Abby Martin and Paul Jay – What Should Sanders Do Next?
As Hillary Clinton becomes the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party, Empire Files host Abby Martin and TRNN Senior Paul Jay sit down to discuss what Sanders should do next.
Both Jay and Martin agree that Clinton is a dangerous neoconservative who should not be defended.
But they disagree over whether Sanders should throw his energy into running a third party campaign, or work to strategically defeat Trump.
“Look,” says Martin. “He’s, what, 74 years old? Time is running out. We don’t have time, Paul. I know that we’re going to disagree on this, but I think that Bernie should say, F it. I’m going to go for it, because the country can’t afford another four years of Clinton, or another eight years of Clinton, or a Trump presidency.”
“If Bernie ran I only see one, two possible scenarios, if he runs as a third party,” says Jay. “One, he doesn’t do very well, and is kind of irrelevant, and it fizzles out. The best case scenario is he does really well, and helps elect Trump.”
Martin thinks that an independent run by Sanders could help legitimize third parties, “taking us out of the corporate duopoly and this two-party dictatorship.”
“The problem is I’ve talked to a lot of people like Nader, like Kshama Sawant, a lot of people who just say, look, he hasn’t been organizing,” says Martin. “A lot of the people in the Sanders campaign hasn’t really been on the ground organizing with activists. So where is that campaign momentum going to go? I just hope to God it doesn’t die with the election.”
Jay thinks that Sanders should explicitly call Clinton the “lesser evil” so that people vote without illusions. But he also believes the work of a mass movement is now up to ordinary people.
“I don’t think it can be left to Sanders and his team. A lot of this movement was spontaneous to begin with. It never was top-down,” says Jay. “It’s going to be up to those people to create the organizational structure to keep going. They can’t depend on the Sanders thing for doing it.”
PAUL JAY: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore.
This morning, that being Thursday, Bernie Sanders met with President Obama. He came out with cameras clicking and such from the White House, and here’s a little bit of what he said.
[Clip of Bernie Sanders]
After that meeting, President Obama endorsed Hillary Clinton. He’d been holding back on doing that because he’s supposed to be neutral in these things. And he more or less seemed to be, unlike the head of the DNC, Wasserman Schultz, who also was supposed to have been kind of neutral in these things and clearly wasn’t. At any rate, here’s a little bit of President Obama’s endorsement of presumptive candidate Hillary Clinton.
[Clip of President Obama]
So there’s a great debate taking place amongst Sanders supporters and sympathizers about what he should do next. Should he go out and campaign for Hillary Clinton as President Obama–and the Democratic Party leadership are hoping he will. They don’t want just the kind of “I’m against Trump” endorsement. They would actually like an “I’m for Hillary” endorsement. And I think that’s what everyone was speculating President Obama, was hoping would happen at the end of this meeting, but it didn’t. Sanders said, “I’m against Trump,” and he said, “I’m continuing my campaign in D.C. and at the convention, and I’m against Trump.” We did not hear the words, “I am for the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.” He just said, “I’m going to work with her in order to establish a government for all of us. Well, that could even mean he, he might be the president working with her. So he’s left this whole thing open for a continued fight at the convention.
So the fight at the convention, and what he does after the convention, is the subject of today’s interview with Abby Martin. Thanks for joining us, Abby.
ABBY MARTIN: Thanks, Paul.
JAY: So, Abby is a journalist, the presenter of the Empire Files, a weekly investigative news program on teleSUR English, and also carried every week on the Real News Network. Prior to her work on Empire Files she was the host of Breaking the Set on RT America. And before hosting her own show she had worked for two years as a correspondent for RT, and this biography is very long, and I’m going to shorten it and kind of jump to, I guess, you’re an artist and activist, and helped fund journalism website Media Roots, and you’ve been involved in lots of documentary films.
MARTIN: And now I’m here. Cool.
JAY: And now you’re here. Okay.
So, there’s kind of two camps in, as the way progressives discuss Sanders. I mean, there’s people who think he never should have run within the Democratic Party at all. And then some of those people actually have changed their minds. Ralph Nader early on was kind of critiquing him for running in the Democratic Party, and then later changed his mind about him, actually wrote a piece in the Washington Post saying he was right, that you gained, Sanders gained a kind of traction in mainstream media and mainstream politics that he never could have as a third party. I don’t know what Nader’s saying at this moment.
What are you saying at this moment? What do you think Sanders should do next?
MARTIN: Well, it’s been kind of a confusing road for me, as well. I’ve kind of changed my tune along with Nader. At first I was really skeptical and didn’t really know what Bernie Sanders was trying to do, especially since he had already said that he’s going to endorse the Democratic nominee, whoever that may be. So, like Ralph Nader said, was he just corralling legitimization, ultimately, for the Democratic Party, which would be a really bad thing, since it just tends to keep going more center-right every election if you keep voting with the lesser of two evils.
However, over the course of this whole election I’ve really gained a lot of respect for Bernie Sanders. I think that it was really smart to run within the Democratic Party. I agree with Nader. He would be completely cast aside as a nobody, as he has been for his entire career fighting for consumer advocacy, if he didn’t run within the Democratic Party. Where should he go now? So you have Kshama Sawant calling for him to run as an independent or join the Green Party to get with Jill Stein. You have Jill Stein saying she’d step down and let Bernie put in her seat if he wanted to do that.
Look, he’s, what, 74 years old. Time is running out. We don’t have time, Paul. I know that we’re going to disagree on this, but I think that Bernie should say, F it. I’m going to go for it, because the country can’t afford another four years of Clinton, or another eight years of Clinton, or a Trump presidency. So I think at this point it’s really–we have nothing to lose, and I think that Bernie has nothing to lose. He’s almost too old to go back to his seat, and he’s really taken it this far. Why not take it all the way?
JAY: Well, as you say, we disagree. First of all, I don’t think it’s just about what Bernie does, because even though Bernie might be 74, the movement has just begun. And the movement can give rise to new leaders.
As far as Bernie himself goes, if Bernie ran I only see one, two possible scenarios, if he runs as a third party. One, he doesn’t do very well, and is kind of irrelevant, and it fizzles out. The best case scenario is he does really well, and elects Trump. Helps elect Trump. That in some swing states, where it’s really close, that because he’s doing so well he splits an anti-Trump vote, that he elects Trump.
And I think that’s a little far-fetched, frankly, because I don’t think he can do that well. Because we have to recognize, one, the enormous power of corporate media, and when they really throw money at something. The possibility of Sanders actually winning the presidency, I think, is negligible. And, frankly, if it ever even looked like he had that kind of momentum there would be every dirty trick in the book thrown at him.
MARTIN: But did Nader run because he knew he was going to win? Or because he knew that he had to present that choice for people who didn’t want to vote for corporatist careerists? I mean, really, Sanders–yeah.
JAY: No, but Nader was never in the position Sanders is. Sanders–.
MARTIN: Sure. But you’re comparing it to, like, okay. Well, people are going to blame him for Trump winning. I mean–.
JAY: Yeah. And I think that, see, and I think if that happened it would destroy this whole embryonic mass movement that’s become a very real, broad front. And the, there would be such blame on the whole movement. Not just on Sanders.
Because Trump, I think, will be a disaster. I think–he doesn’t believe in anything. The fact that one of his first funders was Sheldon Adelson shows what he’s real, he’s really made of in terms of foreign policy. He claims he was against the Libyan intervention, but it turns out he was actually for it at the time. And he just makes crap up.
And there’s more to the argument. But to have a Trump presidency, and then to a large extent blame it on this new movement, I think it would shatter the movement in a million pieces.
MARTIN: You’re acting like the movement’s going to exist under a Hillary presidency, which I–.
JAY: Well, that’s my point. I actually think–that’s the other reason why I prefer a Hillary presidency.
JAY: Because then she will be the face of new interventions. This system, you know from Empire Files, this empire is involved in wars. It requires wars. She will be the face of those wars.
MARTIN: Was Obama the face of the system for the last eight years? Did people look to him and say, this is why we’re engaged in endless war? No, Democrats completely went silent and impotent.
JAY: Yeah, but that certainly did not happen during Vietnam.
MARTIN: Well, of course it didn’t happen during Vietnam. You’re talking about–.
JAY: No, no. Come on. The mass movement was against Johnson.
MARTIN: But we’re talking about–no, that’s totally different. That’s totally different, though, than what the time is now.
JAY: No, I don’t think it’s totally different. Why?
MARTIN: The draft?
JAY: I don’t think Clinton’s–still, there was no problem targeting the Democratic Party. Yes, the scale of the mass movement, because of the draft. But people had no problem having a mass movement against the Democratic Party in power leading a war. Obama had a certain sympathy. And the other thing about Obama, Obama’s not a neocon the way Clinton is.
MARTIN: Right, right.
JAY: I mean, Clinton is, is–I don’t know where the space is between Clinton and McCain–.
MARTIN: Very marginal.
JAY: And Lindsey Graham. I mean, she’s really a neocon. And Obama did do the Iran deal, which I don’t think Clinton would have done, and certainly the neocons wouldn’t.
MARTIN: No, of course not.
JAY: And there was a certain understanding that Obama got handed these messes. I certainly think I could have dealt with them differently.
But there’s a difference than what a Clinton presidency is likely to do. I mean, Clinton’s been for–I’m sorry I’m talking so much in our interview. Clinton’s for the, in Syria, the term for the–.
MARTIN: Yeah, the no-fly zone.
JAY: The no-fly zone. Obama’s against that. I mean, she’s a, we know she’s a hawk. And she will wear that. And if the Sanders movement can turn its guns on her as president, then turn their focus to [primary] and right-wing Democrats–.
MARTIN: Okay. I need to jump in here really quick, because first you said there’s other people to take the reins that Sanders has left. The problem is, Sanders has been fighting for decades, and there’s really no one else in office that is like a Sanders, because the system has constrained and consolidated so much since Sanders even got in there that now you need millions of dollars, you’re basically a telemarketer begging for donations half your career.
JAY: Do you think he could win a third-party candidacy?
MARTIN: I don’t think that’s the point. I think legitimizing third parties and taking us out of the corporate duopoly and this two-party dictatorship and saying, hey, acknowledging the fact that Jill Stein was actually much more in line with his ideals than someone like Hillary Clinton, who’s the antithesis of what he’s been rallying against for the last six months, I think that’s what’s so interesting about the time that we have right now, this point in history where is Sanders going to look at the person that his supporters hate, two vehemently despised candidates ever in the history of this country. Are they going to look at him and say, you know, I can’t vote for this woman, and why are you endorsing this woman that you’ve been rallying against, you know, the same ideals that she has that you hate?
So she embodies everything that Sanders doesn’t, and I don’t know what’s going to happen, but if he endorses her it’s going to be really bad, I think, for a lot of people.
JAY: I think it depends how he endorses [him], although tactically it’s a different situation for him than others. I think the way she should be endorsed is she should be called the lesser evil. The problem is, when people usually do this equation of lesser evil, they don’t call the person the lesser evil. They start saying good things about them because you want people to vote for them, so you create illusions about them. You lie about them.
And so if he starts saying how wonderful she’d be as a president after how many months of saying the opposite, then that’s a kind of betrayal. If he attacks Trump, and kind of shuts up about her, and just makes it obvious that no, I don’t agree with her on so many issues–but we converge on one issue, which is don’t let Trump be the president. But let’s keep this movement going, because if we’re really going to transform things–and then there’s so many important fights taking place at the congressional level, at the state legislature levels, and really put the focus on the fight there.
MARTIN: Well, I like that he’s still, he’s still keeping that fight going, and he’s now rallying his supporters to say, okay, support this person. Look, I’m going to pick Cornel West to this committee. And really, as the spotlight’s on him he’s doing the right thing now, which is really doing all of these moves to let his supporters know, look, I’m not backing down. I’m fighting. And here are some other ways that we can really win while the iron is hot, and strike.
And so he’s getting people to fund different campaigns. He’s getting people to be aware of different issues. And he’s even responding to grassroots pressure about Palestine, and things like that. I mean, I’d never heard him address these things, which means he is listening and engaged.
The problem is I’ve talked to a lot of people like Nader, like Kshama Sawant, a lot of people who just say, look, he hasn’t been organizing. A lot of the people in the Sanders campaign hasn’t really been on the ground organizing with activists. So where is that campaign momentum going to go? I just hope to God it doesn’t die with the election.
JAY: And I don’t think it can be left to Sanders and his team. It really is going to be–I mean, a lot of this movement was spontaneous to begin with. It never was top-down, this movement. Obama, a lot of the Obama thing kind of was orchestrated. This really wasn’t. They never had the money for it, really. People just started organizing these Sanders things, a little bit like the way the Howard Dean thing began. It’s going to be up to those people to create the organizational structure to keep going. They can’t–they can’t depend on the Sanders thing for doing it.
But what do you make of what I’m saying? Is that I don’t–if he can’t win the presidency, and it’s just a symbolic, you know, alternative. But why not call, for example, let’s defeat right-wing candidates of whatever party they are? At the congressional–.
ABBY MARTIN: Oh, because I totally disagree with the lesser of two evils mentality.
MARTIN: Because it has always pushed this country into a more fascist, right-wing, and extremely centrist position, when you’re looking at the Democratic Party. To keep voting for the lesser of two evils is just completely absurd, and if you’re going to use a Supreme Court motional bribery about oh, they’re going to pick a liberal Supreme Court justice, well, look what just happened. I mean, yeah, Sotomayor and Kagan were definitely not right-wing, but come on. I mean, it’s insane. When you’re looking at what just happened, I mean, that’s what it’s all going to come down to, is who’s going to pick a better Supreme Court–
JAY: Well, it’s not just the Supreme Court.
MARTIN: –justice? But that’s what I hear a lot of people coming down to. And when you’re looking at Hillary and Trump, I actually don’t know who is less evil, Paul, I really don’t. And it’s really going to be hard–I got it during Obama, I got it during Kerry. Now I’m looking at both of them and I actually am not convinced that one is less evil than the other. I really don’t.
JAY: You don’t think there’s a difference between Gore and Bush? You think Gore–. Was there any evidence that Gore would have invaded Iraq?
MARTIN: I’m sure that there would have eventually would have been an invasion of Iraq, yeah.
MARTIN: Because all the neocons have been infiltrated office for so long, and been behind the scenes, planning.
JAY: But Clinton, Clinton didn’t invade Iraq. Why would [inaud.].
MARTIN: Yeah, and he had sanctions on Iraq. Okay?
JAY: I understand. But there’s a difference between sanctions on Iraq, which is evil, which was criminal.
MARTIN: Okay, so, okay, okay, so taking your point, taking your point–.
JAY: But there’s a difference between that and the invasion of Iraq.
MARTIN: Okay, you want to talk about invasions versus sanctions? Who do you think would be more likely to invade a country, Hillary or Trump?
JAY: Right now I would say Trump.
MARTIN: What are you talking about? How would that, how is that even possible?
JAY: Because he’s saying–.
MARTIN: We’re looking at Hillary’s track record. All she’s done is bomb and destroy and destabilize countries. Trump–.
JAY: She’s a total neocon hawk, which I said in the beginning.
MARTIN: What on earth has Trump done? And all the neocons in DC are like, look, we can’t vote for Trump. We know that Hillary would do what we want to. They’re all courting the hell out of her. What has Trump done to indicate that he will do that?
JAY: He said, he said he’s going to destroy ISIS, and he knows how to do it. And there is only one way to destroy ISIS, using American power. First we’ll go back to what Trump said should be done in Libya. And there’s video of this all over the internet.
MARTIN: Okay. That doesn’t compare to Hillary actually doing it, right? So you can have–.
JAY: Let me finish. Let me, well, he’s never been president. He couldn’t have actually done it. So we’re talking about what’s his track record on issues.
MARTIN: Yeah. It’s just hard to compare Hillary destroying Libya, and then Trump saying, yeah, I wanted to invade, or no. It’s like–.
JAY: No, Trump called for taking all the American troops in the region, boots on the ground, invade Libya, and overthrow Gaddafi. That’s what he said at the time to [Libya].
MARTIN: And Hillary actually did it. Okay. Gotcha.
JAY: I’m not, I’m just saying–.
MARTIN: No, no, I know. She’s crazy.
JAY: I’m just, this is no defense of Hillary at all.
MARTIN: No, I know.
JAY: I’ve said in the beginning, she’s essentially, you know, she’s about the same as a neocon.
MARTIN: There is a reason why every neoconservative is courting her, because they–.
JAY: Because she is one. Yeah.
MARTIN: Because they want that bellicose, insane, disastrous foreign policy. They want–
JAY: Well, hold on.
MARTIN: –the empire reinforced in every way that they can.
JAY: The Obama foreign policy was not as disastrous as the Bush foreign policy.
MARTIN: No, of course not. And I’m flipping that, now, that I’m saying the neocons didn’t like Obama. They love Hillary. Why is that?
JAY: They certainly love her better than Sanders, that’s for sure.
MARTIN: And better than Trump. Are you kidding me?
JAY: Well, maybe. Trump, again, go back–.
MARTIN: Vacations, vacations with the Kissingers. Come on, what are you talking about?
JAY: You can’t ask me to defend Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton, I said, is a neocon. But what she, she might do, maybe, is listen a little bit more to the professionals who were against some of the adventures. Like, for example, the Iran agreement was supported by the American military establishment. Not the industrial-military complex. I’m talking about the Pentagon.
But let me–. Trump has promised to wipe out, annihilate, ISIS. You can’t do that unless you’re seriously about a massive involvement of American troops, or, and there is the other option, and he may take this option, which is World War II-style carpet bombing.
MARTIN: I’m trying to argue that I’m actually much more scared of her foreign policy than I am Trump’s. I really am, because I think Trump is so malleable and inexperienced that he’s going to do what you’re saying, which is actually look to people who are less bellicose and neoconservative and look to more sane, rational foreign policy. Who knows?
JAY: He has to do some, he has to do some of what he’s promising.
MARTIN: But Hillary, on the other hand, scares the hell out of me.
JAY: He has to do something of what he’s promising, or he doesn’t get reelected. And some of the people backing him–. The only people who are going to back him now with money is the absolute extreme right money. Right-wing money. Even the more moderately right-wing money is now going downticket. The Koch brothers are not going to give him any money. It’s going to be the Sheldon Adelson types that give him money, and Sheldon Adelson, these type of people, have an even more aggressive take on foreign policy than even most of the American neocons.
The point of Trump is he’s–. That type of megalomania mixed with that type of racism and xenophobia and so on, who knows what the hell he is? But frankly, if you just want to do it out of pure political calculation, if it’s Trump, and he does some of this crap, yes. You will have some, a big opposition to him. But including all the Democratic Party will all start looking, you know, taking a kind of supposed anti-war position the same way it kind of happened with Bush around the Iraq war.
If it’s Hillary leading this stuff, this all becomes an attack, it’s a continued attack on the corporate control of the Democratic Party, as we saw during the Lyndon Johnson times. That’s where you started to even see some breakthroughs. You know, you get the McGovern candidacy.
MARTIN: In that, in that respect, yeah, I totally agree with you, that that is the shining light of Hillary becoming president. I think that that’s what’s going to happen. I’m just saying, when you’re looking at the lesser of two evils, it is hard to justify and rationalize who’s a greater evil. Although–
JAY: I agree with you. It’s not a clear-cut case.
MARTIN: –I totally, although I totally agree that when Hillary is president, I think, I think it’s really significant that we had Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter happen under a black president, under a black Democratic president. So I think there’s a huge, huge movement swelling, and I do think that it will continue to compound and build under Hillary. Let’s hope. I mean, so far in my short life I’ve seen movements go dormant under Democratic presidents, so I, you know–.
JAY: But there was no big movement under the Bush presidency. Once the Iraq war started.
MARTIN: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
JAY: I mean, once the Iraq–there was a big anti-war movement up until the beginning of the Iraq war. And once it was over, I mean, the war began. The movement kind of fizzled out. It’s not, there’s no guarantee of some big mass movement because there’s a Republican president.
JAY: In fact, the last time there was a massive mass movement was with a Democratic president, Johnson.
MARTIN: Well, I still say you should go. You should run. You should run just to call attention to how there’s other parties, just to call attention to how we live in a two-party dictatorship. While everyone’s eyes are on him I think it’s more important to say this is completely controlled and bullshit–sorry, I just swore. And, and to really–.
JAY: It’s, that’s okay on the Real News.
MARTIN: And, and to basically just say, look, there’s Jill Stein, there’s other parties. I, I can’t in good conscience endorse her. I know that this is a pie-in-the-sky idea. I’m just saying, that’s what I would like to see because I don’t think we have time–.
JAY: Let me just add–.
MARTIN: And I don’t think we can afford another four years of Clinton. We’ve already had Clinton in the White House.
JAY: Let me just add one thing. I think that actually it would be rather cool if Sanders would endorse and support some Green Party candidates downticket, because I can–. Wherever there’s a right-wing Democrat who really is indistinguishable from a Republican candidate, and in many places there are, there really is no difference between them, it’d be nice to see him support a Green Party candidate in those kinds of situations. So I think there it could be, but I think–anyway.
All right. Well, thanks for joining us. We’ll do this again.
MARTIN: Thank you.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
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