing FDR in the Democratic Party convention, to be the next nominee of the party, there was a coup against Wallace. Because Wallace was so progressive, he makes Sanders look completely centrist. I mean Wallace was as left a social democrat as you could possibly imagine, in that kind of a position.
So, there was a coup to get rid of Wallace, a successful coup. They bring in Truman. And then Wallace runs third party and goes nowhere.
HENRY WALLACE: The American people must have more than a choice between evils. They must have a chance to vote for the greatest good, for the greatest number. Only through the organization of a new party in 1948, can the people of the United States voice their true desires and aspirations.
To that end, I announce that I will run as an independent candidate in 1948, for President of the Untied States.
PAUL JAY: One of the reasons for this, is because the media is really part of the American state, the corporate media, it’s an extension of the state in many ways. And even if a Sanders independent run should be a tremendous news story, unless he gets millions in the streets and just impossible to ignore, they’ll simply ignore because they have in their head, “There ain’t no duopoly. You ain’t in play.”
So, I think Sanders so far, is manipulating the system. I think you could make lots of critique of how he’s doing it. You know, is he creating illusions about who these corporate Dems are? Maybe. Did he create illusions about who Hillary was, when he was campaigning for her? Personally, I think so.
AARON MATÉ: But he did so because… I mean, his thinking I’m sure was, “We have to stop Trump.”
PAUL JAY: Yeah.
AARON MATÉ: That’s the only reason.
PAUL JAY: That is the only reason.
AARON MATÉ: That’s a fair reason, I think.
KIM BROWN: Well, gentlemen, we’ve actually run out of time. Aaron Maté, Paul Jay, thank you guys for joining us here in the studio. And we encourage you, our audience, to always leave comments, leave feedback, send us emails. We want to know what stories are important to you. And what are your thoughts about how we’re covering?
So, thank you very much for watching The Real News Network.